on the organization of the debate “About the quality of the EU-RM relationship through the angle of the six, old and new conditions”. Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”
Held on 07 August 2020, Debate No.147 brought together: Mihai Mogîldea, team leader of the Europeanization Program of the Institute for European Policies and Reforms; Doctor Aurelian Lavric, expert in geopolitics, university professor and Igor Boțan, IPN project’s standing expert.
IPN Project’s standing expert Igor Boțan said that the Soviet Union in 1990 negotiated a partnership and cooperation agreement with the EU. In a year, the Soviet Union fell apart and the former Soviet republics inherited this initiative to create a partnership. Respectively, in 1994 the Republic of Moldova signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, which was ratified in 1998 and started to be implemented. “The agreement was valid for ten years and the ruling Party of Communists changed its orientation and started to promote the European integration of the Republic of Moldova in 2002. As the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was to expire in 2008, the EU proposed that the provisions of the agreement should be implemented as part of an Action Plan between the EU and the former Soviet republics, including the Republic of Moldova. What was the European Union’s interest? There was an interest as new member states joined the EU and the EU had thus new neighbors for which a new strategy was to be found. This strategy for the new neighbors started to be developed in 2002,” said the expert.
According to him, the relations with the EU are based on mandatory documents signed by the sides. In 2009, the EU started to review the neighborhood policy, introducing the Eastern Partnership that was signed in May 2009. In December 2010, agreements to prepare Moldova for the signing of the Association Agreement, the DCFTA and for the liberalization of the visa regime were signed with the EU. In 2014, there was signed the Association Agreement, which is a mandatory document for the sides and on which now the relations with the EU are based. The agreement covers the whole range of political, social and economic relations that Moldova should implement in accordance with the principle formulated in 2002 – “European Union will share everything with countries of the neighborhood but institutions”.
Igor Boțan also said that as regards the conditionality elements, these are a necessity as, on the one hand, there is the Association Agreement, while on the other hand, there are practical things related to the implementation of this agreement, which are reviewed by the Moldovan authorities once in two years, with the agenda being updated. The banking fraud became known the year the Association Agreement was signed, when the EU was interested in turning the Republic of Moldova into a success story. Afterward, the EU showed a prudent attitude in the relations with the Republic of Moldova. “In order to take the relations with the EU out of the crisis, the Government in 2016 worked out the so-called roadmap that was implemented during two years. Afterward, it was decided to negotiate a lending agreement that was signed in 2017. The loan consisted of three tranches whose disbursement was conditional upon the fulfillment of conditionality elements,” stated the expert.
Igor Boțan also said that in June 2020, Parliament managed to fulfill the conditions for the second tranche, not yet for the third tranche. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the budget with a deficit of almost 1 million dollars, the state asked for support from the EU and is to obtain new macro-financial assistance, in the amount of €100 million. The first tranche is free from conditionality, while the second is accompanied by six conditionality elements.
Mihai Mogîldea, team leader of the Europeanization Program of the Institute for European Policies and Reforms, said that during the last ten years, the relations with the EU had been built on the initial negotiations on the signing of the Association Agreement, while after 2014 on the implementation of the Association Agreement. During the past six years, the relations with the EU have been based on action plans and association agendas. Based on these plans, a series of actions and reforms are agreed and the Republic of Moldova undertakes to implement them during three years. There were two such action plans and a new association agenda that will set down the priorities in the relations with the EU during the next few years is being now negotiated.
The expert noted that in 2009-2010, the Government of Moldova, which undertook to implement key reforms, enjoyed great trust that was accompanied by important European assistance. After the banking fraud and other sad episodes of 2014-2016, inclusive the political instability with visible departures, the EU’s assistance intended for the authorities was suspended. The EU turned its attention to other important players of society. This way, the EU’s assistance was directed not only to the governmental authorities, but also to small and medium-sized enterprises, NGOs, local public authorities. The European support during the past ten years came to €1.9 billion, 1€ billion of which in the form of grants.
Mihai Mogîldea considers the relations with the EU have been difficult, in particular during the past year, because there is rather restrained dialogue at diplomatic level, in the interaction between the governmental institutions, especially between the presidential administration and the EU. Even if the dialogue at governmental level is more structured, the EU imposed particular conditions in exchange for assistance, having big expectations of the executive, related to the investigation of the banking fraud, ensuring of the independence of the justice sector, etc. The assistance that is to be offered by the EU to Moldova is designed to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but the conditions remain valid and will continue to be monitored, especially due to the upcoming presidential elections.
Doctor Aurelian Lavric, expert in geopolitics, university professor, said the EU wants the states around it to be stable, to have stable governments and institutions. This is a democratic approach in the European civilization – a state is modern, prosperous when it has efficient state institutions. That’s why the Western partners have always focused on the modernization of institutions. “I, for example, agree with such an approach. But we should not forget that in the Romanian culture of the 19th century, there was the theory of forms without substance, which was formulated by literary critic Titu Maiorescu, who said that there was no use undertaking models – as a process of Westernization took place then too – because we weren’t prepared for this. Another literary critic Eugen Lovinescu later said that “the forms will determine, will change the substance. The forms will create substance” and this is the EU’s approach. They want these institutions to be efficient.
The professor noted that the justice sector institutions make the difference between a democratic state and an authoritarian one. For these reasons, the EU wants the Republic of Moldova, as an associate state, to have a justice system that would ensure an atmosphere of calmness and harmonious development. We should bear in mind that even if the EU imposed conditions, it anyway offered assistance in advance, even if the conditions weren’t fully met. The existing information shows the Republic of Moldova benefitted from the largest assistance per capita outside the EaP too, except for Palestine.
“Regrettably, the Republic of Moldova wasn’t always up to the trust coming from there. The truth is that the banking fraud was committed namely during the rule of the parties that said they were pro-European, pro-Western, pro-European integration. Therefore, the Republic of Moldova lost credibility. We should now restore this trust,” stated Aurelian Lavric. According to the expert, the relations with the EU witnessed both ups and downs, but society should realize that the geographic location, near the border with the EU, is a chance and, having the Association Agreement, Moldova can have better living conditions, including by modernizing the institutions, the justice sector, etc.
The Agency published 7 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 07.08.20, „About quality of relationship with EU through angle of six, old and new conditions. IPN debate” - https://www.ipn.md/en/about-quality-of-relationship-with-eu-through-angle-of-six-8004_1075409.html; „Mihai Mogîldea: EU does not need conditionality elements, they are in support of people” - https://www.ipn.md/en/mihai-mogildea-eu-does-not-need-conditionality-elements-they-are-8004_1075410.html; „Igor Boțan: EU is ready to offer assistance, but wants reciprocity” - https://www.ipn.md/en/igor-botan-eu-is-ready-to-offer-assistance-but-wants-8004_1075411.html; „Aurelian Lavric: PSRM becomes involved in relationship with EU less for electoral reasons - https://www.ipn.md/en/aurelian-lavric-psrm-becomes-involved-in-relationship-with-eu-less-8004_1075412.html; on 08.08.20, „Mihai Mogîldea: A lot depends on fulfillment of commitments to people and EU” - https://www.ipn.md/en/mihai-mogildea-a-lot-depends-on-fulfillment-of-commitments-to-8004_1075414.html; „Igor Boțan: Moldova is making effort to recover status of EU’s credible partner” - https://www.ipn.md/en/igor-botan-moldova-is-making-effort-to-recover-status-of-8004_1075416.html; „Aurelian Lavric: Prospects of relations with EU depend on quality of politicians in Chisinau” - https://www.ipn.md/en/aurelian-lavric-prospects-of-relations-with-eu-depend-on-quality-8004_1075419.html.
IPN promoted the debate before and after the event, in particular the ensuing news stories, using all the available channels, including social networks. Confirmatory materials of deliverables, as well as a media coverage dossier are attached.
Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN