Over the past decade, the evolution of the Republic of Moldova has been anything but linear. Once the good student of the Eastern Partnership, Moldova went through a serious economic crisis between 2014-2015 and then fell under the influence of a powerful oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc.
Under the umbrella of a so called pro-European agenda, he managed to control institutions, demolish the justice system and drown any political attempts at building a real pro-European agenda. Nevertheless, the country’s economy grew.
In 2017, Moldova’s GDP increased by 4.5 percent to $8.13bn, with the same upward trend continuing into 2018. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) agreement contributed to the development of a stable economy, significant commercial exchanges and increased exports to the EU.
This functional economic partnership has translated over time into support for approximately 6000 businesses; over two million visa-free travellers, and more than 2500 Erasmus students and teachers. Yet the moment of victory in the country’s battle for democracy hadn’t quite arrived.
In June 2018, the problematic nature of the balance of powers and the appetite of the government for violating democratic principles were bitterly revealed when the election result for the mayor of Chișinău was overturned. Soon after this episode, the EU froze €100m in financial aid.
"We remain committed to the Moldovan people and firm with the authorities on fully respecting all conditionalities relating to EU assistance. Moldova certainly belongs in the European Union"
In 2019, Moldova was embroiled in one of its biggest political and constitutional crises, which was only ended by public pressure and the EU’s diplomatic involvement. An unlikely coalition between pro-Russian Socialists and pro-European opposition led to the investiture of the Maia Sandu government in June 2019.
The country took a deep breath for five whole months, with bold measures to put the country back on track. The miracle lasted until November, when the oligarch’s pervasive influence in the state apparatus clashed with the new government’s will to reform the justice sector; resulting in the premature fall of the Sandu government and the halting of essential reforms.
Furthermore, President Igor Dodon and the new Chicu government have been consistently steering Moldova’s foreign policy eastwards, while ostensibly claiming to search for greater balance. Ahead of the high-stakes presidential elections later this year, the political scene in the Republic of Moldova is more polarised than ever.
Against the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic, the government chose to secure obscurely negotiated loans from Russia, while €87m of financial support from the EU was swiftly redirected to meet the immediate needs of the health sector and the socio-economic recovery, topped up an additional €100m from the EU and the IMF.
As we speak, Moldova is likely to lose €30m in aid from the EU if its parliament fails to pass a bill on the NGO sector, a part of the reforms package set by Brussels in line with the Association Agreement.
It is ultimately a tremendous gain for Moldova’s citizens if the country finds its political balance and will, so that one day they can enjoy a responsible government that fulfils its promises instead of disregarding rule of law reforms or silencing civic activism and freedom of expression.
We remain committed to the Moldovan people and firm with the authorities on fully respecting all conditionalities relating to EU assistance. Moldova certainly belongs in the European Union.
We call on the government to deliver on this, and for Moldovans to always remember that they must be the first ones to detect and react when their government endangers democracy.