Why does the European Union have to always ‘pull up’ the new authorities of Moldova?
The EU sends a signal to Chisinau
The Chisinau-Brussels relations noticeably warmed after ruling alliance of the Party of Socialists and the ACUM bloc was formed in Moldova and the odious oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc fled the country. European officials of various ranks predictably came in Moldova and were generous with compliments and promises of full support to the new authorities. The EU capital has already been visited in return by the head of the government, Maia Sandu and the speaker of Parliament Zinaida Greceanii, who were welcomed – unlike the before ruling Democrats. So far, it seems that an unspoken temporary moratorium has been imposed on the criticism of Moldova in the institutions of the European Union, and Chisinau, for the first time since the notorious ‘success story’ in the Eastern Partnership, enjoys the complete endorsement from Brussels.
Recently, the Head of the EU Delegation to Moldova Peter Miсhalko in an interview with the Deutsche Welle once again commended Chisinau for having “political will” to implement European reforms. “Unfortunately, we have had experience of a lack of progress in some sectors… Hopefully from now on we will see improvements. With the coming of a new government with a reform implementation programme, we will see the rapid, effective implementation of the Association Agreement… Now we see the political will, the lack of which was the main reason for these gaps in the past. The new government already has it and it is expressed in the first steps that have been taken,” said Michalko. He also did not forget to mention the resumed macro-financial assistance to Moldova.
At the same time, the European diplomat immediately after that made an important comment: the attitude of Brussels to the conditions previously set for Chisinau (and this is the investigation of the theft of a billion, reforms, the fight against corruption, etc.) has not changed at all – the EU is still waiting for their early implementation. Earlier, exactly the same was said by European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who visited Moldova immediately after the change of power. He frankly explained that only the implementation of the EU requirements in full can “give access” to European assistance. As known, the plight of the Moldovan economy forced the European Union to slightly adjust its plans. Perhaps, Michalko’s new statements are nothing but a signal to the Moldovan authorities that the EU is not going to abandon the initial tactics (money after reforms).
It is difficult not to notice that the more cautious are the statements by European officials on the situation in Moldova, the more vivid events happen in the country in the field of struggle against oligarchs. Most recently, Ilan Sor was finally put on the international wanted list: it is paradoxical that it took so much time, because Sor was considered the main culprit in the case of the theft of a billion and actually was under investigation. Moldova itself began to actively investigate the details of Sor’s escape from the country: for example, to look for those who allowed the plane with the ‘thief of a billion’ on board to depart from Chisinau.
The search for those responsible for the seizure of government buildings in June has finally moved from the dead point. After the long-awaited ‘reset’ of the Prosecutor’s office, the criminal case on the usurpation of power was the first step of the new acting Prosecutor of the country. Against this background, Prime Minister Maia Sandu categorically asserts that both Plahotniuc and Sor will definitely come to Moldova to serve a term in the local prison system. At the same time the Russian court arrests Vlad Plahotniuc in absentia on suspicion of murder and expects extradition of the fugitive oligarch from the United States.
It is no coincidence that Moldova is beginning to take the real actions of deoligarchization only now, when the demands of the international partners sound a little more insistent. Apparently, the EU expects – and has expected from the very beginning – the fight against oligarchs in Moldova not in words, but in deeds. Obviously, the European Union, after a long experience of patronage over the Republic of Moldova, understands the peculiarities of the local political system, where political changes often lead only to a change of actors in long-term corruption schemes. Therefore, the requirements of Brussels come down to the actual ultimatum: either fight against the flaws of the system, or forget about the money.
Obviously, the EU also understands the importance of the moment: the oligarchic legacy of Plahotniuc needs to be addressed here and now, while the former head of the Democratic Party has not recovered from the shock and started to seek revenge. The most important danger of Plahotniuc is that during the years of power he has collected by hook or by crook an impressive amount of dirt on almost every one of those who are now at the helm in Moldova. Any publication of this information can undermine the stability of the not so monolithic ruling coalition of ACUM and the Socialists, and this is hardly beneficial to Brussels. Thus, stringent requirements to Chisinau are the EU’s attempt to prevent Plahotniuc from seizing the initiative and thereby from protecting his political assets in Chisinau. This means that the demands on the Moldovan authorities will only increase, for the common (and their own) good.
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