Why PAS Puts Scams Above Geopolitics

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Christian RUSSU
The ruling party gangs continue to redistribute financial flows in the country revealing their remarkably pragmatic nature
For the last two months, Moldovan car owners have been witnessing with suspicion the smooth decline in prices for oil products in the country. For example, the cost of diesel fuel has fallen by three lei since early October, returning to summer indices. One could for once commend the authorities for their effective policy in a complex regional setting, if it were not for one thing. After a period of almost complete dependence on supplies from Romania, Russian oil products have reappeared on the Moldovan market for the first time after a long pause. ANRE recently reported that in the third quarter imports of diesel fuel of Russian origin into the country amounted to about nine thousand tons, compared to the complete absence of such supplies at the start of the year. Formally, the share of the Russian Federation is insignificant – only 5% of diesel imports, which is unlikely to return Moldova “under Kremlin’s energy control and blackmail”, as our politicians like to put it (for example, this figure reached 25% in early 2022). Actually, it is possible to argue that our purchases played a part in the unfolding of the energy crisis in Russia, which led to the introduction of an open-ended export ban on gasoline and diesel fuel. Nevertheless, the ruling party apparently went against all principles of solidarity with Ukraine by returning to fuel purchases from Russia and at the same time depriving Romania of its monopoly position. As a result, the share of western neighbors in fuel supplies fell from 90% to less than 45% in the third quarter. The remaining volumes came from non-traditional suppliers from Turkey and India (almost 40% vs. 3% earlier in the year), which themselves purchase crude oil at attractive prices in Russia. So it turns out that more than half of all supplies of oil products to our country are of Russian origin. And if we analyze where raw materials are coming from to Romanian Rompetrol and Lukoil refineries, the figures are even more impressive. At the same time, Kyiv is staging hysteria in transit states, demanding exhaustive proof from suppliers that the oil products destined for Ukraine do not belong to Russia. Tankers with liquefied gas from the United States are waiting in Romanian ports and are not being unloaded because of Ukraine’s stricter requirements to provide certificates of origin not only from the supplier but also from the producer. There have been similar problems in the case of Poland, Bulgaria and other countries. It is hard to suspect PAS of being guided only by the interests of disgruntled road carriers, farmers and ordinary motorists in the case of Russian fuel supplies, otherwise such diversification to reduce the price would have occurred much earlier. It is more likely that the ruling party simply has finally found ways to get its share from deals with Russian oil products. Another illustrative example is the processes around the Chisinau airport. Under the new head of the Border Police and the administration of the air harbor, one of the PAS groups intends to include a curious item in the aviation security levy – payment for the functionality of the Border Police. Most likely, they will justify the need to allocate more funds to the budget for the needs of law enforcement officers by referring to the increased risks of national security and the need to supply the officers with everything they need: from equipment and outfits to weapons and service dogs. After all, no price is too high when it comes to defending oneself against Russian saboteurs and other enemies. Actually, the task is to redistribute financial flows in favor of one of the groups in the ruling party on the eve of the announced return of the Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air to Moldova, as well as the arrival of a foreign investor to discuss the terms of the concession. As for the appointment of a new head of the Border Police from Andrei Spinu’s team, the defeat of a representative of a rival group in the Chisinau mayoral elections also played a role. In addition, Spinu’s team is trying to completely force out of the airport all third-party economic agents that currently provide services to passengers, airlines and staff, arguing that this will eliminate all instruments of Ilan Shor’s control over the air harbor. Another strategic piece of infrastructure, the Giurgiulesti International Port, has also recently gained a lot of attention from the competing factions of PAS. While some clans in the ruling party favor handing over the facility to Romania, the Spinu group is trying to seize control of the maritime harbor by revising operating rules for the port. One of the motives is the resumed import of Russian oil products to Moldova. It was Giurgiulesti that became the “gateway” for these supplies and their further re-export to Ukraine. The clever guys in PAS must have appreciated all the opportunities of access to the sea and quick money, which, as it is known, “does not smell”. Despite all the indignation of Kyiv, whose special services have signaled since summer that Moldovan port are used to supply raw materials from a hostile state (and even officially blacklisted it), the import of fuel through Moldova to the warring eastern neighbor continued until late October. Only after that Ukraine’s bans on customs clearance followed. In general, it is very doubtful that the authorities will so easily agree to abandon this infrastructural object, especially since Spinu’s team has the experience of cooperation with EBRD shareholders to avoid criticism of non-compliance with European sanctions and the principles of geopolitical solidarity. So in the near future we can expect reports about the unexpected increase in attractiveness, profitability and importance of the seaport for national interests. At such a pace, by the end of its mandate, the ruling party may well mutate finally into something similar in behavior to the times of the late Vlad Plahotniuc, when many scandalous foreign policy decisions in fact took into account the selfish interests of the Moldovan authorities more than anything else.