After about seven months of the first meeting (September 2015), the EU – Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee met for the second time, in Chisinau already.
On May 17-19, 2016, a delegation of the European Parliament, consisting of four MEPs, two of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and by one on behalf of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the European People’s Party (EPP), had meetings with representatives of the Moldovan legislature and executive and of civil society.
The meeting of the EU – Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee was dominated by the assessment of the progress made in implementing the roadmap agreed by the Moldovan Government and the European Commission in March.
Speed of reforms among the main concerns
The European Parliament’s delegation expressed its concern about the speed of reforms. The MEPs noted among aspects the real motivation and seriousness of the government given that practically all the initiated reforms are suspected of being simulated and of containing shortcomings. This is due to the very low general confidence of the public opinion and external partners in the integrity and, respectively, the pro-reform character of the government.
At the same time, the MEPs insisted on the necessity of ensuring the quality of reforms. The given observation derives from the government’s obsession to report in figures the progress in implementing the ‘roadmap’ assumed in March. But the authorities should focus on the quality of reforms and their speed, not only on the latter.
According to MEPs’ statements, the political stability in the country represents not a goal, but a circumstance that must ensure appropriate reformation. In other words, maintaining the current status-quo satisfies neither the public opinion of the country nor Brussels. The internal and external expectations of the current government are related to the coherent, consistent and irreversible reformation of the country.
Separately about frauds in banking system
The MEPs criticized the pace of the investigation into the bank frauds. Norica Nicolai, former prosecutor and now a Member of the European Parliament on behalf of the ALDE, didn’t hesitate to question the capacity of the Moldovan institutions to effectively and swiftly investigate the bank frauds. What is yet more serious is the fact that a number of institutions are suspected of inaction that favored the commission of these frauds, such as the National Bank of Moldova, the National Commission for Financial Markets, the National Anticorruption Center and others.
Norica Nicolai expressed her conviction that if there had been sufficient motivation, the traces of the money stolen from the banking system would have been identified long ago and the names of the final beneficiaries of these fraudulent schemes would have thus become known. Moreover, the indirect message of the MEP was that those to blame are looked for in the wrong place.
The situation in the banking sector remains uncertain and the Europeans are not sure that the authorities make all the effort needed to remove the existing faults and to exclude new frauds in the future. But the improvement of the situation in the banking sector depends not only on the vivacity of the national economy, but also on the Europeans’ wish to unlock the direct budget assistance. It seems that the authorities do not fully realize this.
Emphases placed by civil society
A clear and sound position on the reforms implemented by the government was also stated by representatives of civil society. Thus, 21 NGOs issued a common statement addressed to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee where they enumerate the deficiencies of the reforms initiated by the authorities. The given statement objectively describes and criticizes the shortcomings of the reforms started in crucial areas (justice, corruption fighting, freedom of the media, the banking sector).
Special attention was devoted to the justice sector. Thus, civil society pointed to the delay in appointing a representative of the Government as Constitutional Court judge in a transparent way. It was also underlined the necessity of hastening the adoption of the secondary legislation so that the Law on the Prosecution Service could be efficiently activated starting with August 2016. The NGOs asked to choose the new Prosecutor General from among upright candidates in a transparent way. Furthermore, they requested the development partners to contribute to strengthening the capacities of the prosecution service by investing in the professionalization of its employees. Also, a dose of criticism was aimed at the disproportionalities in wiretapping and at the so-called draft law “Big Brother”. According to the NGOs sector, these aspects should be put right so as to eliminate any possibility of abuse on the part of the authorities.
Civil society also noted the necessity of consolidating the anticorruption policies. It asked that the package of laws on integrity should be adopted by laying emphasis on the strengthening of the powers of the National Integrity Center. The NGOs also requested to review and improve the mechanism of assessing institutional integrity.
Among other requests of the NGO sector was to de-monopolize and ensure transparency on the mass media market. The NGOs enumerated the problems related to the lack of balance and sufficient integrity within political parties concerning donations and financial reporting. The delay in financing political parties, the politicization of the press and non-transparent selection of the members of the Central Election Commission were among other aspects criticized in the statement.
Civil society also noted the major problems faced in the financial sector. The low level of bank ownership transparency, poor corporate governance in this sector, exposure to offshore areas, deficiencies in the mechanism of preventing crises in the banking system and other aspects were mentioned among the main causes that keep the country’s financial sector in check.
Instead of conclusion…
Even if the rhetoric of the MEPs contained a big dose of criticism, this was anyway moderate and was limited to the ascertaining of known facts. The moderate criticism can be determined by several aspects.
First of all, the Moldovan authorities did everything possible to deliver evidence that the reforms go on, admitting simultaneously to the existence of shortcomings. Secondly, things didn’t change much, but many reforms were initiated. This fact cannot be ignored or denied by the Europeans. Thirdly, the changes of the political landscape (appearance of new political parties) and the future presidential elections are seen as additional factors that force the government to make particular concessions. Last but not least, the voice of civil society is increasingly heard in the country and Brussels and additional instruments of exerting pressure on the government, on which the Europeans count, are thus created.
The current government does not have much maneuvering ground. This has to continue the reforms even if it’s used to discreetly ‘boycott’ many of these. The constructive political opposition and civil society, together with the EU and the development partners, are the main players that can impose a pro-reform behavior on the government. Without a real thirst for reforms, a new wave of political instability is inevitable, as is the collapse of the current government.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
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