The effects of EU actions in Moldova - financial assistance and the opposition’s contradictions. Analysis



Obtaining European funding validates the governance, and any action against it, intended by the opposition, can lead to confusion or even dissatisfaction of the society...


Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor

Some political uncertainties in the European Union's relations with Moldova are beginning to dissipate. European partners openly, albeit somewhat timidly, believe that the reforms undertaken by the ruling coalition in Chisinau have made some progress, enough to disburse financial aid. Therefore, the allocation of a new portion of EU macro-financial assistance has become possible. The assessment of the European side did not meet with any criticism from the opposition, which takes credit for the reforms undertaken.

The EU's decision to allocate the second tranche (EUR 30 million) of macro-financial assistance, negotiated back in 2017, is a turning point with important political ramifications. On the one hand, it validates the measures taken by Ion Chicu's government and the governing coalition, formed by the pro-Russian Socialists and the ex-oligarchic Democratic Party (on July 12, 2020 - 50 out of a total of 101 deputies). At the same time, such an opening on the part of the EU highlights the fact that Moldovan diplomacy in Chisinau and Brussels is armed with more convincing arguments, which do not contradict the situation on the ground. On the other hand, the resumption of EU macro-financial assistance proves that the opposition and civil society do not have strong counter-arguments against the ruling forces or that they do not reach the recipients in Brussels. It is not excluded that the interactions between European officials and critical voices in Moldova have undergone some changes under the pressure of epidemiological precautions. Carrying out a field monitoring is not feasible, the virtual correspondence on the Moldovan dossier - less efficient, but also outpassed by other priorities, and the granting of financial aid - imperative to reduce the socio-economic consequences of coronavirus.

The perpetuation of the pandemic and the fall of the economic crisis over virtually all social categories increases the population's dependence on the state. Therefore, for the sake of pure survival, the public interest in the diversification and efficiency of state aid is now above the opposition's initiatives to take power from its political opponents.

The approval of a new tranche of European aid to the Moldovan government can be interpreted as a positive signal for the government, the opposition and the local public opinion. The EU decision contains considerable sensitivity that can determine some reshuffling within Moldovan politics. Thus, the Government of Ion Chicu is waiting for the outcome of assuming responsibility for some draft laws (increasing in salaries for the medical sector, bonuses to pensions) - a legislative procedure that involves the risk of being dismissed. At the same time, the fragmented opposition is pressing hard to find a technical majority to trigger a vote of no confidence against the executive, called "catastrophe", in order to replace it with "a pro-European one".

Presidential elections and geopolitical sympathies

The more than four months of governing the pro-Russian Socialists together with the ex-oligarchic Democratic Party (since March 2020) have proved to be extremely complicated. The multiple shortcomings in the management of the health crisis and the low credibility with the reforms requested by the EU, in exchange for macro-financial assistance, seemed insurmountable. Pressure on the government has increased following the revision and multiplication of political pre-conditions (8 items) attached to European financial support. The two-month state of emergency (18 March-15 May 2020) also temporarily diminished the role of parliament. This, together with the state of emergency in the field of public health, has drastically limited the legal possibilities for public protests. For these reasons, the governing coalition of PSRM and PDM is constrained to some solutions - to increase social spending to avoid the outbreak of uncontrollable social protests and to meet the requirements of external partners to cover budget gaps.

Survey data published in June 2020 reveal several developments that shape the calculations and behavior of key political actors. The dismissal of Maia Sandu's government in November 2019, the excessive proximity to Russia or the leakage of compromising information against Igor Dodon, caused losses in electoral terms. However, the gap between PSRM and Igor Dodon, on the one hand, and Maia Sandu and PAS, on the other, remains significant. The average data from the polls show a favorable gap for the PSRM and Igor Dodon. This refers to about 5% advantage in party popularity and almost 16% in public perception of political leaders.

Even if the distance between PSRM and PAS has narrowed, both sides must carefully measure their political statements and actions. The Socialists must provide maximum support to the government to rectify the epidemiological situation in the country. PAS and Maia Sandu, as the primary electoral candidates in the presidential elections, are forced to keep at a distance the collaborations with the political parties that are associated and depend on the fugitive oligarchs Vladimir Plahotniuc (to the USA) and Ilan Șor (to Israel).

The anti-oligarchic precaution of the PAS creates blockages in the relationship with the Platform DA, which is determined to dismiss the government, under any circumstances, including with the help of oligarchic groups. The Platform Da has lost its political relevance; therefore, the gaining of governing positions represents a political rescue plan before the early legislative elections, most likely at the beginning of 2021. The multiple divergences that increase the distance between PAS and the Platform DA contradict the advice from the political family of the Popular Party European. Thus, even after Donald Tusk suggested unity before the autumn presidential elections, the leaders of PAS and the Platform DA did not drop the idea of ​​running separately by organizing visits across the country or launching pre-election web applications (EuropaLiberă, June 18, 2020).


Table. Geo-political sympathies of the population,%, 2020


Public Opinion Barometer, IPP,

June 2020

Socio-political barometer, IMAS, June 2020

Political preferences - the vote in case of early parliamentary elections

Socialists Party(PSRM)



Action and Solidarity Party (PAS)



Partidul “Platforma DA”



Partidul Democrat (PDM)



Partidul lui Ilan Șor



Partidul Nostru



Sympathies for political leaders over 1% -

candidates with potential in the November 2020 presidential election

Igor Dodon



Maia Sandu



Renato Usatîi



Ilan Șor



Andrei Năstase



Vladimir Voronin



Pavel Filip



Geopolitical orientation

Joining the EU

“For” – 56,2

“Against” – 20,7

“For” – 64

“Against” – 21

Joining the Eurasian Economic Union

“For” – 30,1

“Against” – 38

“For” – 54

“Against” – 29

Sourse: Author’s compilation based on data provided by IPP and IMAS.


The same precautionary exercise ahead of the November 2020 presidential election also applies to the external dimension. In this sense, although PSRM and Igor Dodon do not give up the balanced foreign policy, continuously increasing the Russian presence, the uprooting of the European vector through some deliberate actions is avoided. Instead, we see an attempt by the Socialists to diversify the external agenda to dilute dependence on the EU (3DCFTA, July 2020). So far, this has not affected the deepening of the technical-legal mechanisms of European integration. Inter-institutional communication continues in the field of free trade and in other sectors, without too much publicity. Also, more discreetly, the discussions on updating the post-2019 Association Agenda have started. At the same time, the PAS party is adopting an increasingly clear anti-Russian geopolitical tone. This party openly accused Igor Dodon of trying to link Moldova to Russia through dangerous arrangements, camouflaged in the late Russian credit (NewEasternEurope, May 15, 2020).

The polls strengthen the internal predispositions of the country's major political forces. The level of pro-European sentiments is relatively high (56-64%). Thus, it turns out that the information war of Russia and China, aimed at compromising the EU (IPN, April 7, 2020), did not leave serious imprints on public perception. However, restricting travel from non-European countries with a high degree of COVID-19 contamination (IPN, July 2, 2020), that are justifiable in relation to the EU states, could become a future source of misinformation, which could lead to dissatisfaction among Eastern Europeans towards the European institutions. Compared to the EU, the attractiveness of the Eurasian Union has decreased (30-54%) and begins to correspond increasingly to the real role it plays for Moldova, which has the status of an observer country. The health crisis has repeatedly shown that this organization has a deficient capacity (IPN, May 5, 2020) for “Eurasian” solidarity to gain practical significance, at least in the short and medium-term.

Opposition and EU assistance

EU financial support, as well as other aspects of European integration, is part of the core of the opposition's speech in Chisinau. The disbursement of the second tranche of EU macro-financial assistance was accompanied by a balanced appreciation by the European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, on the Chicu government's "reform efforts" in problematic areas, such as justice reform and the fight against corruption. These statements, however, together with the decision to allocate EU assistance, totally contradict the assessments made by the representatives of PAS and those of the Platform DA (Sergiu Litvinenco and Igor Munteanu respectively). In mid-June, they accused the government of incompletely meeting political preconditions, particularly those in the field of justice.

Also, contrary to the European Commission's satisfactory assessments, the day before the EU announced the approval of the aid allocation (EUR 30 million), the main opposition leader Maia Sandu blamed the government for not obtaining the third and final tranche - of 40 EUR million. Former Prime Minister Maia Sandu stressed that the installment was "cancelled" by the EU due to the "irresponsibility and laziness" of the government. From a technical point of view, the EU has not "cancelled" the third tranche, but the deadline for the financing agreement expires in July 2020.

The discrepancies between the EU's vision and that of the Moldovan opposition are based on at least three explanations. In line with the first hypothesis, the EU has failed to gather detailed information on the actual progress of reforms, including due to the border blockade. This hypothesis is unlikely, as the Commission points out that in its decision, it emerged from the interim evaluations of February 2020. The second hypothesis is that the opposition has a stricter approach than the EU, and sometimes this approach contains a dose of subjectivism. The last assumption is that the EU is aware of the imperfection and partial nature of specific reforms. Nevertheless, it opts for de- (geo-) politicization of its decisions, including searching for more constructive ways and supporting urgent socio-economic spending in Moldova.

In lieu of conclusion…

Obtaining European funding validates the government, and any action against it, intended by the opposition, can lead to confusion or even dissatisfaction in society.

Although the government and the opposition share responsibility for missing the third tranche of EU assistance in 2019 and 2020 respectively, the primary responsibility lies with the previous rulers. After all, the oligarchic regime that ruled from 2018-June 2019 has caused the main failures of governance that has led to the postponement, suspension and loss of part of the EU's macro-financial assistance.

Conclusively, European money seems to be doubly important. This complements the budget with which the government is enabled to operate. At the same time, EU assistance can have a political connotation discouraging the plans of the some segments of the opposition to end the current government's term.

Dionis Cenuşa, Senior Contributor
Dionis Cenușa is a political scientist, researcher at the Institute of Political Sciences at Liebig-Justus University in Giessen, Germany, MA degree in Interdisciplinary European Studies from the College of Europe in Warsaw.
Areas of research: European Neighborhood Policy, EU-Moldova relationship, EU's foreign policy and Russia, migration and energy security.
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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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