What Lies Behind the Moldovan Pact for Europe?

Home / Analytics / What Lies Behind the Moldovan Pact for Europe?
Christian RUSSU
Our analogue of the Romanian Snagov Declaration did not reflect national consensus, but it solved important electoral problems of its main signatories
On 26 May, the Pact for Europe was “born” in a solemn ceremony at the National History Museum. This moment was postponed several times before due to the lack of certainty about the circle of the main participants and the protracted approval on the text of the document. Those who took on the role of “realizers” of Ion Ceban’s idea of having political parties sign the Moldovan analogue of the Snagov Declaration faced a number of serious obstacles on this path. It is difficult to say whether the pact was the result of the brainwork of the four right-wing parties united in the electoral bloc Together or whether it was introduced to them by behind-the-scenes advisers. Anyway, the main problem was the toxicity of everything associated with it. A year ago, this initiative of the Chisinau mayor faced negligence and criticism. The left accused the MAN party leader of betraying common values, while the right saw an attempt by the “Kremlin appointee” to adopt to the new geopolitical realities in order to survive and continue to discredit the European course. The incumbent authorities, right-wing politicians, opinion leaders and all sorts of political commentators called Ceban’s proposal ill timed, inappropriate and harmful. Their main and undeniable reasoning was that a declaration like the Snagov one would be a political fake in Moldovan realities. However, therein lies the truth. It is obvious that there is no political, let alone national consensus on the country’s foreign policy course in the society. There is no inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony either. In Romania, even Hungarians from troubled Transylvania united under the Snagov Declaration. In our country, however, the hitherto calm Gagauzia was provoked to revolt. And in fact, for two years the PAS authorities have only aggravated the internal split. Is it consensus? However, as the year passed, political expediency and electoral necessity took the upper hand. Right-wingers from the DA Platform, the League of Towns and Communes (LOC), the Party of Change and the Coalition for Unity and Welfare (CUB) embarked on an active therapy for the political detoxification of Ion Ceban’s idea. Amid PR-actions of the ruling party (referendum on European integration on the same day as the presidential elections, adoption by the parliament of a declaration in favor of the European course), another manifestation of dedication to the Western vector looked much more genuine than a year ago. But it’s not all smooth sailing. As I have already written, the newly formed electoral bloc Together or its advisers did not consider their idea as a personal project. It was meant to create a basis for cooperation between the right-wing opposition and the current government, with a view to the next parliamentary elections, when it would be in great demand for PAS, given its plummeting rating. In exchange, Stefan Gligor’s government-controlled party, former allies from the DA Platform and newcomers in the form of the League of Towns and Communes and CUB were ready to support Maia Sandu’s candidacy in the autumn elections. This combination failed due to the political short-sightedness and conceit of the ruling party leaders. As a result, it is what it is. Having failed to wait for the guardianship of the authorities, the “right-wing four” were faced with a dilemma: to abandon the project, or to sign with all comers, including their former opponents: the parties of Ion Ceban and Chicu. Without them, the event would simply lose its meaning, being secondary. The second option was chosen, that is why agreeing on the text of the pact was delayed. It was necessary to weed out the wording unacceptable to the new participants in the project, for example, the expression of aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration, which obviously went beyond the banal support for EU accession. In fact, by all the criteria and assessments of observers, the event was rather ordinary, with no claim to historic status whatsoever. Parallels with the Romanian Snagov Declaration are inappropriate. Many parties did not even send their leaders, but middle-level representatives to sign the “most important document”. Nevertheless, Moldova now has the Pact for Europe, and it will entail political consequences for the country. Ion Ceban’s party was expectedly among the first twelve signatories of the pact. Despite his refusal to stand as a candidate for the presidential elections (obviously at the insistent “hint” of his Western partners), the MAN leader solved the basic task for himself - he received a kind of indulgence to continue his quiet political activity and legalized himself in the ranks of pro-European parties. The former socialist chose the ‘bird in the hand’, although in his case the current presidential sprint is obviously much more promising than the parliamentary relay race in 2025. The four authors of the initiative certainly benefited from the signing of the Pact. The document explicitly states that European integration cannot be the monopoly of any sole party, that the accession process presupposes a consistent dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, that everyone is obliged to respect pluralism of opinion, the separation of powers in the state, the independence of the media, freedom of expression, and to ensure free and correct elections. Thus, the opposition parties received a document with PAS obligations (albeit signed only by uncomely Artur Mija), which they will be able to exploit at the slightest suspicion of abuse by the authorities, which the latter, as we know, do not shy away from. It is also difficult to call the ruling party a loser, even given all its sluggishness. In any case, PAS should be thankful to its Western supervisors, who took care of everything. The declaration envisages the political obligations of all participants to promote the process of European integration. Which in fact means the refusal to harshly criticize the actions of the regime. There is also a point about condemnation of war, aggression and occupation of the territories of independent countries. Its importance for the signatories was emphasized by the presence of the ambassadors of Romania and Ukraine, who pointed out that there was no peaceful alternative to Moldova’s development other than European integration. In short, the pact turned out to be a double-edged weapon for both the authorities and the opposition. It is possible that behind the scenes the four authors of the document were made not nominate their candidate in the presidential race at all, but support the incumbent president, who will have to face the opponents of the European values stipulated in the pact. However, the main strategic goal for the Western curators, no matter how offensive it may be perceived by PAS, was to form the foundation for further cooperation between the right-wing parties after the parliamentary campaign. It is necessary to form a list of respectable political forces for the design of a government that will ensure the continuity of the country’s foreign policy course already today. Many right-wing parties with ratings around the statistical margin of error may be of no use at all next year, but a pragmatic partner in the form of the promising MAN may become a lifeline for PAS.