National consensus and division of society. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

The best solution for overcoming societal division and polarization of the political class is to reedit the national consensus stipulated in the Parliament Declaration of March 24, 2005. Preconditions in this regard exist and can be seen even within the current government. A relevant example is the May 22 statement by Prime Minister Ion Chicu, who specified that if we do not radically reform the country, we will lose it, while the union with the European Union is not something of a utopia...

How was national consensus reached

The Republic of Moldova is regrettably divided according to a number of criteria. However, there was a period during which we had national consensus enshrined in the Declaration on the political partnership for achieving the European integration objectives that was adopted by Parliament on March 24, 2005 with the vote of the 101 MPs, at the suggestion of the majority parliamentary group of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM). The national consensus was based on the signing, on February 22, 2005 of the European Union – Republic of Moldova Action Plan (EURMAP).

The consensus’ impact on the development of the country was considerable and created a favorable framework for the adoption of government programs and strategies for implementing the EURMAP. The most important documents in this regard were worked out and adopted with the contribution of well-known politicians who continue to hold high-ranking posts. These are President Igor Dodon and Parliament Speaker Zinaida Grechanyi. These politicians helped design and adopt the following government programs:

  • The Government’s action program for 2005-2009 “Modernization of the country – wellbeing of the people”, which stipulates measures to ensure the dynamic development of the Republic of Moldova “at the economic, social and spiritual levels for occupying a dignified place among the countries of the European Community”. In that period, Missis Zinaida Grechanyi served as Minister of Finance (until October 2005) and then as Deputy Prime Minister (until March 2008);
  • The Government’s action program for 2008-2009 “Progress”, which stipulated the “commitment undertaken before the country’s people and the development partners... to strengthen the democratic institutions that will place us in the European space of values, when the European integration will mean a natural recognition act”. The program was worked out by Zinaida Grechanyi and her task was to implement it as Prime Minister with the support of her deputy Igor Dodon, then First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Trade;
  • The Government’s action program for 2009-2013, which stipulated that “the country’s integration into the European Union represented the irreversible and natural priority of the domestic and foreign policy of the Government of the Republic of Moldova”(page 10). This government program was also thought up by Prime Minister Zinaida Grechanyi and her deputy Igor Dodon.

Moreover, within the national consensus, Zinaida Grechanyi, as First Deputy Prime Minister, worked out the National Development Strategy (NDS) – a strategic document that specified the fundamental country development objectives was goal was: “to bring the Republic of Moldova closer to the European standards and to achieve the European integration objective. All the priority development objectives stipulated in the strategy are designed to adjust the national policies to the European ones”. It should be noted that the strategy was adopted by Law No.295 of 21-12-2007 and was presented to the legislative body for adoption by Zinaida Grechanyi as author of the NDS.

In fact, the NDS crowned the government’s efforts to look for solutions to the most important problems of society, including unpopular, but unavoidable solutions in education and healthcare, like these ones:

  • “optimization of the school network remains an evident solution for optimizing the use of resources..., the mapping of pre-university education institutions was finished and, based on these, there will be designed the strategy for optimizing the school network”. The motivation was: “The reduction in the number of children of school age when the projected capacity of the school in many localities is several times larger than the number of students leads to unjustified costs”;
  • “optimization and rationalization of the hospital network”. The motivation was: The health sector continues to face the problem of overcapacity... during the last ten years the number of hospital beds almost halved (56.6 beds per 10,000 people), reaching thus the average of the European Union countries”.

It is important to note that the strategy was worked out in the eighth year of government of the PCRM, when the decision to legalize also the optimization of the schools and hospitals was reached. How they say: there are no two ways about it! That’s why the government successors of the PCRM were obliged to continue to implement the provisions of Law No.295.

Cooperation of government with civil society within national consensus

The national consensus for achieving the European integration objectives played a decisive role in the government’s willingness to cooperate with civil society. This way, on the Government’s initiative, by Parliament Decision No. 373-XVI of 29.12.2005, there was adopted the Conception on the cooperation with civil society, which stipulates the minimum principles and standards of cooperation. This experience was assimilated by the author of the NDS Zinaida Grechanyi, who in the Government’s strategic document introduced the following clause: “Development and extension of the existing dialogue with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is one of the Government’s priorities. The positive experience of the cooperation between governmental institutions and Parliament with NGOs is to be institutionalized within the implementation of the Strategy”.

Zinaida Grechanyi’s insistence was manifested in only half a year, when, being nominated for Prime Minister, she designed the government program, which clearly specified the method of cooperation with civil society:    

  • institution of a mechanism of interaction between the Government, the central public authorities, on the one hand, and civil society, on the other hand, by creating a transparent framework, defining general principles and cooperation standards;
  • building of a coherent and efficient framework for consulting civil society organizations (informing, collection of contributions), which will enable to analyze different options and positions so as to work out strategies for discussing policy proposals;
  • improvement of the legislation regulating the activity of the NGO sector by simplifying the procedure for registration, reporting and liquidation (on the own initiative) of NGOs;
  • strengthening of financial sustainability of civil society organizations, motivating the citizens by fiscal and non-fiscal instruments.

So, the mechanisms of cooperation between the government and civil society within the national consensus were devised by Zinaida Grechanyi together with her appointment as Prime Minister in March 2008. The European integration of the Republic of Moldova was the strategic goal of the government and civil society.  

Renouncing of national consensus and causing of societal division

The national consensus formally lasted until 2012, when Igor Dodon and Zinaida Grechanyi, as MPs, reaffirmed their commitment to the European integration of the Republic of Moldova. It happened after the two politicians defected from the PCRM to the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM). They ensured the election of Mister Nicolae Timofti, who was promoted by the Alliance for European Integration (AEI), as President of the Republic of Moldova. This way, the PCRM’s huge chances of returning to power after the parliamentary elections of 2009 were destroyed.  

A metamorphosis incurred. The national consensus was lost and the European integration idea was formally renounced in 2014, when the PSRM led by Igor Dodon adopted its new political program, which stipulated that one of the main tasks of the party was to scarp the Moldova – EU Association Agreement so as to bring the country “closer to Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan!”  

The question is, why did the metamorphism occur? Why that twist happen after 9 years of European integration? The answer is evident – it was due to the change of the regional political conjuncture caused by the annexation of a part of Ukraine’s territory, Crimea, by the Russian Federation. In such circumstances, Igor Dodon anticipated the possibility of reconquering the Moldovan historical territories that formed part of Ukraine: “In the new conjuncture, I think we should also recover the lost historical territories... Those are our territories. If someone didn’t understand what I meant, they should come to our party (PSRM) and we will explain to them".   

So, we can deduce that for the sake of regaining the lost historical territories, Igor Dodon and the PSRM decided to abandon the national consensus and join Russia, which was to help the Republic of Moldova get back the historical territories. This decision contributed to the division of society in the Republic of Moldova and the polarization of the political class against the country’s regional integration. In 2014-2020, the division was manifested through the so-called geopolitical struggle, with the PSRM’s programmatic goal to terminate the Association Agreement with the EU and to join the Eurasian Economic Union being the irritating factor.


The division of society and polarization of the political class in the Republic of Moldova is based on the opportunist behavior of the politicians from the upper level of the power. The current holders of the highest state posts, who during a decade had promoted the European integration within the national consensus, suddenly changed the political view under the influence of the new regional conjuncture determined by the annexation of Crimea by Russia. It is hard to underestimate the danger of such changes, while the irredentist statements of political leaders created tensions in society, affecting the regional security established at the Helsinki Conference of 1975.

The inconsistency of the high-ranking officials has a negative impact not only on the international relations of the Republic of Moldova – freezing of the relations with the neighboring Ukraine and Romania, with the development partners that massively supported the state budget and financed infrastructure projects worth billions of US dollars, but also on the relations between the country’s citizens who are antagonized based on political criteria through aggressive propaganda and fake news about the work of different politicians  who are supported by large sections of the population. An example is the policies to optimize the national schools and hospitals, which were designed and adopted namely by those who now accuse the opponents of what they planned and started themselves.

The recent events in the Republic of Moldova should motivate the development partners to clarify the further mutual relations. The Moldovan authorities should say if the agreements reached earlier, which are specified in strategic documents with the development partners, remain valid or are to be reviewed. In this regard, it is relevant the furious attack of a Socialist MP who accused the national NGOs of establishing a parallel government in the country, financed by the development partners – the EU, the U.S. etc., even if namely the current leaders of the PSRM created the legal framework of cooperation between  the government and the NGOs, regarding their financing, while the Association Agreement with the EU notes that the political and socioeconomic development of the Republic of Moldova is to be achieved also by cooperation with civil society.   

The best solution for overcoming societal division and polarization of the political class is to reedit the national consensus stipulated in the Parliament Declaration of March 24, 2005. Preconditions in this regard exist and can be seen even within the current government. A relevant example is the May 22 statement by Prime Minister Ion Chicu, who specified that if we do not radically reform the country, we will lose it, while the union with the European Union is not something of a utopia.

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