Magnetization of Eastern Partnership, Russia’s role and implications for Moldova, OP-ED



Before speaking about the Eastern Partnership+ or the European perspective, the democratic reforms should be strengthened by targeted conditionality, by capacitating the investigative media and civil society ...


Dionis Cenuşa


It is almost two months before the new Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit, of November 2017, which will bring together EU national and supranational leaders and the leaders of the six states located in the Eastern neighborhood of the EU, including Moldova. Eight years have passed since the launch of the Partnership. Since then, the countries of the region witnessed multiple political crises, positive developments and regression in the reform process and constant maturation of the relations with the EU.

To give a new impetus to the Eastern dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy and to materialize the provisions of the EU Global Strategy (IPN, July 25, 2016) and the reviewed European Neighborhood Policy (IPN, Nov. 2015), the European Parliament intends to vote a set of recommendations intended for the other European institutions.

Some of the recommendations are political in nature, such as to accentuate the European perspective (art. 49 of the EU Treaty) for the partner states, which is the six Eastern Partnership countries, if they are European states. The set of recommendations discussed in the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign Affairs (September 14, 2017) mentioned good governance for five times, the rule of law for four times and the human rights for three times. All these elements are “core European values” on which the existence of the EU in the long run depends. Unlike some of the EU states (Hungary, Poland), where the given values are undermined, in the EaP countries these didn’t manage to at least take roots. Therefore, the MEPs’ request to effectively combat corruption, which was specified for three times, should be understood as a method of promoting the European values. In fact, without these values, structural European integration is impossible.

A separate place is occupied by civil society and the electoral legislation. More exactly, the MEPs request the European institutions to strengthen the NGO sector in the six partner states by opposing the legislation that is designed to obstruct the activity of civil society. It is invoked the necessity of consensus, with civil society and the opposition, when reviewing the electoral legislation. Thus, Brussels realizes that there is no other local partner, with democratic profile, that would be able to supervise governments. That’s why the protection and capacitation of civil society is a key objective in promoting reforms in the six states.

Most of the recommendations formulated by the European Parliament refer to the practical benefits that the Eastern Partnership should deliver in the future (investment, infrastructure, energy, etc.). Some of the proposals of the MEPs exceed the ambitions set down by the European Commission in its Plan of Action for developing the Eastern Partnership for 2017-2020, which was proposed at the end of 2016. Among these are the development of broadband communications infrastructure, elimination of roaming charges between the EU states and the partner states, including the introduction of unilateral tariff preferences for particular goods imported from the region.

Eastern Partnership – interdependence with risks

The durability of the effects of the Eastern Partnership results from the profoundness of the interdependence created between the provider (EU) and, respectively, the consumer (six EaP states). That’s why the greater is the interconnection and, respectively, the interdependence, the more consistent and powerful is the EU’s influence on its neighborhood.

The creation of an interdependence network can take place through the European Investment Plan proposed by MEPs for Ukraine and other EaP countries, if these successfully do reforms. This way infrastructure projects can be generated in transport, energy, trade and these can diversify the physical and economic connections between the EU and the region.

But any interdependence implies the principle of reciprocity. Consequently, as a result of the interdependence created with the Eastern neighborhood, the EU combines a double role – of provider and, to a certain extent, of consumer of the effects produced by the political and socioeconomic processes in the Eastern Partnership. Therefore, it is crucial to provide support for: (i) implementation of visa liberalization agreements; (ii) adoption of legislation on the environment, addressing of security problems; (iii) strengthening of security; (iv) implementation of Association Agreements, etc. The implementation of these measures indicated by the MEPs is beneficial to the six states and the EU. Thus, through the implementation of the visa liberalization agreement, the EU makes sure that it has efficiently governed frontiers at its Eastern borders. The borrowing of the European legislation on environment can prevent ecological incidents with a negative impact on the health of the European citizens. The strengthening of the security capacities of the countries of the region will make these more resistant to internal or external hybrid risks. Through the agency of Association Agreements and other types of accords, the political and economic situation in the six countries will become more predictable, more stable and easier to manage.

However, the European integration is a living process. This implies different players, many of whom (corrupt political forces, groups of interest) would like to profit from the interconnections proposed by the EU for the public and people’s benefit. That’s why the implementation of reforms necessitates major precaution to prevent any attempt to vitiate the European projects.

The targeted conditionality, differentiated approach, financial assistance connected to the principles “more for more” and “less for less” and the correct use of communication policies continue to be promoted. These instruments are essential for the functioning of the existent Eastern Partnership. Also, this will pave the way for the Eastern Partnership+, which will enable to extend the integration into the EU for the six countries - the EU Customs Union, the Schengen area – and the participation in EU programs, etc.

Russia is also mentioned

The recommendations formulated by the MEPs highlight that Russia supports the territorial disputes in most of the EaP states, despite its international commitments concerning the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of these states.

On the other hand, it is specified the sovereign right of the six states to decide the relationship with the EU. It is an indirect allusion to the pressure exerted by Russia on the states that decide to extend the dialogue with Brussels.

The MEPs’ recommendations include the request to put up resistance to Russia by consolidating the targeted restriction measures so as to solve the territorial disputes in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and to combat misinformation, cyber-attacks etc.

The energy independence is addressed separately, with emphasis on the improvement of the interconnection and infrastructure, extension of the energy integration with the EU and monitoring of projects with Russian capital (NordStream 2).

Relevant recommendations for Moldova

The recommendations formulated by the European Parliament photograph a series of challenges faced by Moldova and other countries of the region. Thus, it is emphasized the change in the electoral system without the broad consensus of civil society and the opposition in a move to favor the ruling parties. Georgia, as Moldova, experiences similar deviations.

The recommendations also make reference to the measures taken by the authorities to undermine the activity of civil society. In Moldova, the authorities tested the idea of restricting the external financing for NGOs that deal with public policies. The regression witnessed in Ukraine is much more serious because civil society involved in anti-corruption projects can anytime become the target of state institutions specialized in corruption fighting.

The measures proposed by the MEPs are very diverse. Of the over 20 recommendations intended for the European institutions, three are decisive. First of all, Brussels should make sure that the European values are fully implemented and promoted by the countries with Association Agreements. Secondly, it is suggested renewing partner states’ commitments concerning the implementation of reforms related to justice, public administration and corruption fighting. Lats but not least, it is requested to strengthen civil society, which plays a crucial role in promoting reforms.

The proposals related to the labor market, energy, transport, investment funds and others are important, but these do not ensure the qualitative and sustainable modification of the situation in Moldova or any other EaP country. If the state institutions or justice remain unchanged, the length of life of European investments will be short, while their main beneficiaries will be not the people, but corrupt politicians.

Instead of conclusion...

The Eastern Partnership should be turned into an efficient mechanism for sustainably reforming the whole region. That’s why the recommendations of the European Parliament deserve the attention and support of the European institutions.

The interest in the Partnership among the people could be stimulated by eliminating the roaming charges or by building broadband communications. But this will only distract attention for a short period of time. The unsolved structural problems, such as poor governance, aggressiveness of corruption and inequitable justice, will swiftly return to the public agenda.

At the same time, before speaking about the Eastern Partnership+ or the European perspective, the democratic reforms (rule of law, human rights, corruption fighting) should be strengthened by targeted conditionality, by capacitating the investigative media and civil society. 


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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