EU’s Actions in Moldova: A Partnership Support or an Intervention in Internal Affairs?

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Vladimir ROTAR The European Union has significantly intensified its efforts in the Moldovan sector, and is paving the way for its influence restoration in the republic, that was actually lost over recent years. There’s only a month and a half left before early elections in the country. The main characters have been known for a long time, electoral blocs have been formed and all domestic politics has become, to one degree or another, subordinated to serving the pre-election interests of the race participants. At the same time, internal activity on the external perimeter of Moldova keeps growing. The European Union’s activities, including its representatives in our country are especially noteworthy. The EU delegation, which over recent years was often accused of being passive, now seems to be making up for lost time and is engaging with unprecedented enthusiasm in the ongoing political processes. The voice of the European Union has recently become so "loud" that it has already given rise to left forces and the Russian Federation to declare interference within internal affairs of Moldova. Is it this really so and is Brussels crossing the fine line separating partner support from direct intervention in the politics of a sovereign state? Let's try and figure it out. In fact, the revival of the country's chief western curator happened much earlier - namely, exactly after the victory in the presidential election, Maia Sandu. Inspired by the success of its protégé, the EU, apparently, decided to forge the iron while it is hot, resuming active promotion of the pro-European course and its guides in Moldova. It is not surprising that one of the first visits of the elected head of state took place exactly to Brussels, where she was treated kindly by numerous praises, words of support, and her arrival was presented almost as a reset of relations. At the same time, European advisers were incorporated into the structure of the presidential administration by signing a memorandum of cooperation between the department and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which now provides at least methodological and consulting support to the activities of the Moldovan leader. The fact that the work of the Institute's experts in Moldova is financed from the outside, and the agreement itself is hidden from public (as before, the very fact of its signing was also hidden) has already become a source of gossip and speculation about the real role and influence of the foundation on the presidency. Instead, the EU Delegation’s attempts to moderate internal political processes directing them on the right direction by means of various comments, advices, proposals and sometimes even threats, turned out to be visible. It cannot be said that it was a delicate job: the statements of Ambassador Peter Michalko acquired an increasingly mentor tone and clearly went beyond the limits of his diplomatic status. Michalko himself, in a recent interview with NewsMaker, has categorically rejected attempts to interfere in Moldovan affairs: "We hear this from those who want to put the EU and development partners in a negative light and stop the changes that Moldovan citizens are waiting for." However, facts indicate rather the opposite. The delegation does not even try to hide that it plays clearly on one side. In this case, the principle of equidistance is out of question - just look at Michalko 's reactions to the events within the acute political crisis’ phase: “actions in parliament against the Constitutional Court are a clearly an attack to the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova and to the independence of the Constitutional Court”; “We need a new parliament that will be reliable and will be able to support the government, capable of carrying out the reforms that are needed and awaited by citizens - the fight against corruption, the justice reform, the creating investment conditions”; “One cannot but see the last year’s situations, when 800 million lei was lost, 400 of which were not subject to return”. Yet during the current election campaign, the European diplomat said that the new parliament should be "trustworthy" and probably the trust was meant to be reached not only for the Moldovan population but for Brussels as well. In addition, EU representatives, including at the level of the leadership of the Union, began to regularly visit the republic. We can recall the short-term visit of the Head of the European Council Charles Michel, who had only one official meeting with Maia Sandu. As a result, Michel said that he had arrived to convey a clear message of support from the EU and Moldova and personally to Sandu in the fight against corruption and reforms implementation. The President also regularly organizes meetings with the heads of European states, including Angela Merkel and Klaus Johannis. Just yesterday, a delegation from the European Parliament arrived in Chisinau to re-broadcast theses on republic's rapprochement with the EU. The practical results of all these meetings are questionable but their political goals are quite obvious. It is not hard to understand that Brussels is promoting Maia Sandu as the main person and hope of Moldovan politics to pump the PAS party rating which are associated with. This work is being carried out within the framework of creating a confident pro-European majority in the future composition of the parliament. For this, including looking for suitable partners (in case PAS does not receive an individual majority). The most obvious option is, of course, the Dignity and Truth platform. At the same time, the relations of the DA leaders with their former colleagues in ACUM are at least strained, if not hostile at all, so the EU is making efforts to re-link these two pro-European forces. Surely, yesterday's meeting of party members with a delegation of the European Parliament was devoted to this topic. Actually, as one might know, the platform has far from one hundred percent chances of getting into the legislature if based on voting results - its rating just balances around the passing score. Therefore, as a safety net, Brussels is probing the waters about other possible coalition configurations when analyzing backup options. One of them is apparently considered to be Renato Usatii’s bloc. The Balti mayor once supported Sandu during the second round of presidential campaign but after elections, it is said there was no contact between them. Apparently, the EU now intends to build bridges between the two forces. At least, this is how one can assess the unexpected Peter Michalko’s visit to Balti in the accompany of ambassadors of six European countries, which in a certain sense was regarded by many observers as a kind of "blessing". Press releases say that at the meeting there was a discussion of cooperation and grant support but the most likely motive for such communication is holding a discussion about ruling coalition’s parameters and bargaining on possible portfolios distribution in the future Cabinet. The "lots" that Usatii outlined publicly are quite ambitious, and Brussels is ready for intermediary functions in order to bring together the interests and demands of the bloc with those of PAS, if necessary. As usually happens before elections, the EU has also begun to send unambiguous hints to Moldovan voters that with if “well” voting, the taps of generous financial aid will be promptly opened. “It is important that now Moldova comes with good cards so that it can receive help, which is finally being used for the benefit of citizens. This is a key year. I speak from the experience of my home country, Slovakia, which, thanks to the EU support was able to raise GDP, wages, develop its economy and infrastructure. These opportunities are now open to Moldova and they must be used in the interests of citizens,” Michalko describes the prospects. After winning the presidential elections, Brussels wants consolidating its success already during the early parliamentary elections, by again seizing a controlling stake in Moldovan politics. For this, as we can see, large-scale efforts are being made to ensure that gathering the future ruling coalition takes place under the necessary banners. Thus, if answering the question whether the EU interferes in the internal affairs of the republic, the correct answer would rather be affirmative. But taking into account the stakes on show jumping, as well as the already very ephemeral sovereignty of our country, it is quite difficult to be surprised about.