The dedication to reform, shown by the Moldovan authorities, is convincing for the EU, which is increasing its financial assistance in response. With its help, the government can maintain internal political stability and strengthen sovereignty in the geopolitical space...
|Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor
Moldova's foreign policy is moving the country, at least from a diplomatic perspective, in the direction of the European Union (EU), but practical changes in domestic policy are slower. Even if rapprochement with the EU is desired at a rapid pace and in all areas, for purely objective reasons, the process takes time. Attempts to artificially speed up some important reforms have so far generated a backlash, with mounting political costs, for the government in Chisinau. Things are complicated by the energy burden resulting from the attempt to detach from Russia. With the migration of pro-Russian forces in opposition, Russian geopolitical bonds were canceled in the form of a lower price for imported natural gas (IPN, November 2021). The ability to reform the energy sector and the availability of European financing are the main ways to overcome Russia's energy dependency. Contrary to the relatively simple solutions used by the EU to support Moldovan exporters and reduce the effects of Russian trade restrictions in 2013-2014, Moldova's current gas crisis requires serious modernization of the domestic energy sector. The sector needs institutions and state-owned companies with impeccable transparency and accountability to attract investment, a professional and totally depoliticized regulatory framework, and functional physical corridors to stimulate competition from domestic production and diversified imports of energy resources. Indirectly, the current government through EU financial support pays the symbolic and material price of Moldova’s separation from Russia in the energy field.
There is no doubt that there has been a strong consensus in the governing relationship of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) with the European institutions on the country's reform prospects. The problems posed by the difficult relations with Russia trigger strong geopolitical solidarity on the part of Brussels. Sometimes the impression is created that the unity between the Moldovan political elite and the EU is closer than the government's relations with domestic actors. While the dynamics of the EU-PAS dialogue is excellent, the opposite is seen in the way the Moldovan authorities interact with the opposition and civil society, which is left out of the government recruiting process. The critical voices of the opposition and civil society are intensifying, dissatisfied with the exclusivism of the single-colour majority controlled by PAS in the reform processes (IPN, February 2022). While the government is quite selective in accepting suggestions from civil society, it tends to ignore the opposition altogether. The lack of solid governance experience, the “political fatigue” caused by the perpetuation of the pandemic and the energy crisis, and the disappearance of justifications to cover up failures, increase the vulnerability of the government. As a result, segments of the public are being expanded to practice a more critical evaluation of the government, which was taboo immediately after the PAS came to power in 2021.
For the moment, the public's appreciation of the Government's pro-European ambitions prevails over objections to the shortcomings of the reforms. This characteristic maintains the stability of the European vector in the preferences of the majority of citizens. However, if the public's perception of the government's performance becomes out of sync and the distance moves too far away from the way the EU treats the government in Chisinau, public disappointment with the EU will be inevitable. The current evolution of bilateral relations predisposes to optimism about the sustainability of the European integration process, mainly because the ruling party is not opposed to the reforms, but rather, in several cases, misapplies them. Even if the Moldovan authorities show the qualities of a "hardworking pupil", they still need realistic and honest guidance from the EU so as not to fail in their own reforms.
The effects of EU assistance
In the field of structural reforms, sectoral modernization and economic integration, the EU is seen as a model of inspiration and an important source of financing, especially for crisis situations. Both the opportunities for cooperation and the EU's willingness to support Moldova go beyond the framework of the Association Agreement.
On the one hand, the EU is totally open to the political agenda of the PAS government, without questioning the intentions or the quality of the reforms. The primary focus is on evaluating judges and prosecutors, which, according to optimistic estimates, should start no earlier than the summer of 2022. Carrying out this reform will cleanse the judiciary of corrupt elements. Other areas that frequently resonate in bilateral talks with the EU are the fight against corruption, digitization, renewable energy, the environment and others. More recently, the Chisinau government expressed the intention to complement, depending on compatibility, the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU with the implementation of the Moldova-NATO Partnership Individual Action Plan for 2022-23 (MFAEI, January 2022). Joining the efforts of the EU and NATO can facilitate reforms aimed at strengthening the country's statehood and stability, especially in the context of regional instability caused by Russian threats to Ukraine and European security (IPN, January 2022). In any case, "roadmaps" are needed in each area of common interest, setting out the needs of the Moldovan side and, respectively, the tools available to the European side. The starting point should be the Association Agenda and the National Plan for the implementation of the Association Agreement. Only after the materialization of the first document can the second one emerge. In their absence, the authorities use as coordinates the political objectives of the government program, which, while reflecting the spirit of the Association Agreement with the EU, are only a small part of it.
On the other hand, EU financial assistance plays a central role in ensuring political stability in Moldova. Following the approval of €60 million in non-reimbursable aid at the end of 2021 to manage the energy crisis, Brussels has pledged an additional €5 million to support the compensation plan for vulnerable people (NewsMaker, February 2022). In addition, the European Commission has initiated the procedures for a new macro-financial aid of €150 million, the disbursement of which will be conditional on reforms and could begin as early as 2022. Also through the provision of vaccines against COVID-19, the EU and the Member States contribute additionally. The more than 1 million vaccines received in the form of donations or through the COVAX platform have saved tens of millions of euros to the country's budget. In addition to helping the authorities, the EU is committed to continuing to support civil society while maintaining its position as a key donor. EU-funded projects ensure the functioning of many civil society organisations, which in turn support reforms and provide democratic oversight of governance. In 2022-23, the planned EU budget for Moldovan civil society could exceed €14 million. Taken as a whole, European financial aid allows the government to have a more autonomous foreign policy, in particular in relation to Moscow.
In lieu of conclusions…
For the European integration process to be predictable and effective, it must be translated into measurable actions. The European integration process must also become as inclusive as possible, contrary to some perceptions that it would benefit pro-European elites. Without a clear and inclusive European agenda, the current pro-European enthusiasm in society risks waning, altering the appetite for reforms and slowing exit from Russia's sphere of influence.
The political and financial dimension of the EU's support to its neighbors depends on the intention to reform and the progress in its delivery. The dedication to reform shown by the Moldovan authorities is convincing to the EU, which is increasing its financial assistance in response. With their help, the government can maintain internal political stability and strengthen sovereignty in the geopolitical space.
Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor
Dionis Cenușa is a political scientist, researcher at the Institute of Political Sciences at Liebig-Justus University in Giessen, Germany, MA degree in Interdisciplinary European Studies from the College of Europe in Warsaw.
Areas of research: European Neighborhood Policy, EU-Moldova relationship, EU's foreign policy and Russia, migration and energy security.
Follow Dionis Cenușa on Twitter
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.
See related articles:
- The effects of the anti-government protests in Georgia and Moldova on the EU positions. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Russia and the geopolitical costs of war: the "frozen conflicts" in Moldova and Azerbaijan. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia on the road to the EU: 5 principles to make reforms more efficient. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Bringing Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia closer to the EU: a multi-speed progress. Analysis by Dionis Cenusa
- Disinhibiting EU strategic thinking under the pressure of Russian militarist revisionism: breaking European "taboos". Analysis by Dionis Cenusa
- Preventing Russian-origin threats in 2023: three priorities for risk reduction for the West. Analysis by Dionis Cenusa
- "Reshaping" of regional critical infrastructure under the impact of war: the case of Ukraine, Russia and the EU. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The energy crisis in Moldova and support for reunification with Romania, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Ukraine's critical infrastructure vs. Russia's energy positioning - the "war of nerves". Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The parameters of Western aid to Ukraine and Moldova: preparation for the “Russian winter”. Analysis by Dionis Cenusa
- Russian Tactics against Ukraine and Moldova: Ramifications of the Energy Crises. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- Russian attacks on critical infrastructure: risks for Ukraine's resilience and implications for the EU. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- The new scenarios of Russian aggression in the light of the illegal annexation of southeastern Ukraine. Analysis of Dionis Cenusa
- Moldova-Russia relations: between anti-governmental protests and gas blackmail. Analysis by Dionis Cenusa
- Russia's gas war and the EU's resilience test: three Russian goals and three European dilemmas. Analysis by Dionis Cenusa
- The de-oligarchization of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia: the EU condition for advancing the European perspective. Analysis by Dionis Cenuşa
- Georgia and Moldova: Comparative analysis of state resilience and risks of Russian origin. Analysis of Dionis Cenusa
- EU sanctions and Russia's energy weapon - solidarity versus fragmentation. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Moldova and the candidacy for the EU: between the loss of legitimacy and the need for a national dialogue. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- EU membership candidacy: internal and geopolitical differences between Ukraine and Moldova. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- The race for EU membership status: the three scenarios for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- EU energy autonomy and "crisis" of sanctions against Russia: between blockades and new alternatives. Aanalysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Regional insecurity and the search for resilience for Moldova - based on EU or NATO assistance? Analysis by Dionis Cenusa
- New trends in aggression against Ukraine, Western sanctions and Russian energy weapon
- Moldova and Georgia's Dialogue with the EU and NATO: Seeking External Attention and Resources for State Resilience. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The "new" European agenda of Moldova, the unification with Romania and the separation of the Transnistria region. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- Sanctions against Russia to save Ukraine and the Chinese factor, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The Russian invasion and the "rivalry" of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia for accession to the EU. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- Russian crisis 2.0: Ukraine's demands towards the West in the face of new scenarios in Moscow. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- Ukrainianization of European security: Why is Russia acting now? Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Top Seven Forecasts for the Eastern Partnership in 2022: Stress Test for Local Reforms and Pressure from Regional Geopolitical Competition. Analysis of Dionis Cenușa
- Top 5 advances and challenges in the EaP in 2021: pro-EU resilience and new sources of regional instability. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Germany's post-Merkel foreign policy: more pro-European in Eastern Europe, tougher on Russia. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Moldova's foreign policy - between "interconnection" with Romania and "balancing" with Russia. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The migration crisis in Belarus, the EU’s weaknesses and the scenarios of the Lukashenko regime. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Drawing lessons from Moldova on EU energy security and the Russian monopoly. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Russia's intentions to counter Western influence in the CIS space, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Revitalizing the EU-Moldova dialogue: between geopolitical enthusiasm, “historical moment” and local limitations, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Between EU expectations and the political reality in Georgia and Moldova: contradictions and risks, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The Post-Merkel Era and the Fate of Eastern Europeans: Continuation of European Integration and Restoration of Territorial Integrity, Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Resuscitation of Russia-Moldova relations and the impact of the European vector. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Resolving territorial conflicts in the Eastern Partnership: In search of a personalized EU approach, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Georgia-Moldova-Ukraine “Association” Triangle: Deepening EU Integration and the “Shield” Against Russian Influence, Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- EU Economic Sanctions and Vulnerability of the Eastern Partnership to Belarusian Precedent. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Early Elections in Moldova and the Geopolitical Power of the Diaspora. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Deepening differentiation within the Eastern Partnership and the emergence of the pan-European "Trio". Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Oligarchy in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine: between withdrawal, regrouping and “re-education”. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Public Attitudes in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine towards the EU - between Adoration and Moderation. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Adjusting the visa-free regime with the EU for Eastern Europeans - from the pandemic to the "green pass". Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- "Sputnik V" at the EU border and Russia's targets in Moldova, Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The signs of “vaccine diplomacy” in Moldova: Romania's advantages over Russia. Analysis by Dionis Cenușă
- The EU’s calculus in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova - navigating between political crises, reforms and the "shadows" of Russia. Analysis by Dionis Cenușă
- Anticipating Russia's reaction to future EU sanctions: division, disinformation or destabilization? Analysis by Dionis Cenușă
- EU-Russia relationship in 2021 - between "distorted pragmatism" and "resilient foreign policy", Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Re-Europeanization of Moldova's foreign policy and the EU's position on the Moldovan political crisis, Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Top eight forecasts for Eastern Partnership states in 2021 - between “contestation” and “renewal”. Analysis by Dionis Cenușă
- The Eastern Partnership's Top 5 Opportunities and Challenges in 2020, Analysis by Dionis Cenușă
- The EU, the "Magnitsky Act" and targeting autocrats in the Eastern neighborhood. Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Moldova-Russia relationship and the post-Dodon transition - between “rational” and “emotional” approaches, Analysis by Dionis Cenușă
- Informational resilience near the eastern borders of the EU, Analysis by Dionis Cenușă
- The EU's eastern neighborhood at a new crossroad - between electoral riddles and security crises, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Moldova - presidential elections without a "geopolitical vote"? Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The perspective of Russia, China and the EU on the political crisis in Belarus - between intervention, support and influence, analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- Belarus - a new "velvet revolution" in the Eastern Partnership? Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The „darlings” of the EU conditionality mechanism - Georgia, Moldova or Ukraine? Analysis by Dionis Cenușa
- The effects of EU actions in Moldova - financial assistance and the opposition’s contradictions. Analysis
- Germany’s Presidency in the EU Council and the Eastern Partnership’s future: A Guide to handling an "uncomfortable" reality, analysis
- The EU's political agenda and the "moving sands" in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, analysis
- The EU's conditionality and fighting Euroscepticism in Eastern Partnership, Op-Ed
- The Eurasian Union and the health crisis: lacking integration and geopolitical ambitions, Op-Ed
- NATO’s solidarity and the Russian factor: the tough lesson of state resilience, Op-Ed
- China and Russia – the health diplomacy and the "fragmentation” of Europe, Op-Ed