Re-evaluation of Moldova-EU Association Agreement: solution or new uncertainties? OP-ED



The introduction of the mixed-member electoral system should be penalized and the EU is obliged to identify optimal methods for providing a proportional answer to the actions of the PDM


Dionis Cenuşa


The mixed-member electoral system introduced by 74 votes of the MPs of the Democratic Party (PDM), together with those of the Party of Socialists (PSRM), the European People’s Party parliamentary group and other independent MPs surprised the European partners. Both the European institutions (IPN, July 2017) and the pan-European parties represented in the European Parliament reacted with surprise and expressed concern. The position of the institutions was rather calm compared with the harsh reaction of the pan-European parties.

The European People’s Party (EPP) issued two incisive statements. The first was individual and was made public on the day the new electoral system was adopted (July 20). This says Moldova’s newer electoral system is a “blow to democracy”. The second appeared after almost a week of the first, on July 26, and was formulated together with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). According to the two political entities, the Democratic Party, together with the Socialists, chose to strengthen autocracy. So, in only six days, supported by the ALDE, the EPP noted the vote to introduce the mixed electoral system leads not only to the deterioration of Moldovan democracy, but also to an advance along the road to autocracy. The ALDE-EPP statement also makes reference to selective justice used by the PDM-PSRM alliance to silence the opposition, as in the case of the Liberal Mayor of Chisinau Dorin Chirtoaca. Even if they didn’t express public satisfaction with the political behavior of the Liberal Party that allied itself with the PDM in 2016-2017, the European Liberals decided to express solidarity and to plead for the cause of Chirtoaca in the same direction in which they condemn the vote to introduce the mixed system.

EPP and ALDE seek punishment of government

Besides deploring the deterioration of the rule of law and Democratic standards in Moldova, confirmed by the independent reports of civil society and different international organizations, the EPP and ALDE seek a series of actions on the part of the EU.

First of all, these demand to stop any European funding, not only the €100,000 in macro-financial assistance that was already compromised by violating the political pre-conditions related to the adoption of the mixed system. The halt in all kinds of financing would affect a series of sector reforms (rural development and agriculture, vocational education, energy sector, etc.) and the EU’s efforts to promote the benefits of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, including the support for the commitments related to the visa-free regime with the EU (border management). Such an eventual decision would mean that the Association Agreement is to be put on stand-by. This approach is extremely radical and can affect the EU’s interests in Moldova. Anyway, the EU definitely has sufficient reasons to postpone the provision of the macro-financial assistance until the political pre-conditions that indirectly make reference to the electoral system are fulfilled.

The second request of the EPP-ALDE is for the EU to apply stricter conditionality to any future financing. This started already to be done and a part of the conditionality elements were transmitted by representatives of civil society. But the list of conditionality elements is negotiated with the official Chisinau, which does not want to be cuffed by new political commitments. To fortify the conditionally, the EU should extend its diplomatic capacities in Moldova and should intensify more the public presence.

Ultimately, the two pan-European parties request to re-evaluate as soon as possible the EU-Moldova Association Agreement without specifying if they refer to the review of the bilateral agreement, the auditing of this to determine the legal shortcomings or other measures. The fulfillment of this requirement implies a series of risks because it exposes the bilateral legal framework and the European integration process in the country to major political uncertainty, fueled by the visible geopolitical polarization of society and consolidation of the pro-Russian forces before the parliamentary elections of 2018.

How can the Association Agreement be reviewed?

In their statement on the mixed electoral system, the EPP and ALDE ask to “re-evaluate” the Association Agreement. In fact, only the Association Council can make amendments to the agreement, but only to update or adjust the over 30 annexes of the document.

The modification of the main text of the agreement entails complex procedures, additional negotiations and a new process of ratification by the national governments of the EU. That’s why if the re-evaluation of the agreement proposed by the EPP-ALDE means its review, the European integration of Moldova will be at least paralyzed until the new text is approved and ratified.

However, the Association Agreement already includes two concrete situations that can lead to the implementation of the clauses concerning the suspension of the agreement (CEPS, 2016).

In the first case, particular components of the agreement can be suspended by Moldova or the EU, bypassing the commercial component (DCFTA), if the sides do not reach a compromise through the dispute settlement mechanisms (Art. 454-455). The aspects that will not affect the functioning of the Association Agreement will be selected for partial suspension.

In the second case, the suspension is immediate and complete and takes place when the “essential elements” of the Association Agreement are violated (Art. 455), concerning the observance of the democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms (Art. 2). This clause is a real “atomic bomb” for the bilateral Moldova-EU framework to which the EU can anytime resort as a penalty for serious violation of the European values and principles. Despite the seriousness of the negative consequences of the introduction of the mixed electoral systems for the proper functioning of multi-party democracy in Moldova, the suspension of the agreement based on these clauses would be disproportional and would generate more uncertainty than would offer solutions.

Instead of conclusion...

If by re-evaluation the EPP and ALDE mean the review of the Association Agreement, this can become a source of serious calamities for the European integration of Moldova. The move will be aimed at the Democrats, but the country’s European course could be among the collateral victims.

The halt in all kinds of financing by the EU would be a powerful blow to the legitimacy of the Democrats and to the whole reform process, the latter being harmful to the EU’s objectives in Moldova. That’s why the making of the conditionality elements harsher and freezing of the macro-financial assistance should be among the EU’s main options.

Anyway, the introduction of the mixed-member electoral system should be penalized and the EU is obliged to identify optimal methods for providing a proportional answer to the actions of the PDM. However, by these measures the EU should maximize the output of the conditionality and financial assistance. Their thwarting will affect the instruments of influencing reforms in Moldova.

Dionis Cenuşa


IPN publică în rubrica Op-Ed articole de opinie semnate de autori din afara redacţiei. Opiniile exprimate în aceste materiale nu neapărat coincid cu opiniile redacţiei.

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