The Action Plan of the Council of Europe for the Republic of Moldova 2021-2024, which was presented in Strasbourg last week, with the President of the Republic of Moldova attending the presentation ceremony, envisions also reforms related to Gagauzia. For example, the Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) and some of its institutions are mentioned in the document in connection with the consolidation of the democratic administration, strengthening of the institutional potential and harmonization of the national legislation, At the same time, on the domestic policy agenda, Gagauzia remains in a contradictory context – except for the steps to increase the functionality of the ATU taken by representatives of the authorities, the legal basis of the powers enjoyed by the region is challenged sometimes.
CEC of Gagauzia and development of national legislation
The presented Action Plan for 2021-2024 does not contain any separate chapter centering on the ATU, but devotes yet particular attention to the region. In particular, the document notes that the new AP is based on the accomplishments of the previous Plan, including the strengthening of the institutional potential of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of ATU Gagauz-Yeri.
The chapter devoted to the state of democracy in the Republic of Moldova says that good governance in the Republic of Moldova at the local level faces serious problems and urges to further strengthen the administrative and institutional capacities of the local self-managing bodies, especially for managing finances and human resources. In this connection, the AP says that within the previous plans, the CoE cooperated with the CEC of the Republic of Moldova and the local Election Commission of Gagauz-Yeri with the aim of improving the capacity for organizing and appropriately conducting the elections.
The election theme is explored also in the context of the necessity of improving the electoral legislation. Meanwhile, the wanted changes should include, according to the AP, the harmonization of the legislative and normative framework and of the practice between the central level and the local election managing bodies, especially the Central Election Commission of UTA Gagauz-Yeri”.
Maia Sandu about Gagauzia
The subject of Gagauzia formed part of President Maia Sandu’s s speech at the PACE session. More exactly, the ATU has been mentioned not in the President’s speech, but in the subsequent discussions with MPs. Hungarian MP Barna Sigmund asked Maia Sandu what influence the unionist movement in Moldova has on the ATU.
Answering this question, which was probably determined by the increased interest of Budapest in the three Hungarian-speaking counties of Romania (called Székely Land) and, in general, in the development of local autonomous units, Sandu assured that the unionist idea no way endangers Gagauzia.
“The given movement has existed since the declaring of independence and poses no threat to ATU Gagauzia. I will continue the effort to formulate common tasks that will stimulate cohesion in society. In the recent elections, we obtained votes from the Russian-speaking citizens, probably less in Gagauzia, but I will continue making effort to unite society around common goals,” stated Maia Sandu.
Sandu also answered the question of Turkish MP Ahmet Yıldız, who inquired about the fate of a bill that forms part of the “Gagauz initiatives”. This is the amendment (which wasn’t adopted by Parliament) to the Law on the Special Status of Gagauz-Yeri, according to which this law should be amended only with the consent of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia.
According to the President, this subject was politicized and this led to the disruption of the process.
“The result is not ideal, but we are anyway ready for discussions. We would like everyone to feel comfortable and safe. As to the peaceful coexistence of nationalities, we are in favor of this,” stated Maia Sandu.
ATU’s powers: between implementation and challenge
It should be noted that the invoked “Gagauzia initiatives” represent one of the few legislative decisions concerning the improvement of the functionality of the ATU that was adopted the last few years. Among the initiatives designed on the platform of the working group consisting of members of Moldova’s Parliament and of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia are the amendments to the legislation on museums, libraries and protection of monuments. These all were worked out with the support of European experts and aim to adjust the national and regional legislation.
Nevertheless, the Moldovan MPs had different reactions to the bills on the ATU, even if the presented initiatives coincided with the objectives of the CoE Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova. In particular, the MPs in March rejected the bill to supplement the Electoral Code of the Republic of Moldova with a chapter referring to the activities of the CEC of Gagauzia.
MP Igor Munteanu, of the Party “Dignity and Truth Platform” (PPPDA), described the bill as a threat to the national interests.
“You want to duplicate at the local level as series of state institutions and this generates questions as to the real intentions of the region. This goes against the interests of the Republic of Moldova,” stated Igor Munteanu.
It should be also noted that two of the three most important bills drafted by the working group were adopted by the parliamentary majority amid the active protest of the opposition represented by the PPPDA and the pro-presidential Party of Action and Solidarity, which tried to block the Parliament’s rostrum during the adoption of the initiatives in the final reading.
Indicator of European aspirations
Gagauzia and the reforms related to it can become, if they haven’t become yet, a permanent factor of the future action plans of the Council of Europe for the Republic of Moldova and of the agenda of our country’s relations with international European organizations. One of the final provisions of the AP says the interaction with the partners from regions contributes to increasing the responsibility and stability in reforms and should be stepped up.
This is a challenge both for the central power and for the administration of the autonomous unit, which is to be persuasive in the dialogue with the European partners and to have a concrete plan in hand and an argued view on the situation, even if this is based on differing opinions on the functionality of Gagauzia. Ultimately, the European bureaucracy’s appraisal of the development of the dialogue between Chisinau and Comrat will become an important indicator of the sincerity of the European aspirations of the Republic of Moldova.
The action plan is a common strategic initiative of the Council of Europe and the authorities of the Republic of Moldova aimed at improving the legislation and the state institutions of Moldova and the implementation of reforms in the field of democracy, human rights and justice in accordance with the generally-accepted European practice. The budget for financing the Action Plan (AP) totals €13.7 million and consists of the funds of the joint Moldova-EU programs, voluntary contributions of the donor countries and CoE budget funds.
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.