Parliament Activity during 21-25 July 2003
28 July 2003
As has been mentioned earlier, at the end of sessions, the activity of the Parliament intensifies and the deputies examine draft laws according to the priorities set by the Government as well as their own priorities.
Las week witnessed a number of important political events, including the resumption of talks within the Joint Constitutional Commission, the organisation of a seminar on the new constitution of the to-be Moldovan federal state, the holding of a meeting between the Moldovan ambassadors world-wide and the top Moldovan leadership etc.
Of special attention were the debates on the OSCE Dutch Chairman's initiative to request the EU to consider sending its peace keeping forces to Moldova. While earlier the Moldovan authorities had had no reaction to this initiative, the statements made within the Parliament session by opposition deputies and, more importantly, the telephone conversation that the Moldovan President had with its Russian counterpart prompted an official stand on the issue. Thus, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the representatives of the majority faction in the Parliament have qualified the initiative as one which is not official and unlikely to succeed. Moreover, it was mentioned that there is no need for additional peacekeeping forces since the Russian troops currently deployed in Transdnistria are highly successful in fulfilling their peacekeeping tasks.
The most interesting thing has been that the President has not come forward openly on the subject. However, he requested that the drafting of the Conception of European Integration of Moldova be speeded up. Differently put, on the one hand, concrete EU proposals are being rejected, while, on the other hand, statements on Moldova's firm commitment to integrate into the EU abound. Underlying such behaviour is probably Moldovan officials' assumption that Europe stretches up to the Ural Mountains; no one really knows what the upcoming Conception on European Integration will be about since there has been no public debate about it, as one would have normally expected to happen in an open society.
Instead, in order to draw the attention of the public opinion away from the real issues haunting our society, to which the current government seems to invariable have no clues, the authorities keep launching new mega-initiatives, which they widely advertise and which are supposed to demonstrate their "readiness to co-operate with the civil society". Thus, during the Civic Forum held on 25 July 2003 the Moldovan President announced that a new Conception of State National Policy of Moldova had been drafted and submitted to Parliament for examination and to the wider public for debates. It is worth reminding that last year, by the end of summer, the President submitted to the Parliament a draft law on the public control over the state institutions. Despite the wide publicity, the draft was never adopted by the Parliament.
Thus, despite the fact that the opinion polls show clearly that at the moment the issue of ethnic relations does not feature high in our society (the current government has created adequate conditions for the cohabitation of the representatives of all nationalities), the issue is brought back to the foreground. In this sense, one cannot help notice the concomitance of the Civic Forum, the drafting of the National Conception and the publication of a Moldovan-Romanian Dictionary. For these reasons, one can assume that new protests are to be expected form the opposition soon, whereas the economic and political failures will then be blamed onto the "destructive forces" that fail to understand that an integrated history and a state national policy are meant to build social concord.
I. Notably, during the period of this comment the Parliament introduced a few changes that are likely to break the fragile balance achieved in the government-opposition relations. On 25 July the Constitution was amended to constitutionalise the status of the Gagauz Yeri autonomy as well as the rights of the Gagauz authorities. This way the deputies of the parliamentary majority kept their electoral promises to the autonomy and put into the practice the much criticised agreement signed by the Communist Party Chairman, President Voronin, with the Gagauz officials during the 2001 parliamentary campaign.
ADEPT Comment: The following amendments have been made to the Constitution:
1. The Gagauz People's Assembly is granted the right to legislative initiative along with the Moldovan Parliament, Government and President.
2. The Gagauz autonomy is specifically consecrated in Article 111, whereby:
- Gagauz Yeri will be a territorial autonomous entity with special status, which is intended as a form of self-determination for the Gagauz minority, but nonetheless remain an integral and inalienable part of Moldova. The autonomy will deal with its political, economic and cultural life according to the Constitution of Moldova.
- The land, underground, waters and other natural resources located on the soil of the autonomy are the property of Moldova and constitute the economic basis of Gagauz Yeri.
- The control over the respect of Moldovan laws in the region will be carried out by the Moldovan Government.
- The organic law that regulates the special status of Gagauz Yeri will be amended upon the vote of 3/5 of the deputies in the Moldovan Parliament.
Practically, the adopted amendments have introduced into the Moldovan Constitution a series of provisions taken over from the Law on the Special Juridical Status of Gagauz Yeri, adopted by the Moldovan, agrarian dominated party in late 1994.
II. Law on National Defence
ADEPT Comment: The adopted law sets the structure of the national defence system, the attributions and responsibilities of public authorities on defence, as well as the organisation, destination and leadership of the national defence system.
Such notions are defined: the national defence system, military aggression, military operation etc. It is envisioned that the organisation of the national defence will include determining the defence principles, adopting the military doctrine, developing the military art and science, determining the national interests, preparation of defence forces, improving military training, preparing the military reserve, preparing the citizens for the defence of their motherland etc.
The structure of the national defence system will include:
- command by the constitutional authorities of the state (Parliament, President, Government, Defence Ministry etc.);
- the armed forces, the resources and territorial infrastructure.
The law provides a detailed reference to the competence and attributions of every authority involved in the command of the national defence, as well as the methods of interaction among the officials who are indirectly related to the command and organisation of the national defence (SIS, MAI, SPPS etc.).
On 26 July 2003, the Parliament adopted the Conception of the Military Reform of Moldova, and between July 2002 - July 2003 a number of laws related to the military reform were adopted:
- on the material responsibility of the military;
- on the procurement of assets and provision of services of public interest;
- on the preparation of citizens for the defence of motherland;
- on the reserve of armed force;
- on preparation for mobilisation and mobilisation etc.
III. Law on Introducing a Safeguard Tax on Sugar Imports
ADEPT Comment: This law provides that starting 1 August 2003, in addition to the current customs taxes, the sugar importers will have to pay a compulsory exceptional tax worth 40% of the value of imported sugar, but not less than 100 Euro per 12 tons of sugar. The reason this new tax has been introduced is the high cost of sugar produced in Moldova, which is about 50% higher than the cost of imported sugar and hence is not poorly commercialised due to the availability on the market of sugar imported at dumping prices.
This tax will be provisional, and will be applied for 200 days of the entry into force of the law. Upon the expiration of this term, the authorities will re-consider the issue and decide on further action.
It is thus for the first time since the Law on Antidumping, Compensatory and Safeguarding Measures has been in force that the Parliament has decided to apply a measure of economic protection of the local sugar producers.
It should be mentioned that the above law stipulates for protection measures that could be applied on imports at dumping prices, subsidised in the country of origin or that of export, as well as on imports that, due to their quantity or delivery conditions, damage the local producers of similar profile, are too competitive or are likely to cause some other sort of damage.
IV. Law on Amending the Law on the National Bank of Moldova (NBM)
ADEPT Comment: through this law, at the proposal of the Executive Board of the NBM, the Parliament has increased the capital of the NBM to 200 million lei. According to the Law on the NBM, its entire capital should belong to the state and it cannot be transferred or assigned for certain tasks.
Article 19 (3) provides that in the event that the value of the active assets held by the bank diminishes in relation to the value of its passive assets and its current capital, the Finance Minister will transfer to the NBM, within 60 days of the publication of the balance, a Government capital contribution in the form of bonds of negotiable value, at the market interest rate, and in such amount as to cover the deficit.
V. Decisions on Cuts in the National Army Personnel and the Staff of the Security and Information Service (SIS)
ADEPT Comment: The Parliament has decided to cut the military troops and the civilian staff of the National Army and of the institutions of the Ministry of Defence by 400 militaries and 100 civilian employees.
The personnel of the SIS have reduced by 200. The Decision of the Parliament does not refer to specific individuals, since the respective cuts had been made earlier, upon the reorganisation of the SIS.
VI. Decisions on the System of Prosecution Bodies
ADEPT Comment: the Parliament adopted a number of decisions, whereby:
- Anatol Plamadeala, First Deputy Assistant to the General Prosecutor, was released of his duties. During the debates, neither the request of the General Prosecutor nor the reasons for Plamadeala's dismissal were voiced. Although Plamadeala had held the post for a brief period of time, he distinguished himself through his professional quality.
- The new structure of the prosecution bodies was approved, in accordance with the new territorial administrative organisation of the country. The sector prosecutor offices are now called district offices, as they were called before 1998.
The amendments also provide for the abolishment of the appeals prosecutor offices, which thing might cause certain problems upon the examination of cases in higher level courts. According to the Code of Civil Procedure, the prosecutor who opens a case has to attend all stages of examination of that case, including in the superior courts. Apart from the technical and material problems, this will be difficult to achieve due to the lack of experience and skills of the junior employees in prosecution offices, who might lack the competence to uphold the case in courts of appeal or in the Supreme Court of Justice
Notably, representatives of prosecution bodies warned about this. However, the parliamentary majority denied their proposals and went forward with the reform of the prosecution bodies regardless of the opinion of these bodies' representatives.
The Parliament adopted in the final reading the Law on Exempting from Taxes the Theatre and Concert Enterprises.
In the first reading, a draft law was adopted that provides for the method of remuneration of state notaries (20% of collected income, but not less than an average wage) and of the personnel of state notary offices (according to the laws on public service).