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E.U. — Republic of Moldova Action Plan turns 3

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Igor Botan / February 29, 2008
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On February 22, 2008, the European Union — Republic of Moldova Action Plan (EUMAP) signed at the 7th Meeting of the Cooperation Council turned three. This is an occasion to sum up accomplishments and estimate prospects. As this is a very complex document, summing up the accomplishments related to its implementation requires an appropriate attitude. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration has released a final report on key actions stipulated by EUMAP. In its turn, the European Commission (EC) will release a progress report on Moldova on April 9. Parentheses regarding further relations between the E.U. and Moldova will be removed after the EC report.

A series of opinions and assessments concerning the modality and results of implementation of EUMAP have been made public. Perception of the EUMAP as an unfinished, alternative strategy for the integration of neighbours into the E.U. has strongly influenced the perceptions of the implementation level. Even more, a series of events took place in the period concerned, with some of them being unexpected both for internal developments in the E.U., such as the failed referenda on adoption of the European Constitution in 2005, and for its partners. The latter has directly influenced the evolution of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which had a significant impact on initial expectations and conduct of countries covered by the ENP.

The internal and external monitoring of the EUMAP implementation has revealed important facts linked to accomplishments and obstacles, but it could not suggest the further European developments for Moldova. Establishing internal and external monitoring and assessment criteria by the European Commission was rather laid on the common sense. Therefore, regarded in a regional context, developments in Moldova cannot avoid a reference to the implementation of the E.U.-Ukraine Action Plan, for example, or evolution of bilateral relations with Western and Eastern neighbours of Moldova, given the importance of Ukraine for the regional stability at E.U. borders. In particular, for the Transnistrian settlement. As Moldova hesitated to adopt new concepts and strategies on its foreign and security policy, which would meet the new realities, it does not have other reference points for its conducts but those established by the E.U. on one hand and by Ukraine on the other hand. So far, it was observed in Ukraine’s conduct that its European stake is tightly correlated with its Euro-Atlantic stake. The second factor enhances the weight of Ukraine’s pro-European bids, as well as the replying reactions of the E.U. From this perspective, Moldova is a pro-European contextual enclave rather than a conscious and active player which focuses on clear goals. The unsettled Transnistrian conflict and the implications of the Russian Federation in this conflict explain the situation.

Given the internal developments, the monitoring of the EUMAP implementation has strongly attenuated the initially exaggerated expectations by authorities and entire political class toward the mobilising potential of EUMAP and the impact of further integrationist developments. This occurred in spite of a promising start, as the Parliament of Moldova voted through a consensus on March 24, 2005 the Declaration on political partnership for the implementation of the European integration objectives, a month after the EUMAP was signed on February 22, 2005. Regretfully, a great opportunity to turn the European integration idea into a national consolidation idea, a central pivot which would be in the middle of battles between political forces aimed to make clear which of them would be able to promote the European integration easier, was lost.

External and internal reasons why the impact of European policies on strengthening the Moldovan society has declined are known. In contrast with mobilising actions and lures received by Central and East European countries within European Agreements, Moldova has got encouraging and consolidating messages packed in a diplomatic language and placed in a context of E.U. intentions to “strengthen” and “revive” the ENP. But implicit E.U. messages concerning assessment of progresses in implementing the EUMAP were quite eloquent. No exceptional analytical skills are required to interpret messages such as: “the implementation level of the EUMAP is the stage experienced by common citizens of Moldova”; “before invoking the need of new documents to sanction Moldova’s relations with the E.U., it should be realised that self-perfecting within the EUMAP is limitless”; “the Republic of Moldova has achieved important progresses in all areas, except for the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the media, respect for human rights, fight against corruption, and building an attractive investment climate”; “Moldova has adopted good laws, but it has a poor enforcement record,” etc.

After such assessments, one cannot draw other conclusions but that the Republic of Moldova has very weak administrative skills, otherwise how to interpret the poor enforcement of good laws? The political unwillingness to appropriately implement good laws is the only alternative explanation, or, on the contrary, there is an interest for conducts which do not fit the declared pro-European policies. There are no other explanations for remarks by European dignitaries and observations from monitoring reports, which signal the influence of the political factor on the judiciary and administration, control and manipulation of the media, undermining of a fair electoral process. In order to remedy the shortcomings in these areas, the governance should stop abusive meddling. The general conclusion regarding the engagement of the governance in implementing the ENP is the following: the goal of keeping the power is more important than the general objective of efficiently approaching Moldova to E.U. standards. Perhaps this factor has reduced the potential of the European integration idea as a national consolidation idea.

In spite of those mentioned above, the implementation of the EUMAP has yet offered numerous opportunities for public engagement under the governance responsibility aspect, in promoting very specific goals, such as the monitoring of how the government honours its commitments by civil society groups and a number of international agencies. In this respect, an opportunity was linked to ways of cooperation between public institutions and civil organisations, revealing that this kind of cooperation may develop in Moldova rather under the pressure of commitments toward European partners. In spite of many difficulties, the least the Parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration have advanced in cooperation with civil society, though the way they cooperated revealed the very poor capacity of civil society to be efficient in this process. The preference of civil organisations to be “watchdogs” in the detriment of the role of equal and competent partners is probably linked to their qualification and experience.

The implementation of the EUMAP was certainly an effort to modernise Moldova. In spite of the estimation of the EUMAP implementation, this document is positive but insufficient. Under these conditions, the representatives of the Moldovan political class who signed the Declaration on political partnership for the implementation of the European integration objectives should continue reforming and modernising the society in order to reach the E.U. standards. The discrepancy between modernisation of Moldova and minimum E.U. standards imposes Moldovan political forces to make their agendas, focusing on the pressing need to remedy the handicaps rather than on doctrinaire subtleties. From this point of view, the primary imperative of the democratic political struggle should reduce to a competition of optimizing the speed and costs, as other goal worthy of citizens’ support is unavailable.

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