Efficiency of Moldova's COVID-19 crisis management discussed at ADEPT debate

The pandemic crisis management process and the quality of the decision-making process in Moldova was under the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT scrutiny. The findings report of the "Keeping an eye on the authorities: managing the Coronavirus emergency and crisis" project, supported by the Soros Foundation Moldova, will be published next week. At a public debate titled „COVID-19 crisis management efficiency in Moldova", organized by the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT, debate participants talked about project details and about Moldova's management of the pandemic crisis.

Igor Boțan, the executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT, said that this is the first time Moldova is facing a public health emergency. It is something new for Moldova, although it went through a national state of emergency in 1992, which was caused by the outbreak of the Transnistrian conflict. “That is why it was interesting for ADEPT to monitor the quality of the decision-making process and to get involved in this project. The project was originally planned for the May-September period; however, it was extended to the January-September period,” said Igor Boțan.

According to the ADEPT director, health crisis management monitoring intends to show the complete reflection of state institution actions, aimed to protect public health, and show a reflection of how citizens react. The report, which will be published next week, aims to accomplish several objectives. The first objective aims to evaluate the legal framework of the management of the state of emergency. The second goal is to asses how decisions are made and implemented by relevant bodies and to asses their impact on human rights. The third goal is to measure the effectiveness of the Moldovan health system in combating COVID -19. The fourth objective is related to the behavioral response of citizens.

In regard to the national legal framework evaluation, the monitoring process started before the state of emergency was declared, said Igor Boțan. The report took to account that Moldova is bound to report to international institutions on the declaration of the state of emergency. “We used two Venice Commission recommendations as starting points. The first recommendation was made in 1995, while the second was published on April 16, 2020. Both recommendations refer to the legal management of emergencies.” Subsequently, the actual management of the state of emergency was analyzed, which implies the assessment of the Commission for Exceptional Situations and the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission functioning and the relationship between these institutions, with special powers during emergencies, with other bodies, including informal ones, such as the Single Command Center.

According to Igor Boțan, the legal framework of the Republic of Moldova on emergencies was “adequate” before the state of emergency. Problems arose during the implementation of this legal framework; however, the Ombudsman sounded the alarm, which allowed the removal of implementation shortcomings within a month.

Ion Guzun, legal advisor at the Moldovan Legal Resources Center (CRJM), said that due to the pandemic, the Venice Commission has reiterated certain recommendations to governments regarding how to ensure human rights and the rule of law. The Venice Commission published a document, which is included in the ADEPT team report. “My observation is that, for the most part, Moldova complied with the recommendations. From a legislative point of view, Moldova was doing well.”

However, according to the CRJM legal adviser, Moldova had certain shortcomings while implementing several recommendations at the national level, namely the enforcement of legislation, which restricted certain rights. According to him, most countries struggling with the pandemic are still failing to find a balance between the public interest and immediate survival measures applied by the government.

Ion Guzun said that Moldova managed to adjust the national legal framework to Venice Commission recommendations. In his view, previous changes implemented in 2005 by Moldova in regard to recommendations from the Venice Commission and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe facilitated the adjustment.

Public health issues expert, Ala Tocarciuc, said that the legal framework allowed to declare a state of emergency, which was the “lifeline” during the crisis situation. However, according to the expert, there were many shortcomings in certain fields.

“Since the announcement of the state of emergency, I tried to find the notion of ‘state of emergency in healthcare’ in the Health Care Law. There is no such notion. Health sector laws do not provide full legal coverage during health emergencies, thus the regulatory framework is insufficient in this field.” In her view, Moldova was saved by World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and by other international organizations that specialize in the field. Subsequently, these recommendations were part of the decisions made by the Commission for Exceptional Situations, the Ministry of Health and ANSP. "There's a lot o work to be done in order to adjust the legal framework to deal with a new state of emergency in the field of health care,” added Ala Tocarciuc.

The debate was held as part of ADEPT’s project “Keeping an eye on the authorities: managing the Coronavirus emergency and crisis,” with the support of the Good Governance Department of the Soros Foundation Moldova.

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