Alarming Oddities of the European Integration

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The story of Moldova’s path to the EU candidate status can unexpectedly have a happy ending. But what can prompt EU to take this obviously political decision contrary to its own principles?
Semyon ALBU, RTA: In the coming days, global media will surely feature plenty of “tasty” headlines. Among the pending hot news are the semi-secret visit of the leaders of France, Germany and Italy to Kyiv, the speech of the Russian President on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which his spokesperson pre-emptively advertised as “extremely important”, and, of course, the European Commission’s response to the “candidacy” applications submitted by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Most attention in our region is certainly focused on the latter event, which the European politicians and bureaucrats have surrounded with numerous intrigues. And no one is in a hurry to dispel them. However, every day makes it clearer where the wind is blowing: as the latest developments show, in a positive direction for our country. On the other hand, the closer the final verdict of the EU, the more oddities about this “candidate story” emerge. Oddity number one: diplomatic activity. The cherry on top in this regard was yesterday’s arrival of Emmanuel Macron to Chisinau. His visit was accompanied by a signature of a bunch of agreements, already a tradition in such cases, on the next loan, taxation, the work of the French Development Agency, etc. But, of course, the centerpiece was the discussion of the notorious candidate status. Though, one would think, what is there to talk about? The questionnaire has been sent, the European Parliament has provided its recommendation, the European Commission’s one will be granted tomorrow, to be followed by a decision of EU member-states... The procedure is clear, Moldova has done its part, and all that is left is to wait for the outcome. Or there are other options? Oddity number two: the different fates of the Associated Trio countries. The first to apply for EU membership, as we know, was Kyiv, which set an example for its colleagues. Tbilisi was next, and then Chisinau. All three requests have long been part of a single package. But in recent weeks everything has changed – Georgia has suddenly turned into an outsider in the race, while its colleagues are likely to get albeit distant prospect of membership and an eye-pleasing status. So what’s the big deal here, you may ask? Well, for example, the fact that Georgia is ahead of Moldova and Ukraine in most of the recognized metrics of democracy, sometimes with a significant advantage. It has better positions in the indices of corruption perception, independence of justice, rule of law, budget transparency, freedom of press and so on. In other words, it has advanced further on the path of European reforms than its colleagues. So how could it be left behind now? These are only major aspects, so to speak. But still they prompt unpleasant speculations. This is how I see things at this point. Both Macron’s voyage the previous day and the visit of the European Union’s Big Three joined by Iohannis hint at the fact that the issue of candidacy is up for bargaining. Otherwise, there would be nothing to talk about. Indeed, what Copenhagen criteria can we seriously talk about? In case of Ukraine it is simply ridiculous, just as in our overall situation, too. And I would like to see the arguments of those who will try to prove to me that crackdowns on the opposition, the seizure of the media market and state structures, and revival of old schemes are serious progress in reforming the country. This means that the EU is ready to sacrifice its principles and make a political decision. Certainly, not for nothing. Rumor has it that today Kyiv will be strongly encouraged that the conflict be frozen in order to slowly emerge from the global crises – food, energy, financial and so on. The ground has already been prepared – all week the European mass media have promoted the idea that it would be good to end the war first and then to proceed with the European integration. Ukraine does not like the idea of fixing on its current positions, hence it can barely conceal its disagreement with the West accusing it of insufficient military supplies and the deaths of Ukrainian soldiers. Clearly, the Western decision-makers have not only a peace scenario in mind, which is currently not to the advantage of the warring parties and therefore hardly achievable, but also a war scenario. If the conflict cannot be put on hold, it has to be stopped quickly in one’s favor. Sanctions haven’t proved to be as effective in this regard as we would like them to be, since most countries do not back them. But there are other options, for example, to cause a headache for the Kremlin in all the regions where this is possible, to force it to spend more forces and resources. And here’s an interesting point: if anyone remembers, in the first weeks of the Russian “special operation” there was much talk about unfreezing of the territorial conflicts in Georgia. But Tbilisi quickly dismissed all such speculations and clearly stated that it would not join anti-Russian sanctions, as well as fight with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and still adheres to this stance. Isn’t this the reason why our Georgian partners have suddenly become Euro-integrative underdogs? Moldova’s position, on the contrary, strengthens day by day. Yesterday Macron publicly sent many positive signals to our country, and our president was very pleased with the results of the talks. It is logical to assume that our authorities have been much more responsive to the wishes – in fact, demands – of the European supervisors. Let’s recap. After the first phase of the conflict, the ruling party stopped pedaling about neutrality and non-interference. Instead, it joined as many sanctions as it could without detriment to itself, voted for anti-Russian decisions wherever it could – at the UN, the WTO, etc. It banned Russian news, shut down a number of Russian-friendly media outlets, abolished “symbols of war”, including the St. George’s ribbon. It is now seriously engaged in energy diversification in order to give up Russian gas and electricity. The next stage will apparently be the Transdniestrian conflict. The “yellow” leaders are regularly urging to withdraw the Russian army and peacekeepers, while talking about the threats coming from the conflict with the left bank. This is accompanied by the West stating the need to arm Moldova, which our politicians applaud. Yesterday, Macron added more fuel to the fire by saying that Moldova will get €40 million from the European Defense Fund, thus almost doubling its military budget. Our government quickly saluted and started explaining to the public why it is necessary to arm as a priority and not to spare any effort or money. Without any claim to be the absolute truth, I believe that we have become hostages of some schemes and deals that do not bode well. And the further we go, the more this whole candidacy story seems to me like some kind of hoax. The interior of our house is already on fire, but our rulers are trying to decorate the facade and have even agreed to set up a fuel depot in one of the rooms, so that to make sure it should definitely detonate. This strategy is really dubious. But the party which has ruined everything it could over the past year probably doesn’t have much of a choice.