PAS Is Getting Its First “Yellow Cards” from the EU

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Sergiu Ceban
Brussels and Strasbourg are heavily hinting to the president and the parliamentary majority that there is no time left for a slow start, and no one is going to turn a blind eye to obvious manifestations of political adventurism.
It seems that the processes taking place in our country have come into the focus of attention of various European institutionsthat have decided to independently assess the reasons of the complicated situation in Moldova. Despite the fact that the relevant reports and recommendations will appear later, the first stones of criticism have already fallen on the Moldovan authorities implying the need to follow “transparent and democratic” principles when making managerial decisions.  The first in this sense was the visit of the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council, which is one of the most traditional tools for assessing the quality of ongoing reforms in the country. During the trip, PACE delegates made the deepest possible collection of information, meeting not only with representatives of the authorities, but also the opposition. Besides, they visited Gagauzia and Transdniestria, where they also tried to get first-hand information about the current relations of the Moldovan regions with Chisinau. Despite all the attempts of the authorities to ease the heat of passions around the Stoianoglo case, the PACE co-rapporteurs, nevertheless, paid attention to this top topic. During a separate meeting, detailed information was received from lawyers who pointed out the speed of legislative procedures to adapt the legal framework for the purpose of detaining the leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office, as well as obstacles in conducting confidential communication between Alexander Stoianoglo and representatives of his legal defense. Given all the circumstances and the increased interest on the part of PACE, there is a considerable probability that the final report will become a “shakeup” for the new government, which has not yet kept pace with the dynamics of the processes and commits such gross political mistakes that even loyal European representatives cannot afford to ignore. In order to achieve at least some drops of positivity in the monitoring report, and at the same time show full commitment to the European liberal agenda, the parliamentary mono-majority found nothing better than to hastily ratify the scandalous Istanbul Convention. As we know, this document is, to put it mildly, contradictory and among the Moldovan clerical community as well as adherents of traditional values there are many radical opponents of this convention. So far, of course, everything has been limited to a verbal reaction, but implementing the provisions of this document in practice can lead to a strong social controversy with much more visible forms of protest. Gianni Buquicchio, President of the Venice Commission, who headed the Council of Europe working group, also arrived in Chisinau this week. Our country particularly likes to appeal to the opinion of this institution, especially, when it is beneficial to certain parties and politicians. Earlier, the Prosecutor General’s Office appealed to the Commission with a request to give its opinion on the amendments to the law on the Prosecutor's Office, hastily adopted by Parliament. Moreover, a separate request to analyze the admissibility of the Prosecutor General’s participation in the work of the Supreme Security Council was sent to the advisory body of the Council of Europe. Choosing the correct words that the Venice Commission will study in detail the changes made to the legislation on the prosecutor's office, Mr. Buquicchio, rather unexpectedly for many, elegantly criticized the actions of the authorities, calling on the leadership of the republic not to confuse the urgency of measures with haste in their implementation, and also to find opportunities for constructive communication with opposition forces. The recently published report on the Association Agreement implementation ahead of a regular meeting of the EU-Moldova Association Council serves as another important indicator of a special attention on the part of European structures to the situation in our country. The document notes that, despite some progress in the justice sector, the overall justice reform has stalled. Also, Brussels is alarmed by the fact that six years after the investigation into the “theft of the century” from the banking system of Moldova in 2014 was initiated none of the key persons involved in this scam has been convicted and financial assets have not yet been refunded to the country. EU officials are particularly concerned about sharp increase in applications for asylum from Moldovan citizens who are thereby trying to get legal grounds for living in European countries with appropriate allowances. A drastic surge in applications from our compatriots was, in particular, recorded in Germany. Notably, economic reasons are indicated among the main motives for applying for asylum. Such migration challenges have not been ignored by the European parliamentarians, who had analyzed the situation over the past few years and returned to the question of the need to stop the visa-free regime for three post-Soviet countries, including Moldova. According to French MP Julie Lechanteux, visa liberalization is beginning to pose problems for individual members of the European Union, and the European Commission should consider certain adjustments and define new requirements for beneficiary countries. Indeed, the topic of visa-free abolishment arises quite regularly, and it is too early to say that the required critical mass has already been accumulated. Yet, it serves as a warning sign. Anyway, the number of failures made by the ruling party has reached the limit when Moldovan political forces patronized by the European Union begin to be issued the first “yellow cards” for not quite correct decisions, unconvincing arguments and, in general, for moving in not entirely correct direction. Brussels and Strasbourg are transparently hinting to the president and the parliamentary majority that there is no more time for a slow start and no one is going to turn a blind eye to obvious manifestations of political adventurism.