European integration of Moldova in 2015: Top five failures and five hopes


The year 2015 was full of disappointments related to the EU’s naivety, the actions of the pretended pro-European forces and the multiple reforms that were delayed. However, 2015 remains important because it fostered more pragmatism in the relations between the EU and Moldova and favored the appearance of new political initiatives…

Dionis Cenuşa


The European integration process went through a very difficult period in 2015. At external level, Brussels’ disappointment in the political players that were considered pro-European since 2009 became more evident. The Eurasian course made a jump in the public perception owing to the pro-Russian forces that polished their image amid the political instability and shocks generated by the bank frauds. At external level, the popularity of the declared pro-European forces decreased drastically compared with the previous years, with these facing the danger of not passing the election threshold in case of elections. Many reforms remained stagnant owing to the political instability and incoherence. This made the foreign partners, in particular the EU, to stop providing budget support.

However, there were witnessed a number of positive elements that generate hope about the future European agenda. The qualitative transformation of the EU – Moldova dialogue, crystallization of particular pro-European moves and revision of the European Neighborhood Policy create a favorable context that makes the subsequent resuscitation of the European integration of Moldova possible.

Top five failures

The main disappointments related to Moldova’s European agenda in 2015 were:

1. Failure to “Europeanize” the so-called pro-European parties. This thing has been known for a period, but was confirmed towards the end of 2015, including by European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn, who said it trenchantly that a new generation of politicians is needed. This way, they admitted that those from the ‘old political class’ are no longer credible before the Europeans.

2. Strengthening of the Eurasian course. The enormous pressure to which the European agenda was subject owing to the abuses committed by the so-called pro-European alliances that resulted in the stealing of money from the banking sector (at least 15% of the GDP), seriously affected the EU’s image in Moldova. Consequently, polls started to show that the public support for the EU is decreasing (38%), at a time when the sympathies with the Eurasian Economic Union are gradually growing (45%).

3. Unfinished and reversible reforms. A series of reforms envisioned in the Association Agreement weren’t completed owing to the interference of the political class, which is fully disinterested in freeing the institutions from captivity (justice sector reform, reform of the prosecution service, etc.). This aspect negatively influences the behavior of the institutions, as the corruption in the system does, preventing them from fulfilling the responsibilities that derive from the new national legislation, adjusted to the European one (Competition Council, National Food Safety Agency, Broadcasting Coordination Council, etc.). The politicization of institutions led to the restoration of the situation that existed before the implementation of reforms in particular areas (such as education). The all-embracing political volatility generated confusion and uncertainty at the institutions responsible for the implementation of the reform agenda. Also, the political instability seriously affected the legislative process, which impeded the transposition and appropriate implementation of the European norms.

4. Exerting of particular pressure on the European players. The impossibility of manipulating the European officials about the political situation in the country as easily as earlier and the harsh and intense criticism on the part of the Europeans made the Moldovan Democrats exteriorize their non-democratic instincts, when they attempted to exert pressure on MEP Andi Cristea, who heads the European Parliament’s Delegation for Moldova.

5. Freezing of budget support on the part of the EU. For the first time since 2009, the EU fully suspended the budget support owing to the macro-financial situation, in particular as a result of the bank frauds. Earlier, some of the tranches of the EU assistance didn’t reach the budget because some of the sector reforms hadn’t been finished. For example, €2 million hadn’t been allocated in 2014 for the delay in adopting the Law on the Prosecution Service. In 2015, the EU decided to freeze the direct budget support, of about €50 million, until Moldova does not sign a new agreement with the IMF, which can contribute to stabilizing the macro-economic situation in the country and to minimizing the negative effects of the illegal schemes employed in the banking system.

Top five hopes

Though the failures witnessed in 2015 powerfully shook the European agenda, a series of events that took place became sources of hope for the resuscitation and advancement of the European integration process:

1. Ratification of the Association Agreement by all the EU member states. Following the ratification by Italy of the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, the full coming into force of the accord becomes possible in the first months of 2016. Thus, on the first day of the second month of the receipt by the Secretariat General of the EU Council of the instruments of ratification from all the UE member states, the accord will start to have complete legal effects, including on the EU’s territory. As a result, at political level the public and political pressure for the Moldovan politicians to do reforms will intensify. At economic level, the new context additionally favors the Moldovan economic entities that have enjoyed autonomous trade preferences in the relations with the EU since September 2014. Consequently, these will be able to benefit from all the provisions of the DCFTA such as the possibility of starting businesses in the EU countries, with some exceptions negotiated by each member state apart.

2. Maturing of the dialogue with the EU. Since the start of 2015, the representatives of the EU essentially changed their rhetoric towards the Moldovan partners, resorting to more trenchant and incisive statements about the political corruption, oligarchization of the power, ‘capturing’ of the state institutions. This way, they switched from a ‘Romantic’ to a pragmatic approach towards the political administration of Moldova. This fact positively influences the public perception of the EU, which was often accused in Moldova of tolerating and providing poorly regulated support to the so-called pro-European forces in 2009-2014.

3. New pro-European political alternatives. The development of the dialogue between Brussels and Chisinau, including by recognizing the mistakes made by the ostensible pro-European alliances, contributed to strengthening the position of the protest movement in society. Thus, in 2015, as a result of the anti-government protests, there appeared favorable conditions for the emergence of new political leaders and initiatives of pro-European orientation, like the Platform “Dignity and Truth” and Maia Sandu with “A Step for Moldova”. Given the decline of the apparent pro-European political forces, clear preconditions appear for building pro-European political alternatives.

4. Involvement of the Transnistrian region in the implementation of the DCFTA. Despite the political instability on the right side of the Nistru, together with the European partners, the competent ministries, alongside the Reintegration Office, managed to negotiate the implementation of particular provisions of the DCFTA in the Transnistrian region. Thus, from January 1, 2016, all the economic entities from Moldova (both sides of the Nistru River) will be able to equally benefit from the preferential trade regime with the EU. In the immediate period, the Transnistrian administration is to take a set of measures in a move to comply with the European requirements. These include: elimination of import taxes for goods coming from the EU; observance of the procedures for confirming the origin of products and of the sanitary and phytosanitary conditions and cooperation with the customs authorities from the right bank of the Nistru. The European side expressed readiness to help take measures to facilitate the trade with the EU in Transnistria. Evidently, Tiraspol is yet to fulfill the assumed commitments, but it’s certain that despite the lack of transparency, Brussels and Chisinau managed to bring the Transnistrian side to the negotiating table. This way, a particular mechanism was ensured for facilitating the implementation of the DCFTA in the Transnistrian region, which is considered one of the major risks to the country’s stability in 2016.

5. Review of the European Neighborhood Policy. The development of the ‘differentiation’ principle represents the most significant advantage of the new European Neighborhood Policy. This confirms the privileged position of the countries that signed Association Agreements and DCFTAs with the EU (Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine). At the same time, the new ENP aims to make the financing instruments of the EU more flexible, while the fund reallocation procedures will be simplified. Furthermore, additional funds will be identified for crisis situations. Consequently, Moldova will enjoy new possibilities of getting financial and technical assistance from the EU, on condition that it does the assumed reforms and ensures political stability and a political partnership with the EU, based on predictability and reciprocity.

Instead of conclusion…

The difficulties experienced by Moldova in 2015, even if these seriously weakened the European course, contributed to highlighting the weaknesses existing in the European integration process. The year 2015 was full of disappointments related to the EU’s nativity, the actions of the pretended pro-European forces and the multiple reforms that were delayed. However, 2015 remains important because it fostered more pragmatism in the relations between the EU and Moldova and favored the appearance of new political initiatives designed to become pro-European political alternatives. New challenges will follow in 2016 as the ostensible pro-European forces will struggle to remain in power, while the solidity of the European course will be tested again by the promoters of the Eurasian projects.


Dionis Cenuşa


IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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