Moldova’s European Integration and Present-Day Political Reality

Home / Analytics / Moldova’s European Integration and Present-Day Political Reality
Anton ŠVEC
The incumbent regime has turned the topic of European integration into the only criterion of its own efficiency and a condition for its political survival. This short-sighted limited view is inconsistent with current realities and the need to preserve stability in the country
The death of Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison became a trigger that prompted our officials to once again rush to the geopolitical barricades and swear allegiance to Moldova’s European course, which is opposed to the “uncivilized East”. Even earlier, the found wreckage of a drone (probably a Russian one shot down by Ukrainian air defense) also became an occasion for hysterical comments, as if some urgent decisions could radically alter the situation in the country and its place in the world. Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi and Economy Minister Dumitru Alaiba, citing the need to be “responsible before coming generations”, demanded integration into the European Union as soon as possible, equating the EU and Western value choices. Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii said that the French radar and military exercises with NATO countries are not enough - a full-fledged air and missile defense system worth billions of euros is needed. The French radar purchased for 14 million euros has not fulfilled its purpose, as it is not yet adjusted and is not adapted for tracking drones travelling at low altitudes (which is not quite true and has already prompted conspiracy theories). All these officials do not realize that there is a significant time and functional lag between the intention, even the most obstinate and “irreversible” (as European integration was called under Vladimir Plahotniuc), and the actual political practice. European integration is a process that implies a known list of steps that has to be fulfilled. The same is true for the security sector. The visit of the chair of the NATO Military Committee Rob Bauer to Chisinau does not change anything in this sense, but only strengthens suspicions that our leadership plans to abandon the constitutional status of neutrality. According to Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Cristina Gherasimov, Brussels has started the procedure of screening the Moldovan legislation, i.e. its compliance with European treaties and directives. Notably, the first section to be jointly studied by our officials and Euro bureaucrats will be justice. Given the ECHR latest assessments, the Venice Commission and the European Commission, it is unlikely that this screening will be conducted smoothly. According to the most optimistic forecasts, Moldova will join the European Union not earlier than 2030. And even this rather distant date depends both on the state of affairs in the country itself and on the EU’s real capacity for enlargement. After all, we are talking about a whole group of countries, including the Western Balkan countries, which we will not be able to get ahead of. Maia Sandu intends to consolidate the EU integration course following the results of the controversial constitutional referendum scheduled for autumn. Despite the internal political significance of the plebiscite, which is not a traditional instrument for Moldova, such a vote will not change anything in principle. It will not be a guide to action for officials from Brussels, and it may aggravate the split between the center and the regions, especially Transnistria and Gagauzia. The former still claim friendship with Russia and refer to the results of the 2006 local referendum. The autonomy recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the referendums on joining the customs union and on leaving Moldova if it loses its sovereignty, with the active participation of the bashkan. Ilan Sor, with his influence on the situation in Gagauzia, has in the meantime finally shifted to pro-Russian views and criticism of the EU, having settled in Russia. Maia Sandu is apparently not afraid of centrifugal tendencies at all. The president is convinced that with the current state of affairs in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and with the support of the West, her regime will be able to deal with the rebellious regions by any available methods, up to the police – Comrat has already witnessed intimidation actions. Ukraine is hinting that it will not object to the restoration of constitutional order in Transnistria and will not let Moscow meddle. The representative of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Paun Rohovei, responsible for the Transnistrian issue, has started regular visits to our country demanding an accelerated reintegration of the enclave. Moreover, Ukrainian ambassador Marko Shevchenko has recently sent threatening signals to the Transnistrian administration. The factor of the Russian military presence, we may assume, has so far discouraged any adventurous steps, and maybe for this reason the calls to pull out Russian troops are becoming more vocal. If geopolitical or internal political reason demands it, our authorities may well take concrete actions even this year. Mihai Popsoi is already building some kind of international coalition and consulting with Romania and other Western emissaries on how Russia might react to Moldova’s withdrawal from the 1992 agreement, and what kind of guarantees the EU and NATO can provide should the peacekeeping mission be unilaterally withdrawn. Of course, for our citizens, tired of perpetual crises and socio-economic turmoil, achieving a normal standard of living and security today would be much more crucial than all this high political fuss. But the authorities can offer them nothing, only numerous failures with promises of a bright future within the EU and under the NATO umbrella. However, the prospects for the EU itself and, in particular, its ability to enlarge remain uncertain amidst the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. Skepticism is growing, and a crisis of governance, strategy and ideology is obvious. Doubts have surfaced around NATO. The North Atlantic Alliance is perceiving Donald Trump’s signals with fear and is already thinking of options in case the U.S. gives up its, in fact, sole provision of Euro-Atlantic security. Nevertheless, our leadership has made its choice, is practicing show-off and has withdrawn from the day-to-day process of governance, while being preoccupied with consolidating its regime and cracking down on political opponents. Protests of transport haulers, agricultural producers, dissatisfaction of the staff of eliminated educational and health care institutions are ignored by the authorities, as well as the budget deficit and the growth of foreign debt. Inflationary processes, restrictions on freedom of speech, the collapse of the railway and corruption at the airport, as well as the negative expectations of the population are perceived indifferently, because without Western legitimacy, no protests will lead to political change. Consequently, no one – neither in the presidency, nor in the government, nor in the parliament – is motivated to work with their sleeves rolled up to solve the urgent problems of the country and the population.