The European Commission has decided to cut the financial assistance to Moldova by 20 million euros ($22.7 million) per year for both 2017 and 2018. Besides reducing direct funding, the EU suspended the $113,280,000 (100 million euros) macrofinancial assistance (MFA) program for Chisinau until further notice. The MFA was initially frozen temporarily in July.
On Nov.14, just a day before the decision to cut assistance, the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding resolution saying Moldova has become a “state captured by oligarchic interests” that exert their influence over most parts of Moldova’s society.
The country is actually ruled by a small group of tycoons. Chisinau is criticized for backsliding on democratic standards and the rule of law. The document says Moldova has failed to cope with “high levels of corruption, lack of independent judiciary and backsliding on democratic standards.”
The dubious results of mayoral elections in the capital Chisinau and the disappearance in 2014 of an estimated $1 billion from Moldova’s banks are matters of special concern to be addressed before the assistance starts to pour in again. The MEPs resolution went as far as to mention the possibility of sanctions imposed on some Moldovan individuals. EU Neighborhood Commissioner Johannes Hahn believes the EU will suffer a blow to its reputation if it does not insist on European standards being respected. “Otherwise people would believe we are in a way a lame duck.” He says the EU could cancel the visa-free traveling regime to the Schengen zone, which Moldovans have been enjoying since 2014.
The Moldova-European Union Association Agreement went into force in 2016. The bloc is Chisinau’s largest trade partner accounting for 64% of total exports and 56% of the country’s trade as of last year. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. It is the 122nd least corrupt nation in the world.
Moldova will hold parliamentary elections in February. The EU will be closely monitoring the process. Brussels had treated Moldova quite differently just some time ago. It has all changed now. The EU is gradually realizing that the oligarchs-ruled Moldova is more of a headache than an asset for it.
Chisinau has gone to any length to demonstrate its “loyalty” and anti-Moscow stance. It has joined the anti-Russia political alliance with Ukraine and Georgia – other pro-Western Russia-hostile states ruled by oligarchs who obstruct reforms. The Moldovan government has sent its troops to participate in NATO exercises in open violation of its national laws. Everything is done to embrace the North Atlantic Alliance. Chisinau has announced a decision to buy lethal weapons from the pact’s members. The country is on the way to become a foothold for US military, including the construction of eight training facilities for military operations in urban terrain at the Bulboaca training base to host American Marines.
In June, the UN General Assembly voted for the Moldova-submitted resolution calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its peacekeepers from Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova. Chisinau complained about what it calls “Russia’s occupation”. There are Russian 1250 servicemen stationed in Moldova. 450 soldiers are on a peacekeeping mission in accordance with the decision of the 1999 OSCE summit. The mission is carried out in compliance with international law. The 800 men strong Operational Group of Russian Forces is there to guard ammunition depots near Kolbasna settlement left over from the days of the Soviet Union. They are also peacekeepers. Is it an occupational force?
One of the reasons for Russia to reunite with Crimea through a referendum was the need to comply with the responsibility to protect – the fundamental principle of the United Nations. No other OSCE member state has agreed to allocate forces for the peacekeeping mission in Transnistria. If the Russian peacekeepers leave, a big fire can be re-ignited. As a UN member, Russia is obliged to prevent such a development.
An oligarchs-ruled state plunged in corruption and backsliding on democracy violates its international commitments hoping that a blind eye will be turned on what’s happening in the country as long as it sticks to its policy of open hostility toward Moscow.
Does this hostility meet the interests of common people in Moldova, the country which is totally dependent on Russian gas imports via the pipeline system that passes through Ukraine? Will EU taxpayers pay for energy supplies to Moldova in case Russia stops the supplies? Will they shoulder the burden of building interconnectors to Moldova stretching from other European countries?
The parliamentary elections in Moldova are scheduled on February 2019. The Socialist Party Moldovan President Igor Dodon is a member of is predicted to win. The country’s foreign policy will change as a result to make Moscow and Chisinau friends and good neighbors again. The current government’s moves and plans will lose their relevance. The EU could restore its assistance. Russia could re-start normal economic cooperation. The US will lose an ally that wants a lot to be given much without offering much in return.
But one should give the devil his due – the European Parliament’s resolution and the following move by the European Commission are timely steps to demonstrate that being anti-Russian is not enough to automatically become a part of United Europe with its standards and rules to abide by.