Romania, Russian factor and erosion of European agenda in Moldova


We have witnessed a specific approach on the part of the Romanian political players, who tend to place emphasis on the risks related to Russia rather than to highlight the major, real threats to the European project in Moldova, caused by political corruption and deliberate oligarchization of the state that has been a characteristic of the pro-European governments of Moldova since 2009…

Dionis Cenuşa


The Romanian political players react continuously to the developments in Chisinau, where the continuity of the European agenda of Moldova is in question. The political class of Romania is alarmed by the fact that the public support for the Moldovan pro-European parties is declining and does not have chances to recover soon. The key reason for these concerns is the risk that the pro-Russian forces whose rating is going up will interrupt or will even definitively abandon the European course. These forces gain political advantages from the schisms existing inside the pro-European forces, the numerous corruption-related scandals and the fake implementation of reforms related to the European agenda. Romanian partners’ concerns are reasonable, if we take into account the intention of the Usatyi-Dodon duo to renounce the European course in favor of the Eurasian one and the aggressive behavior of Russia in the region. These things were invoked on different occasions by MEPs Monica Macovei and Siegfried Muresan, ex-President Traian Basescu and current Prime Minister Victor Ponta. However, the stated concerns are dominated by a geopolitical undertone and do not make reference to the internal political aspects that really affect the European course – political corruption, politicization of institutions, inefficient and/or selective justice, etc..

Geopolitical care versus internal political realities

Different representatives of the Romanian political class, both at national and European levels, follow attentively the political events on the left bank of the Prut. They evidently see that the European integration is nullified by coordinated corruption or corruption allowed voluntarily by the ruling parties of Moldova, which are considered pro-European yet. They also understand that the state institutions are captured, while the ruling political parties are controlled by oligarchic groups that struggle to gain full control in the state. Nevertheless, the Romanian political players focus on the risks related to the resuscitation of the Russian factor in Moldovan politics and less on the artificialization of the pro-EU slogans disseminated by the so-called pro-European forces. This predilection can have several explanations.

First of all, the Russian factor remains an important variable in the political equations of the Eastern Partnership countries given the multiple instruments of influence possessed by Russia (separatist regions, pro-Russian political players, the church, the media propaganda, etc.). Secondly, we speak about strategic constraints on the Romanian political players from Bucharest and Brussels, which should measure the criticism or should even abandon it so as not to contribute to the collapse of the pro-EU forces that are in disgrace and, respectively, to the rise in the survey ratings of the pro-Russian parties. Finally or not, the absence of harsh criticism can be due to the close relations of the Moldovan ruling parties with the pan-European political parties (See article “Failed “Europeanization” of Moldovan political elite). We thus witness a specific approach on the part of the Romanian political players, who tend to place emphasis on the risks related to Russia rather than to highlight the major, real threats to the European project in Moldova, caused by political corruption and deliberate oligarchization of the state that has been a characteristic of the pro-European governments of Moldova since 2009.

‘Truncated’ pragmatism

Even if the Romanian side is aware of the defects of the so-called pro-European parties, this tends to focus on the geopolitical risks in the region. A relevant example is the decision by the official Bucharest to lend €150 million to the Moldovan pro-European coalition to support ‘economic, budget and political stability” in the period of crisis. According to Victor Ponta, the crisis through which Moldova goes is determined by the pressure exerted by Russia, even if everyone knows that the reasons are mainly internal in character, like the poor quality of governance, struggle for the monopolization of power, capturing of the state institutions, fraudulent schemes in the banking system and non-fighting of corruption. But some Romanian politicians (Traian Basescu) request that the EU should continue to allocate financial assistance to Moldova, citing again the Russian factor as the main argument. At the recent meeting of the European People’s Party in Madrid, Romanian politicians didn’t even allude to the worrisome political situation in Moldova, but emphasized again the negative role of the Russian factor. In this regard, Siegfried Muresan asked that Greece and Italy should ratify the Association Agreement between the EU and Moldova, without which Moldova will enter the gray zone ‘as Russia wants’. This approach reveals a kind of truncated pragmatism as the possible risks posed by the Russian factors are at least now overestimated at a time when the risks generated by the multiple faults of the so-called pro-European parties are underestimated.

Instead of conclusion…

It’s clear that Romania and the Romanian political players want to have pro-European political partners in Chisinau. But this should not take place to the detriment of the European integration, which is for now simulated, parasitized and/or undermined by the political forces that declare themselves pro-European. Romania, as a member state of the EU and as a neighboring state with special ties with Moldova, has the duty to be principled and objective in the relations with the Moldovan authorities, especially given that the latter ones continue to discredit oneself and to consciously and voluntarily undermine the European course, advantaging thus the pro-Russian forces. The principality of Romania must also result from pragmatic medium- and long-term calculations, not only from current arguments because the association with so-called pro-European parties that erode the European agenda can discredit those that support them without imposing harsh conditions. This thing was understood by the EU (even if too late) and it suspended the provision of financial assistance (not yet of technical one) until the IMF and Moldova sign an agreement. Eventually, if the Romanian political players really want to support Moldova’s European course, they should rethink their strategy (if it exists) in the relations with the pro-European government of Moldova. 

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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