Moldova on the Path to Final Decommunization

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Sergiu CEBAN
Besides harmonizing of economic policy with the EU, a final ideological reshaping of the state will be required so that nothing prevents it from successfully integrating into the “single European family”
The protracted conflict without any hope for peace, as well as the oversaturation of the information space, which has become the main arena of confrontation so far, frankly speaking, starts to cause some fatigue. At the same time, judging by the decisions taken in Moscow, as well as the unexpectedly belligerent statements of prominent Western politicians, it seems that we should all prepare for another round of aggravation and a major battle in the Donbas. Despite the fact that the scale of the clashes on the territory of Ukraine has been unprecedented since the Second World War, the process of European integration of the Association Trio takes its course. The other day, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, handed over to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, a questionnaire that is mandatory for granting the country the status of a candidate for membership in the European Union. Today, our Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu went to Luxembourg to also receive a special questionnaire. The quality of the answers to it will determine whether our country will receive the status of a candidate for EU membership. The government, of course, will proceed from the need to achieve the key strategic goal of joining the European Union, but on this long road, among other things, it would be good for the authorities to focus on intermediate tasks so that citizens can feel the benefits of reforms carried out within a broad course on European integration. From the point of view of domestic policy, it is extremely important for the current parliamentary majority and the Cabinet of Ministers to obtain the status of a candidate country and start negotiations on joining the EU before the expiration of the mandate in the second half of 2025. The authorities were obviously preparing for a slightly different schedule, and the stages of the European integration campaign were much more stretched in time. However, the new regional context and the decisive actions of Kyiv and Tbilisi actually forced the Moldovan leadership to accelerate the application for membership in the first year of the PAS’s government. Interestingly, the historical stage for Moldova is taking place against the background of a serious decline in the popularity of the PAS and the Cabinet of Ministers headed by Natalia Gavrilita. In March, public opinion polls still recorded the government’s low rating, which can safely be called not a temporary phenomenon, but a steady trend now. Therefore, observers reasonably wonder whether the current government will be able to manage the difficult and painstaking work that lies ahead in the next few years. And it was certainly not accidental that the former Deputy Prime Minister and presidential adviser Vladislav Kulminski appeared on television, openly criticizing the government team, in his opinion, the worst in the last 30 years. The most unflattering assessments were awarded to Andrei Spinu, who, it turns out, heads the “monster ministry”, and negotiations with Gazprom, according to Kulminski, should have been entrusted to a more professional official. Kulminski’s “outing” after a relatively long silence may be related to some interesting processes that are taking place within the Moldovan government. It seems that one of the internal groups in the Action and Solidarity party, to which Vlad Kulminski apparently belongs, lost the fight for a place in the sun last fall and temporarily retreated. However, after a series of mistakes by the current Cabinet of Ministers, someone decided that it was time for a rematch to save PAS from political failure, and to blame all the failures of the last six months on Gavrilita’s government. Whatever the outcome of the internal political regrouping, a real, not an imitation course for European integration will require the country’s leadership to make difficult and painful decisions. In addition to the harmonization of economic policy with the EU, a final ideological reshaping of the state will be required so that nothing prevents it from successfully integrating into the “single European family”. Moreover, the Ukrainian events have created conditions convenient for the authorities for a final break with the Russian cultural, mental and historical narrative. Unlike our Ukrainian neighbors, Moldova was largely decommunized and desovietized in the first years of its independence. It was then that the public space was cleared to the maximum of monuments, street names and settlements, and everything else that could remind of the connection of our country with the legacy of Lenin and Stalin. On October 1, 2012, a law came into force prohibiting the use of communist symbols for political purposes. It must be assumed that the package of resonant bills adopted by the parliament last week is only the first wave of such legislative initiatives. It is possible that, following the example of Ukraine, shocking changes may affect the political field of the country and quite specific parties, some of which may be banned because of their symbols associated with the communist past. Taking into account the important historical decisions taken by the parliament, the key political test for the leadership of Moldova will be May 9. The events expected, including mass and violating the ban on wearing the St. George ribbon, are most likely already figured in the PAS and will come across an extremely clear and principled position. This year, this day will directly correlate with events in Ukraine, making history an important indicator of the perception of regional reality not only by citizens, but also by the political elites of the country. There is certainly risk of Moscow’s sharp and disproportionate reaction in response to the careful extraction of everything that forms the system of interests and influence of the Kremlin on Moldova. However, the authorities are unlikely to stop and will certainly take all possible legislative, political and other measures to ensure our state’s stability on the path of an irreversible process of European integration.