Moldova’s government of reform and the European "credit of trust"

"The excessive idealization of government by the natural partners of the democratic reforms in Moldova, EU or the US, is detrimental to the ACUM bloc ..."

Increased tolerance within the ruling coalition, confirmed by the recent extension of the political cohabitation agreement until the end of 2020 (TVRMoldova, September 16, 2019), strengthens several parallel processes. On the one hand, the pro-reform mobilization of the ACUM bloc attracts Socialists volens nolens in a positive competition of ideas and approaches towards the public policies. Even if the Socialists avidly criticize the shortcomings of the actions taken by certain ministries, they do not attack directly any concrete reform. In other words, the political capitalization on the imperfections of the government led by Maia Sandu has not yet resulted in the paralysis of any reform. On the other one, the comparative advantages of the Socialists, which result in discipline and internal organization, impose on the part of the ACUM bloc greater exigency towards their own political performance. Therefore, the concern for the "common bloc" should by no means replace a serious reflection on the individual trajectory of the Action and Solidarity Party and the Platform DA. The sustainability of the current governance initiatives depends on the ability of the ruling parties to maintain a high degree of popularity - an aspect where the PSRM succeeds best. At the same time, the reforms carried out in Moldova provoke interest outside the country. In fact, the consolidation of reforms proportionally influences the formation of the "credit of trust" granted by the EU and others.

The steps taken by the coalition appear to be uniform, even if the speech made by the ACUM bloc varies, and the local elections on October 20, 2019 help to intensify political rivalries. Octavian Țîcu's exit from the Platform DA and his launch in the Chisinau elections create premises for the consolidation of the “rebel group” within the bloc (Agora, September 20, 2019). There are deputies with anti-Russian views, active promoters of the unionist current in the society, who will gather around the deputy Țîcu, depending on the results of the elections in the capital. The emancipation of unionist spirit in the ACUM bloc may complicate the relationship with the Socialists. Thus, the principles of political non-aggression, such as the rejection of "declarations and actions that divide society" on ethnic, religious and geopolitical grounds, implanted in the agreement to extend the coalition until 2019-2020, will be difficult to respect fully.

The unity of the coalition is still dependent on two aspects. First, the political coexistence results from the ability of the government to punish beneficiaries of previous corrupt schemes, dating back to 2012. The lifting of the immunity of three deputies from the faction of the Șor Party - Ilan Șor (15 August 2019), Marina Tauber and Reghina Apostolova (16 September 2019) and the deputy from the PDM faction - Vladimir Cebotari, opens the door for the prosecutor's investigations still unreformed, but under enormous political pressure to deliver. Deputies without immunity are targeted in the dossiers on "theft of the billion" and the privatization of Chisinau International Airport. The outcome of these investigations will become an essential criterion for measuring the performance of the current coalition. The second determining factor in maintaining the political consensus is the requirement of respecting the already existing legislation and the adoption of the new one. The intentions of excluding "offshore" companies from the public sector, de-monopolizing the economy, eliminating non-competitive elements in the market and reforming the justice system will test the trust between PSRM and ACUM, but also their shared devotion to the public interest. However, the re-politicization of the institutions in the architecture of the rule of law (National Anticorruption Center, the Constitutional Court), seen in the first three months of the PSRM-ACUM government, indicates a certain predisposition to politically subordinate the state institutions. In other words, deviation from good governance has a high degree of probability.

The reforms and the European agenda - separate or together?

The prolonged political calendar of the PSRM-ACUM coalition involves actions until the end of 2020. The governing agreement renewed by the two political forces, with distinct geopolitical genetics, corresponds to the reforms envisaged by the government of Maia Sandu until December 2020 (IPN, August 26, 2019). Respectively, the plans of the government, largely controlled by ACUM, gain political support and commitment from all components of government. At the same time, the set of reforms proposed is ambitious, with dense tissue of actions and quite centralized from the perspective of the political decision-makers involved in assuming political responsibility, but still without a fixed time frame (See the Table below).


Tabel. The Content of the first and second PSRM-ACUM agreements.


First agreement:

Second agreement:

Agreement’s title


Temporary political agreement on fighting the oligarchy and restoring the constitutional order in the state

(Agora, June 8, 2019)


Political agreement on transitional goals of the Government, Presidency and Parliament, including the PSRM, PAS and Platform DA factions (TVRMoldova, September 16, 2019)

Agreement’s goal

Organizing the effective takeover of political power after the fall of the oligarchic regime

Planning the governance process after taking over the political power

Duration of mutual commitments



Number of pages



Participatory character

Broad political commitment at the level of parliamentary majority - 61 signatures of all PSRM-NOW MPs

Full political commitment at the level of the branches of power, but not at the level of the parliamentary majority - 6 signatures of the country’s President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament and the representatives of the PSRM, PAS and Platform DA factions.

Covered fields

Without concrete areas of intervention, but rather including steps for political decisions planning

15 concrete fields


The new PSRM-ACUM agreement is extended and includes 15 fields of normative-legislative intervention, which involve cooperation between the government, parliament and the presidency. The agreement also has a strong concentration of aspects of European integration. However, the relationship with the EU is partially dissolved with promises to participate in the activities within the CIS and to ensure a normalization of the political-economic relations with Russia, under active and "balanced" foreign policy (IPN, September 9, 2019).

The parameters of the European integration agreed by PSRM and ACUM include the provisions of the Association Agreement, without any exception. Mentioned 4 times in the chapters on good governance, health and foreign policy, the Agreement with the EU gives the governing act a rather pro-European feature than the one of a "balanced foreign policy". However, there are traces of incoherence in how European integration has been infused into the renewed governing plan. Thus, the logic of the reforms does not result from the actual implementation of the Association Agreement, which is referred to sporadically. In fact, many reforms are suggested in parallel, but not as an indivisible part of the commitments towards EU. This is explainable, given that the PSRM-ACUM agreement is a combination of proposals, drafted in various institutions (ministries, parties, presidency, etc.), unevenly compiled, and sealed in rush into a common document. Moreover, most of the representatives of the PSRM-ACUM coalition are facing the problem of poor understanding of the provisions of the Association Agreement. Therefore, there is a strong impression that the Agreement is seen as a basis for the political processes in the country more because it brings the EU into the equation, than because it is accepted as a platform for multi-dimensional transformation.

EU - indulgent or pragmatic?

The attitude of Brussels towards the current government in Chisinau emanates trust and hope. Risk areas, previously highlighted by the European officials, are on the list of government priorities. Energizing the justice reform, with the modification of the prosecutor's law, setting up a mechanism for coordinating anti-corruption efforts under the cabinet of Prime Minister Sandu, lifting the immunities of the deputies targeted in banking fraud and returning to the proportional vote, are just some of the actions appreciated in the EU. The shortcomings of some reforms are set aside, and the multiple risks are ignored (3DCFTA, September 17, 2019). The reformers in the government are ignoring the endemic corrupt feature of the Moldovan political class. It also does not take into account the cyclical characteristic of the governing coalitions, but also the volatile nature of the regime in unstable democracies, such as the Moldovan one. In such circumstances, even if involuntarily, the ACUM bloc favors a future consolidation of the Socialists’ positions.

Although the EU refrains from any interference with the country's internal policy, the risks of re-politicizing institutions with PSRM exponents must be reflected in public speeches and the European evaluation reports. This is still missing from the EU approach. The statements made by the head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, and the Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, transmitted from Brussels, prefer to give positive notes to the reforms already achieved, rather than criticizing their shortcomings (European Commission, September 12, 2019). The 2019 report on the implementation of the Association Agreement points to the existence of a hyper-optimistic view on the political processes initiated by the PSRM-ACUM coalition, which differs from the objective evaluation, from the same document, of the actions taken by the Plahotniuc regime (European Commission, September 11, 2019). Otherwise, it is not clear why the first signals of the politicization of state institutions were omitted (3DCFTA, September 17, 2019), but also other problematic aspects of certain reforms. Future EU reports will have to include the essence of reforms, presenting risk areas, in order to encourage self-correction of the Moldovan government.

For now, the EU is using the tactics of general openness towards reforms, offering substantial political credit and financial assistance (IPN, August 26, 2019). In fact, the European side could show more caution and critical evaluation already at this early stage. The behavior of Europeans denotes indulgence or pragmatism. The indulgence towards the Moldovan governors would not benefit the democratic institutions at all, as in the medium term it may repeat the degradation of the quality of the government, as in the years 2010-2013. If the EU nevertheless shows pragmatism, then the appreciation of Prime Minister Sandu's "authentic political will" (EEAS, September 18, 2019) requires a balance by injecting constructive criticism regarding the imperfections of the reforms.

Instead of conclusions...

The excessive idealization of government by EU or the US, the natural partners of the democratic reforms in Moldova, is detrimental to ACUM bloc. As a result, the level of self-awareness with respect to ACUM's own mistakes decreases, and with this, it weakens its vigilance towards its coalition partner - the Socialists.

The government of reforms, as is often described the government of Maia Sandu, does not imply that all undertaken actions are totally perfect. Practicing honest questions about the quality of reforms, both by the public in the country and by European partners, is in deficit. The added value of a more responsible and emotionally detached attitude towards the behavior of the government would increase the legitimacy of the governing act and diminish the threats related to the strengthening of the political forces, which sympathize with the Russian political model of state functioning.

Dionis Cenușa

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