Opinion: Moldova Puts the EU on the Spot

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Senior European officials will probably have a lot to think about before Moldova and Ukraine pass through the next European integration phase
Semyon ALBU, RTA: When we were pompously and hastily granted the EU candidate status, the announcement was accompanied by 9 recommendations that the ruling regime must fulfil in order to start direct talks on joining the EU. More than a year has passed since then. Our “grasshoppers” behind the scenes of power were so busy “singing and dancing around” that almost missed the X hour – namely, the moment for the EU country leaders to decide on Moldova’s future European prospects. And how are things with fulfilling our commitments? You won’t believe it, quite deplorable. As they say, this has never happened and but now it happened again. So, according to the European partners’ assessments, we have managed only 3 recommendations out of 9 - eliminating shortcomings in the electoral legislation, increasing the civil society’s involvement in the decision-making process and protecting human rights. For another 3, progress seems to exceed 50 per cent, and the rest are stalled. In fact, there are questions about the allegedly fulfilled recommendations as well. I have already written recently about how exactly the Electoral Code and the electoral process in general were “reformed”. It has little in common with European democratic practices. The involvement of civil society is also debatable. To be honest, it is scary to imagine what kind of “progress” there is on the other “unimplemented” recommendations. Given the fact that they concern such complex, even impossible for today’s narrow-minded PAS leaders, sectors as justice reform - which right now seems to be an absolute failure, struggle against corruption, de-oligarchizing, improvement of public administration, and so on. Has anyone noticed any achievements? To help us, Romania’s former chief negotiator for EU integration, Vasile Puskas, will visit us in September to talk about Romania’s successful experience. For 3 days, he will be conducting training sessions, advising key officials involved in organizing the country along European lines. There is no much time left. Already in October, the European Commission will issue a report on our “successes”. It will form the basis for discussions on the next steps on the European integration’s path for Moldova and Ukraine at the December meeting of presidents and EU prime ministers. In fact, the main intrigue is what they are to decide about us. Obviously, PAS is expecting the start of accession negotiations, which should become the “highlight” of the electoral program of both Maia Sandu in the next presidential elections and PAS in the parliamentary elections of 2025. Given the fact that no other successes are visible at all, the notorious European integration is the only potential golden key to win the elections. Let us try to assess the chances of a positive outcome. On the one hand, we have the European bureaucracy, which is completely in favor of the Union’s expansion and, accordingly, welcomes the idea of accession negotiations for Moldova and Ukraine. However, nurtured by the Americans, it still serves more the interests of its patrons and, as you can notice, is hardly oriented to the actual interests of the EU. Especially for Brussels officials this “European integration” means an endless flow of money, which can be sneakily embezzled, at the same time getting recipient countries hooked on it and subtracting pieces of their sovereignty. We in Moldova know it perfectly well and not by hearsay. Therefore, the EC, even despite the failure of PAS to implement the recommendations, is likely to give generally favorable evaluations, as always putting up a bold front. On the other hand, we have the EU countries themselves, which have very different approaches to enlargement. There are relatively young members, mainly the Baltic States and Eastern Europe, who support the idea. But the economic core, which will have to pay for this festival of life, is much more pragmatic. That is why, until February 2022, no one could even think about the candidate status of Moldova and Ukraine, which, in all honesty, are still infinitely far from the community’s standards. Last year, EU countries did surrender to the circumstances. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was indeed such a powerful shock that it dramatically changed the rules of the game and forced desperate and ill-conceived decisions. At that point, Europeans gave up their principles, put the Copenhagen criteria away and made a completely political decision, which was not in line with the previous reality. Will the European Union do this a second time? Now the situation is different, the passions have calmed down a bit, the war, like everything in our life, has turned into a routine. At the same time, even unprecedentedly funding Moldova, they could not prepare us in a year. Of course, they are trying to attribute some success to us in meeting the recommendations, but the situation is clear. It is probably needless to talk about Ukraine, which is understandable when we refer to the country that is experiencing a full-scale conflict, disastrous in terms of its victims. As a result, the EU is putting itself into a tricky situation, facing a very difficult dilemma. There are two countries that are completely unprepared for the next stage of integration, refusal to which, however, is fraught with a big geopolitical scandal and many other unpleasant consequences. Especially since our authorities continue to “hitch their wagon to the Ukrainian train”, trying to attach closer, and fully exploit the topic of support for Ukraine, primarily transit and logistics, in the hope that in December they will get credit for it. My personal prediction is that accession negotiations will start anyway. The EU states, even such seemingly strong ones as Germany and France, have not shown much success in defending their national interests over the last two years and are obediently following the lead of their overseas supervisors. Therefore, if needed, this tough decision on Moldova and Ukraine will be imposed on them in December. By the way, the head of the EU delegation in Moldova Janis Mazeiks stated that almost directly. He hinted that when discussing the final decision, not only objective aspects, such as fulfilment of obligations to the EU, but also “political aspects” will be taken into account. Well, I guess everybody understands what exactly he meant.