The criticism of the European officials about the situation in the Republic of Moldova causes dissatisfaction among those who are elements of the existent system. A conclusive example is the harsh reaction by the president of the Association of Judges of Moldova Ion Druta, who reprimanded the Head of the EU Delegation to Moldova Pirkka Tapiola for the fact that he criticized the court’s decision to dismiss the mayor of Taraclia Sergey Filipov.
The European diplomat expressed his bewilderment and disappointment at the court’s decision, saying this is politically motivated and, if it remains definitive, the mayor of Taraclia will be unable to hold public posts during the next two years. The president of the Association of Judges of Moldova noted that the statement published by Tapiola on his personal Facebook account could exert pressure on the appeals courts of law. Moreover, judge Ion Druta regards Tapiola’s message as ‘interference’ in justice.
The accusations made against the Head of the EU Delegation by the president of the Association of Judges weren’t supported by all the judges. In anonymity, a group of judges contradicted Ion Druta and made common cause with Pirkka Tapiola.
Core of the problem
The fact that justice in Moldova is dubious is not a novelty for anyone in the country and in Europe. Namely because of the nonfunctional justice, Moldova has lost about 300 cases at the ECHR since 1998. Also, the defective justice encouraged frauds in the banking system, which ultimately led to the indebtedness of at least one generation of people. That’s why the criticism about the quality of Moldovan justice is substantiated and fully corresponds to the reality. This fact is well known by the European partners. These allocate the money of European taxpayers for reforming the justice sector of Moldova and thus have the right to ask for explanations for the deviations in this field. The same motivation explains the reaction of Pirkka Tapiola.
What was judge Ion Druta bothered about exactly?
At least two aspects could dissatisfy the president of the Association of Judges. First of all, it is for the first time that Pirkka Tapiola addresses a well-aimed critical message to the legal system. Usually, the European diplomat speaks about the shortcomings in Moldovan justice (selectivity, corruption, etc.) in general terms. This time Tapiola refers to a concrete case and to the judgment passed by the Cahul Appeals Court.
Secondly, the Head of the EU Delegation trenchantly accuses the court of law of adopting a politically motivated decision. The political subtext is invoked by Tapiola not accidentally given that the mayor of Taraclia had tense relations with the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) after he rejected the political offers of this party. Consequently, describing the court decision ‘politically motivated’, Pirkka Tapiola volens nolens invokes the interference of the PDM in justice, though Druta’s intention was to riposte and victimize the judges on whom pressure is allegedly exerted, attracting thus public sympathy. But a more powerful solidarity with Pirkka Tapiola and, respectively, a new episode of legal system discrediting followed.
Consequences for the Head of EU Delegation
Pirkka Tapiola went out of this ‘mini-scandal’ more powerful than he was. At the same time, this incident confirmed the fact that the European diplomat is regarded with distrust, but also with partial fear by the current system and its representatives. Earlier, the European diplomat had been already the target of the criticism of particular Moldovan officials, who accused him of hampering reforms while these were in Brussels.
It is evident that after November 2014 and the subsequent developments in the banking sector, Tapiola became more trenchant in his statements. The new legal framework of the EU – Moldova relations, established by the Association Agreement, also envisions greater responsibility on the part of the EU. Therefore, the EU Delegation to Moldova and its Head must promote and defend the European agenda in Moldova, condemning irregularities.
The EU Delegation is not the only diplomatic institution that criticizes the pace of reforms in Moldova. However, unlike the U.S. Embassy, the Delegation must take into account the opinions and interests of 28 EU states. Consequently, when Tapiola makes critical statements, he assumes particular risks related to his powers and the abuse of his authority. We will yet see if the decision by the Cahul Appeals Court will somehow influence the subsequent rhetoric of the Head of the EU Delegation. If no change follows, the politicians in Chisinau and the representatives of the system will receive a clear signal that Tapiola verbalized exactly what Brussels and the 28 EU member states think about the rule of law or the quality of governance in Moldova.
Instead of conclusion…
By his performance, Pirkka Tapiola shows that he wants positive changes to take place in Moldova. He probably risks whenever he formulates trenchant messages. But these risks are well-calculated and are in accordance with the EU’s unfavorable attitude to the current government of Moldova.
Finally, we wouldn’t have witnessed critical positions on the part of Tapiola as regards justice in Moldova if the situation hadn’t been so precarious. A country with corrupt and politicized justice – this is how Moldova is regarded by the EU. That’s why the efforts of the authorities and the representatives of the system must be concentrated on the elimination of deficiencies from the system and the improvement of the country’s image. However, it seems that the efforts are aimed at making those who reveal the anomalies that affect governance or the rule of law in the country to keep silent.
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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