Moldova: Every Year Closer to the Independence Cay

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Dorin Mocanu 27 years ago the Moldovan parliament voted for the Declaration of Independence. Since then, the former Soviet republic has been building its own, sovereign life. Descendants will tell how successful it is, so this is just an observation of facts. Moldova celebrates its 27th Independence Day with protests in the center of Chisinau, and the sounding description of modern Moldovan reality contains more frustrations than hopes. In local media, experts increasingly say that the country has turned its independence into a tragedy. At the same time, the authorities say that the main achievement for the entire period of the Moldova’s recent history is signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014, while the human rights policy of the same authorities is not only far from true European principles and values, but also often contradicts them. No wonder the speaker of the European Parliament on Moldova Petras Auštrevičius once stated that the pro-European Moldova is only an image far from reality. Regular civil protests in defense of human rights have stopped to somehow affect the work of the elite, because the Moldovan society is experiencing an identity crisis and is divided by geopolitical views. Because of this, the protests of these or those groups of activists are fragmentary and not representative. There is a dominant view in the Moldovan expert environment that human rights in the Republic of Moldova are violated mainly by those bodies that are precisely responsible for their protection. This was illustrated by the recent invalidation by the Supreme Court of Moldova of the election of the Chisinau’s mayor, which won the candidate from the pro-European opposition, Andrei Nastase. The public saw this as the government’s actual refusal to respect the rights of citizens to vote at elections and be elected. The date of cancellation of voting results – June 20, 2018 – experts have already called the day when the dictatorship was officially established in Moldova. The current government, which belongs to the pro-European coalition led by the Democratic Party of Moldova, was subjected to a heavy criticism from Western partners, who a few years ago called Moldova a “success story”. The European Union has even suspended microfinance assistance to Moldova. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, noted that Moldova’s problems are long to list, but the main one is the lack of independence of justice, which is the basis for protecting the rights of citizens. Instead of being a mechanism for ensuring legality, justice in Moldova has become an instrument of political game. This is stated in the US State Department annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices. The document notes that corruption remains the most serious problem of Moldova and that “selective justice” is widely practiced in the country. More indicative in this sense were the most high-profile trials – over the mayor of Orhei, Ilan Shor, on the one hand, and opposition politician Grigory Petrenko. The first was found guilty in the case of the theft of a billion from the banking system of the Republic of Moldova, but at the same time he succeeded to become the mayor of Orhei and freely travels abroad. The second one was on trial for disorders during the protests and, in the end, was forced to leave Moldova. These examples have become a kind of aphorism characterizing the state of the country’s legal system: In Moldova, you can steal a billion and become a mayor, and you can go to protest and get into jail, the Moldovans ironically say. Earlier, the Moldovan authorities constantly reported on successes in the implementation of all sorts of road maps: implementation of the Association Agreement, the reform of justice, the observance of the rights of people with disabilities, etc. However, in reality the situation is far from rosy: according to the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights and Interethnic Relations the 2012 UN report on the observance of human rights in Moldova had more than 160 recommendations, and in 2016 their number exceeded 200. Many recommendations have not been implemented, despite the fact that new problems have appeared. One of the most serious is the infringement of the rights of national minorities, including on the basis of language. According to human rights defenders, discrimination on the basis of language in the country is on the third place following infringement of the rights of people with disabilities and gender discrimination. As noted in last year’s report of the Council of Europe on observance of the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in Moldova, language barriers lead to a tangible disunity of the population. The report also reads that the country has not yet created background for appearance of a single civic identity that respects diversity. Meanwhile, one third of the inhabitants of the Republic of Moldova – a million people – constantly speaks Russian, and there are more than 2 million of those who fluently speak Russian. Despite this, the actions of the authorities and political parties testify to their desire to limit the use of the Russian language and to force it out of all spheres of life. For instance, the Constitutional Court of Moldova recently decided to review the law, which establishes the status of the Russian as a language of interethnic communication in the country. Thus, the decision of the Constitutional Court in fact legalizes the current practice of denying applications submitted in Russian. In addition, the Moldovan parliament, on the pretext of combating “Russian propaganda”, adopted in two readings the draft amendments to the Code on Television and Radio last year, which bans Russian news and information and analytical programs on Moldovan television and radio. The Constitutional Court, in turn, did not see it as a violation of the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Basic Law of the Republic of Moldova and the European Convention on Human Rights. The EU itself criticized such initiatives seeing obstacles there to media freedom and access to information. Gagauzia is often cited as a classic example of Chisinau’s caricature observance of European norms and practices in the field of protecting the interests of national minorities. European reports on Moldova often refer to the Law on the Special Legal Status of Gagauzia, which is practically not working today. The reports also speak about the existing difficulties for Gagauz in studying native and state (!) languages, and about the actual Chisinau’s restrictions of the Gagauz autonomy. Last year, after persistent requests from Brussels, the Moldovan parliament nevertheless passed bills designed to ensure functionality of the autonomy, although it was required 23 years ago, when Chisinau and Comrat agreed on the autonomous status of Gagauzia. Quite cynical in this sense was that in the final version the laws aimed at reviving the autonomy reduced its authority to the status of a simple district, which naturally angered the Gagauz. The residents of Taraclia district of the Republic of Moldova, where the Bulgarians live compactly, are also dissatisfied with the actions of the central authorities. They are concerned that the ethnic minorities, which according to the last census make up 20% of the country’s population, are almost not represented in the country’s parliament. The peculiar, if not vulgar interpretation of the law by the authorities of the Republic of Moldova in a number of spheres of the state’s life not only does not help to remedy the human rights situation in the territory of the Republic of Moldova, but it hinders discussion of the political status of uncontrolled Transnistria. Without demonstrating successes, and even desire to solve fundamental, system-forming issues for the state, the Moldovan authorities actually signify in their disinterest in seeking a compromise with Transnistria, where more than two-thirds of the residents are Russian and Ukrainian. As stated at the very beginning of the article, we refer only to objective facts. And they are such that, by the 27th anniversary of Moldova’s independence the elite rules the country that is interested not so much in the development of the state as in preserving its own power. At the same time, various “europrograms” executed by officials, serve not as a guide to action, but as advertising signs for attracting electoral attention and receiving financial assistance from the EU. Moreover, preserving archaic negative remnants of the past in society in the form of ideas of ethnocracy, xenophobia and geopolitical paranoia that separate citizens is only to the benefit of the elites. This is also noticeable in civil protests: supporters of the two largest political forces – the pro-European opposition and the Socialist Party – have long been not a united front against politics and even manage to clash with each other, so that protests are isolated political actions, rather than a unified civil movement for their rights. It turns out that the Republic of Moldova celebrates the anniversary of its independence with protests, which significance is less than the Moldovan people’s prospects of a bright future on the way to which the country has been circling for 27 years.