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Moldova within ENP. First assessment report by the European Commission

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Sergiu Buscaneanu / January 31, 2007
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The first seven action plans worked out within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and launched by the European Commission turned two on December 9, 2006, while the European Union-Moldova Action Plan signed at the 7th meeting of the EU-Moldova Cooperation Council will turn two on February 22, 2007. The signing of this public document has opened a three-year period when the Parties committed themselves to give more substance to bilateral relations within ENP. Moldova, seeking proximity to the EU, has pledged to “Europeanise” itself from several aspects, while the EU has committed itself to help Chisinau in this process, but keeping it at a distance of a holding-hand called ENP in political terms.

The success of Chisinau’s European path depends on how it will accomplish 80 goals and 294 actions in seven fields of activity together with the EU by the end of 2007. Most of these goals and actions rest with Moldova’s responsibility, 14 clearly refer to the EU, while another 40 envisage both Parties at a relatively equal extend. This way, the EU-Moldova Action Plan, like other action plans signed within the ENP, except for the EU-Israel Action Plan, reveals an asymmetrical volume of tasks and defining characteristics of the “centre-periphery” relations.

According to the EU-Moldova Action Plan, the progress in implementing the document is monitored by bodies created under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and the European Commission. The Commission released on December 4, 2006 its first report on implementation of the Action Plan by Moldova. The same day, the European executive launched two important documents in the ENP context: Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy and Communication from the Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament on the general approach to enable ENP partner countries to participate in Community agencies and Community programmes. The first Communication is accompanied by Overall Assessment (of relations between the EU and the first seven states that signed Action Plans with the EU within ENP); Sectoral Progress Report and ENP progress reports, including the Progress Report on Moldova.

The Communication […] on strengthening the ENP highlights that the ENP remains distinct from the EU enlargement process, presents the main problems and opportunities within ENP and recommends to strengthen the ENP and to improve much the impact of this policy. The main premise of this Communication is that the ENP is indispensable, it has confirmed its big potential and it should stimulate much its neighbours, including financially for a more sustainable promotion of reform processes in the EU neighbourhood. In the context, it should be noticed that most of experts have described the offers made by EU for its neighbours after the ENP was launched as insufficient to produce consistent reforms in its neighbourhood. Therefore, by recalling the successful alignment of Central and East European countries to the EU standards through a strong conditionality and stimulants to the extent of meeting the EU conditions, many experts recommended the EU to propose a more consistent offer to its neighbours. Otherwise, the impact of the ENP will remain limited, the ENP will continue to be seen as a “Potemkin village”, while reforms will drag on in continuation or will come late in the EU neighbourhood. From this viewpoint, its seems that this Communication of the Commission and the second Communication come to complete the offer that the EU has earlier made to its neighbours and to remedy an older handicap and the discrepancy between conditions of “Europeanisation” and stimulants given instead of this “Europeanisation”. Using one of epithets from specialised literature, this Communication comes to tell that the European Commission stands ready to give a bigger “carrot” to states in the EU neighbourhood in exchange for a decisive promotion of internal reforms by these countries.

The Overall Assessment presents in a synthetic manner the progresses achieved by Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Israel, Morocco, Moldova, Tunisia and Ukraine in implementing the action plans, as well as actions taken by EU to implement these plans. The Sectoral Progress Report refers to evolutions on sectors in the seven states mentioned above achieved in the ENP context.

The second Communication of the Commission published on December 4, 2006 recommends two distinct approaches for the participation of the states covered by ENP in: (1) agencies and (2) programmes of the EU.

The Progress Report on Moldova raises a major interest of Moldovan public opinion. The document brings light to the European Commission’s opinion about how Moldova honoured its commitments toward the EU in February 2005 — November 2006 by implementing the EU-Moldova Action Plan. The report highlights the main progresses and problems of this process. It indicates among important and moderate progresses: the management of the Moldova-Ukraine border; cooperation with international financial institutions; poverty reduction; reformation of research, development and innovation sector (appreciated as “good progress”); gaining of the Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) of EU; achievements against organised crime, trafficking in human beings; Moldova’s joining to the Bologna Process (appreciated as a “progress”); cooperation with the EU in certain problems of foreign policy; better investment climate (appreciated as a “some progress”), etc.

On the other hand, the main problems include: (1) faulty implementation of reform strategies; (2) insufficient freedom of mass media; (3) wide spreading of corruption; (4) Government’s interference in business; (5) insufficiently clear regulations on parliamentary immunity; (6) lack of clear priorities of action; (7) lack of optimal conditions for business start-up and management; (8) insufficient respect for human rights; (9) limited independence of the judiciary, and (10) extended and indefinite prerogatives of the prosecutor’s office. The report does not classify the problems on the hierarchical system on basis of their gravity, but the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th problems may be regarded as most serious, depending on tonality of used formulations.

The Progress Report on Moldova also says that the EU executive has recommended the Council to increase the financial assistance for Moldova, assistance which would be used to improve the governance, to encourage democratic accomplishments, to promote regulatory reforms and to reduce poverty. In the context, is to be recalled that the Commission has recommended the introduction of a flexible assistance regime for Moldova and a gradual growth of financial allocations, starting 2007. Moldova is expected to be allocated 210 million euros in 2007–2010 via the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) within the ENP. Also, another 45 million euros will be released as grants to cover the current account balance.

Moldovan authorities have received the assessment by the European Commission with a relative satisfaction. Truly, the Commission has given a positive general mark to Moldova. This mark results from the Progress Report on Moldova. At the same time, if we compare the Progress Report on Moldova with progress reports on Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia and Ukraine, we will also find reasons of dissatisfaction. Although the European Commission did not make a comparative assessment, such an analysis of reports on these countries would place Moldova below performances achieved by Morocco, Ukraine and Jordan. If such a rating is maintained after the period for implementation of action plans, Morocco and Jordan will have more reasons than Moldova to demand the promotion of their contractual relations with the EU, though they are not part of Europe. In such circumstances, Moldova would have to continue dreaming nicely the association with the EU.

Political year 2006 Evolution of perceptions of social-economic and political situation (Part I)