Why 2030 European Moldova Plan was soft-pedalled

Home / Comments / Why 2030 European Moldova Plan was soft-pedalled
Getting ready to return to the post-war reality, the leaders of the European Union are sharply reducing the speed of integration of new members, returning them to necessary structural reforms aimed at meeting the basic criteria of EU accession
Vladimir ROTAR, RTA: A week after the end of the EPC Summit, we can admit that its media and political effect was very burst. So much so that instead of enjoying the success of the most representative international forum in Moldova’s history, Maia Sandu and the ruling PAS were literally buried during those seven days under a pile of negative topics: the burgeoning corruption scandal around the purchase of expensive gas, the failure to provide effective assistance to farmers and the ensuing farmers’ protests, the adoption of another law that is gray from a democracy development perspective. These news items easily shifted the focus of public attention, making the summit outdated. Two characteristic features let us trace the degree of disappointment and resentment of the current government with such a low efficiency. First, Maia Sandu disavowed her recent announcement of her candidacy for the second administration, which was made in an interview with the influential Bloomberg agency. According to the head of state, she was misinterpreted, and a final decision has not yet been made. Second, Dorin Recean’s government refused to report for its first hundred days in office, becoming the first Cabinet in the modern history of the republic not to do so. Colleagues speculated that the report was deliberately delayed in order to include the positive summit results. Accordingly, this plan may have become irrelevant without them. The post factum analysis shows that the European leaders came to Moldova empty-handed. This time we did not receive additional financial aid, which would have been logical given all the circumstances, and Ursula von der Leyen had to give a package of 1.6 billion euros for it, compiled from already announced and allocated loans and grants. But, even more surprisingly, a clear political endorsement was lacking. Putting aside the traditional words for such events, we did not see any fixed promises to launch accession negotiations this year, or, much less, to welcome Moldova to the Union in 2030. On the contrary, pragmatism dominated the speeches of politicians and, later, the media publications of the “old Europe”. The ideological mastermind of the European Political Community, Emmanuel Macron, spoke of the internal challenges of the European Union and the inadmissibility of its further weakening at the expense of accession of countries that have not carried out the entire necessary set of reforms. The Austrian chancellor said even more bluntly that there cannot be a special fast track for Moldova and Ukraine, and that the approaches to the EU enlargement are becoming increasingly pragmatic. The other day, Olaf Scholz made the same point: full integration is possible only after all the criteria are met. Perhaps the authorities were not ready for such a “cold shower” from the key EU leaders. Knowing about it in advance, probably no one would have agitated the public so much with meetings of thousands in the central square of Chisinau and statements about integration into the EU by the end of the decade. If we use railway terminology, following the fashion set by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the whole situation looks as if someone abruptly pulled the emergency cord on the 2030 European Moldova train, unexpectedly both, for the passengers, and for the driver. Perhaps such a reversal was to some extent inevitable. It should be recalled that until February 2022 Moldova’s European integration, despite symbolic meetings and gestures, was not at its best, and its prospects had more than a decade of structural reforms and economic recovery. The conflict in Ukraine gave an incredible impetus to the process, but only because the geopolitical and military logic began to strongly dominate over the economic logic, and the new reality required extraordinary measures inconceivable in peacetime. Something similar already happened in 2020, when the world faced a pandemic and responded to it not always adequately and proportionately. But such an “extraordinary” balance could not last forever. As in the case of COVID, after a year and a half of war, the initial shock finally wore off. Fury at the cruelty and injustice of the Russian invasion, sympathy and solidarity with the Ukrainian people, the excitement of fighting an age-old geopolitical rival and the prospects of gaining a foothold in the new territorial boundaries are replaced by a sober understanding of the simple truth: the war will end sooner or later, and we must already now think about the arrangement of a new normality. And it will include Putin’s, or any other Russia, despite any pros and contras. But the main thing for us is that “normality” will also return to the process of EU enlargement, which is now going through a stressful overload at the expense of the unjustified objective criteria of accelerating the integration of Moldova and Ukraine. And this is exactly what Macron, Scholz and other European leaders are talking about. Our elites, on the other hand, are still thinking in the last year’s paradigm, and apparently have not yet realized this turning point, which once again, changes the rules of the game in this shortest interval in historical terms. Once again, we must roll up our sleeves and return to the European reforms and improvement of national living standards, which have always remained the only realistic path to the European family. At the same time, of course, the war has left its mark, and now the process of civilian transformation will go hand in hand with the military transformation, enabling, given the dramatically increased importance of collective security, acceleration, on the contrary. Therefore, the main bonuses received during the summit came precisely in this area: a new 87 million euro package of EU military aid, a shipment of arms and ammunition from Poland delivered on six cargo planes, and the opening of the Czech military attaché’s office. Clearly, this was little consolation for the incumbent authorities, who were counting on passing the next “checkpoint” of European integration by a roundabout way. But they should not expect such gifts in the near future.