Discrepancies between Chisinau and EU and intention to make use of Russian factor, OP-ED

 

 

The Democratic Party is tempted to exploit again the Russian factor so as to model a more favorable attitude on behalf of Brussels, this time by re-launching the dialogue with Russia...


 

Dionis Cenuşa
 

The denial of any responsibility on the part of the Moldovan authorities for the postponement of the macro-financial assistance does not stop. On the contrary, the process acquires new forms and spreads to the rural areas through the agency of district councils and mayor’s offices controlled by the Democratic Party (PDM). This way, the heads of 28 district councils (87% of the 32 district councils) and 713 majors signed letters by which they challenge the EU’s decision not to allocate the first tranche of the macro-financial assistance (Unimedia, July 18, 2018).

The approaches made by the local elected officials, inspirited by the nature of the initial reactions of the Democratic leaders, shows that the government is ready to riposte, even if it can affect the EU’s image in the country by the anti-European reactions. First of all, resorting to the intervention of the local elected officials, the government shows it is seriously bothered by the European Parliament’s, resolution of July 5, 2018 and the harsh messages of the European institutions that resulted in the postponement of the macro-financial assistance (IPN, July 9, 2018). Secondly, the organized approach of the leaders of district councils is used to counteract the extension of the protest spirit in society and, respectively, at the local level. Thirdly, this way the PDM popularizes the idea that the blame for the blocking of the European assistance is fully borne by the extraparliamentary opposition and its partners in the European Parliament. At the same time, this shifts the focus of attention from the invalidation of the Chisinau mayoral elections to the non-disbursement of the European assistance that, according to the PDM, was provoked by the Moldovan opposition. Fourthly, through the voice of the local elected officials, the ruling party invokes the eventual non-implementation of local projects owing to the lack of financing from the EU. The given argument blames the opposition not only for the postponement of the European assistance, but also for acting against the welfare of the disfavored citizens. By coincidence or not, the critical approach of the local elected officials occurred shortly after the PDM presented a legislative initiative to raise the salaries of the local public authorities, which was adopted in two readings by Parliament.

The recent announcement concerning the abandonment of the idea of submitting the application for entering the EU until the parliamentary elections that were initially set for 2018, as Parliament Speaker Andrian Candu promised in 2017 (Agora, July 5, 2017), confirms that the dialogue with the EU is in a crisis. Partially owing to the tensions in the dialogue with Brussels, the government’s concentration on populist actions (dwellings for socially deprived categories, raise in mayors’ salaries, etc.) increases. In fact, in addition to their electoral connotation, these come to offset the weakening of the legitimacy of the current power that is built on the presumption that the relations with the EU advance.  

Besides resorting to electoral populism, the Democrats signaled they would like to restore the relations with Russia, after the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Kozak was named the new special representative of Moscow responsible for the economic relations with Moldova (July 12, 2018). Suddenly, despite the fight against the Russian propaganda and the intensification of the request to withdraw the Russian forces from the Transnistrian region within the UN, the PDM leaders show an interest in improving the dialogue with the Russian authorities (Publika, July 19, 2018). By such openness to Kozak, who in 2003 proposed federalizing Moldova, the government seems to subtly speculate on the idea that the reorientation to the East is not something fully impossible. This way the government wants to strengthen EU institutions’ fears related to the possibility of reviewing the country’s foreign policy course. Even if the PDM has slim chances of succeeding, it checks if this can contribute to softening the EU’s position on the democratic setbacks in Moldova.

EU’s position remains unchanged

None of the arguments and tactics used by the government of Moldova had an effect on the European institutions. The EU put off the disbursement of the first tranche of the macro-financial assistance and insists on the solving of the problem of invalidation of elections in Chisinau (Free Europe, July 16, 2018). The European side also underlines the importance of the way in which the parliamentary elections will be held, using the postponement of the financial assistance as a platform for subjecting the better conduct of the elections to conditionality.

For now, the prevention of the spread of the blocking of EU assistance to the direct non-reimbursable budget support that is used to implement about 140 projects and programs in Moldova is the only major result achieved by the government.

The last polls show the popularity of the European course remains at high levels, but these do not measure the negative impact of the denigration campaign aimed by the PDM and the mass media affiliated to it at the EU, especially the European Parliament. Consequently, the slight balancing of the sympathies with the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union cannot be excluded and was visible in the first half of 2017. (See Table below)

 

Table. Geopolitical sympathies of the population, %

 

EU

Eurasian Economic Union

June 2018

46

36

Feb.  2018

43

42

Oct. 2017

49

38

March 2017

42

43

Sept. 2016

40

43

Source: IRI.org

 

Russian factor used differently

After intense months of antagonism towards Russia, including the return to the withdrawal of the Russian forces from Moldova’s territory (IPN, June 2, 2018), the government made it clear that it wants to have again a dialogue with the Russian authorities. The appointment of Dmitry Kozak as the special representative responsible for the Moldovan dossier is an occasion used by the leaders of the PDM to inform the public at home and the European partners that the dialogue with Russia can be restored.

Such messages cannot be considered accidental given the harsh language used by Brussels in relation to the political crisis in Moldova. Moreover, the government has always showed its eagerness to use Russia as a source for exploiting the Western fears.

The presence of the Russian factors in the post-electoral scenarios also increase attention to any indicator that can show that the European course can be put in danger. This preoccupation is exploited by the PDM, which already had episodes of cooperation with the pro-Russian forces (such as those for replacing the electoral system). From this viewpoint, the announcement of the resumption of the Moldovan-Russian dialogue can be interpreted as a form of fresh pressure on the EU that is designed to change the negative attitude of this to the political crisis in Moldova.

In such circumstances, even an unessential improvement in the contacts between Moscow and the Moldovan government can increase the EU’s distrust in the Moldovan authorities. This way, Russia increases the possibility of forming a government coalition with an at least multi-vector , if not pro-Russia external policy after the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Instead of conclusion …

The Moldovan authorities show that they are concentrated on the results of the legislative elections more than on the non-selective observance of the commitments made to the European partners. The dissemination of erroneous information about the blocking of the EU macro-financial assistance through the agency of the local elected officials who are politically affiliated to the PDM confirms the government’s negligence of the EU’s image in the country, especially in rural areas.

The EU keeps its critical position on the democratic involutions in Moldova and strictly limits itself to the blocking of the macro-financial assistance. Consequently, Brussels prefers to avoid the subject of the direct budget support based on which diverse projects aimed at improving the living conditions of Moldovans are implemented.

With the transmission of the Moldovan dossier to Dmitry Kozak, the government of Moldova alluded that it could reduce the antagonism towards Russia. This shows that the PDM is tempted to exploit again the Russian factor so as to model a more favorable attitude on behalf of Brussels, this time by re-launching the dialogue with Russia.

 
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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