Creation of Democratic Moldova Bloc in 2004 contributed to strengthening political forces’ doctrines, Sergiu Ostaf

[Info-Prim Neo article from the Series “Moldova-20! Whereto?”] [Each of the 20 years of independence in Moldova has its meaning and role in what happened in the period and, undoubtedly, in what is going to happen in the country and the people’s lives in the future. Info-Prim Neo asked politicians, analysts, experts and personalities from different areas to pronounce on the main events that took place during a certain year and assess their impact on the country.] [The year 2004 as seen by Sergiu Ostaf, director of the Resource Center for Human Rights (CReDO)] • [January 29] – The first round of consultations on the designing of the European Union – Moldova Individual Plan of Action for 2004-2006 took place in Chisinau. • [February 23] – The second round of consultations on the designing of the European Union – Moldova Individual Plan of Action for 2004-2006 was held in Brussels. • [February 24] – Moldovan delegation took part in the sixth meeting of the Moldova –EU Cooperation Council. • [April 30] – Additional protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Moldova was signed in Brussels. • [June 4] – The third round of consultations on the designing of the European Union – Moldova Individual Plan of Action for 2004-2006 was held in Chisinau. • [May 8] – There was created the Democratic Moldova Bloc (BMD). • [June 15] – The final round of consultations on the designing of the European Union – Moldova Individual Plan of Action for 2004-2006 took place in Brussels. • [October 5 - 12] – There was taken a census of Moldova’s population. • [October 15] – The third trilateral meeting centering on the control over the Moldovan-Ukrainian border took place in Brussels. • [December 2] – There was adopted the Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy. • [December 9] – The European Commission approved the European Union – Moldova Plan of Action. [CReDO director Sergiu Ostaf] said an economic growth was recorded in 2004, for the fourth year in a row. The political sector yet saw confrontations and stagnation, while the democratic institutions witnessed lack of progress. “The adoption of the Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy for the first time confirmed the de facto economic growth recorded first in 1999, following the structural reforms implemented by the Government in 1998-1999, the increased remittance-based consumption and value added owing to the development of the financial, construction, trade and service sectors. The results were the positive effect of the remittances and of the loyalty of the Moldovans working abroad rather than of the economic policies pursued in that period. The IMF and the World Bank pointed to systematic administrative intervention in the business activity. In 2004, owing to the GDP growth (of 6-7% a year), the poverty level fell to 25%, almost two times compared with 1999, being a remarkable performance in the region,” said Sergiu Ostaf. According to him, the given strategy, as document under formulation, represented one of the examples of accepting the participation of civil society in the Government’s decision-making, which was yet considered difficult. However, only a part of the policies described in this document were implemented and had a real impact on society. For the fist time, the document admitted that poverty was concentrated in villages and small towns and prioritized the efforts of the development partners - the World Bank and the UN agencies – in channeling the resources and technical assistance. “Despite the relatively positive economic results, Moldova was systemically criticized by the Council of Europe for the lack of cooperation between the ruling party and the Opposition, increasing the immunity of some of the Opposition MPs, politicizing and controlling the administration of the public television, stagnation of the legislation on the functioning of democratic institutions and human rights, the alarming situation as regards the independence of justice. Moldova was also criticized for the excessive control of the central authorities over the local public authorities and the systemic undermining of the decentralization principle,” said Sergiu Ostaf. He believes that the processes of strengthening the institutional structure of the European Union had a direct effect on the Government of Moldova. After Ukraine set a definite course for European integration and the accession term was fixed for Romania and Bulgaria, the political administration of Moldova decided to diversify the external political orientation. According to Sergiu Ostaf, the redefining of Moldova’s strategic foreign policy objective is considered as a pragmatic decision aimed at finding a balance at regional level so as to reduce the excessive dependence on Russia. The EU-Moldova Plan of Action started to be worked out. It had a significant impact on the gradual improvement, in 2007-2008, of Moldova’s legislation concerning human rights and the functioning of the democratic institutions. Sergiu Ostaf said that at local level, the Democratic Moldova Bloc (BMD) founded in 2004 brought together practically all the non-Communist and democratic forces, except for the PPCD. It aimed to enter into an electoral competition with the PCRM in the legislative elections of 2005. The given unification produced results. The non-Communist forces scored a result that was practically equal to that of the PCRM before the redistribution of the votes. The creation of the bloc contributed to strengthening political forces’ doctrines and the political parties and laid the basis for the future cooperation between the democratic forces, said the CReDO director. He also said that 2004 was a year of latent changes in the PCRM’s administration as the foreign policy vector was rethought and Moldova pursued a more balanced foreign policy. In another development, the CReDO director said that in general Moldova can be considered a relative success because it made headway in strengthening the state institutions, constitutionalism and the rule of law, controlled political pluralism, timid sector reforms. “As a state, we did not degrade into a banana republic, did not transform into an appendix unit of groups of interests and mafia clans, did not split according to ethnic and linguistic criteria, causing irreconcilable tension. In other words, we became a failed state, as the politologists would say,” said Sergiu Ostaf. He stressed that among the main positive developments is the preference of the political class for the parliamentary government system, which in essence managed to ensure political pluralism. This, together with the development of the political parties and slow formation of the national political class, contributed to the formation of pluralism ‘by default”– pluralism by impossibility, with weak governmental institutions that are powerfully influenced by groups of economic interests and a servile political class that is unable to impose institutional dictatorship. Sergiu Ostaf said the picture wouldn’t be complete if he does not say that Moldova’s existence is mainly due to the Moldovan migrants working abroad whose loyalty has fostered economic growth during a decade already. The political class, either consciously or sometimes guided by the international technical support, implemented however reforms pertinent to the gradual liberalization of a number of sectors of the economy, transforming it in fact into a private economy. There were also carried out structural reforms and reforms aimed at optimizing sectors of the economy, such as the privatization of state assets and land, the regulation of industries, the introduction of health insurance, the creation of financial and capital markets, etc. Compared with other countries, Moldova witnessed the development of the civil society and mass media sector, which played an important role in building democracy during the last few years. The CReDO director underlined that Moldova is characterized by the presence of systemic drawbacks in building statehood and a modern and institutionally capable state. These shortcomings plunge the country into political and constitutional crises and hinder the economic development, making Moldova a country facing the danger of internal and external conflicts. “We regret the overdue interest of the European chancelleries and the U.S. administration (only starting with 2000) in Moldova. The political elites failed many times to intelligently manage the relations with Russia, which led to economic blockades,” said Sergiu Ostaf. He also said that at institutional level, Moldova lacks experience, intelligence and ability to institutionally govern the political class. In most of the cases, Moldova is a victim of the inconsistency of the policies and the low capacity to implement them. The public administration is politicized and only starts to exercise its role of initiator of changes and modernization. Sergiu Ostaf considers that Moldova should shift from the stage of declared European pragmatism to the stage of profound European pragmatism. “From general perspective, we will have to look for the definition of the standpoint and cohesion of the political and civic project Moldova. The political class should definitively turn into a European political class that promotes values,” he stated. According to him, from institutional perspective the priorities include the association with the European Union, the signing of the agreement on the liberalization of trade with the EU, Moldova’s reintegration by solving the Transnistrian dispute by identifying a sustainable constitutional solution to grant autonomy to Transnistria, the withdrawal and transformation of the peacekeeping forces into forces under the aegis of the EU and the OSCE. As regards policies, they should be aimed at strengthening the political parties as democratic institutions, the parliamentary republic and the Parliament’s role in making the Government responsible, at depoliticizing and optimizing justice, etc. {Sergiu Ostaf has a Master’s Degree in Public Policies from the York University, a Master’s Degree in Business Management from the U.S. New Port University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Academy of Public Administration of Moldova. In 1995, he took active steps to promote the human rights and the functioning of democratic institutions (the law on access to information, the law on public assemblies, decisional transparency, the national torture prevention mechanism, etc.). In 2006, he became a member of the panel of experts of ODIHR (the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights). He often provides expert advice to governments in Central Asia and the Balkan Countries as regards the reformation of the police and implementation of human rights policies.) [Dumitrita Ciuvaga, Info-Prim Neo]

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