The European Union Presented Moldova with Black Spot Gennady Gutu

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Brussel’s patience is wearing thin: Moldova failed reforms and might face the European Union’s sanctions.

Brussels complains

Everyone knows that today the relations between Moldova and the European Union are going through, to put it mildly, tough times. EU financial assistance is frozen until better times, although bilateral projects are being implemented, but not in the initially planned amount. In addition, the flow of criticism from European politicians and officials, openly expressing their dissatisfaction with Chisinau, continues unabated. So at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, held on December 10 in Brussels, Moldova once again might have become a target for criticism. At the margins of the summit, a joint statement was prepared on the situation in the Republic of Moldova, of course, extremely unflattering. Its content can be guessed without even reading – the accusatory list against Chisinau, in fact, does not change and only expand over time. The EU was going to blast threadbare problems of Moldova: - invalidation of elections for the mayor of the capital; - lack of independent justice; - pressure on the opposition and human rights defenders through politically motivated cases; - pressure on journalists and media monopolization; - “theft of a billion”. This list can be continued for a long time, filled with problems from small to big ones. EU ministers, for example, took the effort to recall to Moldova even the situation with the shortage of polling stations both inside the country and especially abroad. However, fortunately for Chisinau, the EU Council did not adopt the document. Romania, that with the support of Hungary blocked the document, came to the aid. At the same time, Bucharest explained its disagreement with the text of the statement by bad timing and certain mysterious “nuances”. Although this time the Moldovan authorities did not have to “blush” in front of their own population and European partners, they do not always succeed in evading criticism of the latter. So, on November 14, the European Parliament approved a resolution in which it expressed concern about the deviation from democratic standards in Moldova, the state of affairs in the sphere of respect for the law and fight against corruption in the country. It also called on the EU not to defrost the allocation of macrofinancial assistance to Chisinau until the parliamentary elections in 2019, thus effectively “separating” the current leadership of the country from the political and financial support of the EU. Unlike the usually more diplomatic European officials, MEPs openly say that the ruling elite in Moldova merges with business. In their opinion, the Moldovan state “is captured by oligarchic interests with a concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a small group of people spreading their influence on parliament, government, political parties, police, judicial system and media”. The lawlessness environment created by the authorities in order to crack down on political and economic opponents, and the lack of media freedom, and cases of torture, and many other problems did not escape from the attention of parliamentarians. Of course, over the past two years, Chisinau is clearly accustomed to the EU’s discontent, but the latest resolution of the European Parliament is a signal one. Brussels is so disappointed and annoyed by the actions of the leadership of the Republic of Moldova that it is ready to punish them not only with words, but with deeds. Firstly, the possibility of imposing personal sanctions against those involved in the “theft of a billion” was first mentioned in this document, in addition to traditional critical attacks. Secondly, Chisinau got a hint that a visa-free regime is not so unassailable as it is believed to be there, and it is directly related to specific obligations and Moldova has obvious problems to fulfill them.

Chisinau does not respond to criticism

The country reacted differently to the document. Representatives of opposition political circles and civil society used it as an obvious weapon against the ruling Democratic Party. The reaction of the authorities themselves, as in previous similar cases, was more philosophical. They recognized existence of some problems, stating that the work to solve them is underway, and in general the dynamics of the introduction of European reforms are more positive than negative. On the other hand, Chisinau itself criticized the deputies of the EU, accusing them of being politically motivated. For example, the PDM spokesman, Vitalie Gamurari, said that with such a vote “the political group that initiated the resolution showed that instead of supporting Moldova and its citizens, regardless of their political opinion, they prefer to support only certain non-parliamentary political parties and their leaders”. In general, it can be noted that various EU resolutions and other similar documents no longer make a strong impression on PDM and its leader Vladimir Plahotniuc. The loss of Brussels’ trust and support on the eve of the most important parliamentary elections is, of course, unpleasant for them but not enough to immediately rush to really solve all the above problems with corruption, oligarchization of power, etc. After all, fighting against itself is probably not very convenient. So, the PDM, apparently, plans to win over Brussels in much more familiar ways – through manipulations, “dirty tricks” and ploys, such as a suddenly appointed referendum on the European course of the country right on the election day. Brussels has long figured out the inconsistency of the Democrats. Judging by the last actions, they abandoned the attempts to influence them with educational methods, aiming at a complete renewal of the power structure of the Republic of Moldova. Now the European Union has a new favorite – the pro-European opposition headed by Andrei Nastase and Maia Sandu. They are now allowed to reap the various benefits of close relations with the EU. Well, we can but hope that the new friends of Brussels will be better than the old ones. However, there is no doubt that Moldova’s path to a brighter European future will long remain unchanged.