Policy Brief on recent developments of the EU-Moldova Dialogue in the context of the Association Agreement
During 2015, the implementation of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement was largely affected by the continued governmental crisis. The delay in appointing a new government during the fourth quarter of 2015 and beginning of 2016 also influenced the speed and quality implementation of the key reforms.
Reviewing the EU-Moldova relations since the beginning of 2016, especially taking into account the low performance in the implementation of the Association Agreement during 2015, we might observe a certain change of narrative in the EU-Moldova dialogue, at least judging upon the increased number of interactions at the official level. We also have to stress that the EU changed its attitude in relations with the Moldovan authorities, which was characterised by a certain degree of caution and careful calculation of messages due to a contested legitimacy by the Moldovan society of the nontransparent methods used for the creation of the parliamentary majority, but also due to a generally low level of trust of EU in the governance capacity and political will to implement reforms in Chisinau. Thus, if by 2015 the EU-Moldova dialogue was characterised by an ambitious European integration agenda, then already by 2016 the narrative of the EU-Moldova relations was the “stabilisation” of the situation in the Republic of Moldova.
The European Union has been practically had no other choice but to take pragmatic actions of small steps, establishing a clear conditionality between advancing the relations with Moldova and resuming the EU direct budgetary support with the need to urgently address the delays in the reform agenda and in particular in the implementation of the Association Agreement. In this respect, the EU Council Conclusions on Moldova from February 15, 2016, was vivid indicator of the new EU clear-cut conditionality approach focused the expectation of short-term action on behalf of Moldovan Government. At the same time, one could observe a more concerted approach of relevant Moldovan authorities in tackling delays in the implementation of the Association Agreement. Weekly meetings of the Governmental Commission for European Integration are held. Two joint sessions of the Moldovan Government and Parliament were organised in order to set short-term legislative priorities related to the implementation of the Association Agreement.
Even if a Priority Reform Action Road-Map was approved by the Moldovan authorities in response to the February EU Council Conclusions, it largely contains legislative priority actions (i.e. 38 actions), which anyway had to be implemented by Moldovan Government and Parliament. Very limited number of priority actions that would require a clear political will to ensure a qualitative change in the process of reforms are provided in the Road-Map. For example there is no reference to actions related to the need to depoliticise the public institutions or actions that would lead to abandoning practices affecting the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement institutions.
To be more precise, the Road-Map includes a total of 69 priority actions corresponding to 13 areas. Most actions, namely 46 priority actions were planned for March-April 2016, 19 priority actions are planned for the period April to July 2016, and 4 priority actions are continuously implemented (permanent/ongoing). The Roadmap shall be implemented by July 31, 2016.
Assessing the possible implementation impact of the planned actions most of them are not qualitatively contributing the conditions mentioned in the EU Council Conclusions. At the same time, the Roadmap is not referring to all the concerns raised by the EU. For example there are no actions that will address the politicisation of the public institutions in Moldova.
Our expectation is that the European Union and other development partners will closely track and monitor the implementation of the Roadmap. At the same time, EU will insist on the need to ensure not only formal adoption of legislation, but will request for urgent practical implementation record of reforms. Thus, it shall be clear that even all 69 priority actions set in the Roadmap will be passed, additional effort from Moldovan authorities will be needed in order to demonstrate a clear political will in practical application of reforms, in particular in the justice sector, combating high-level corruption and addressing the issues in the financial-banking sector. Implementation without delay of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement should be ensured. Otherwise, Moldova will not be able to restore the level of trust in relation to our development partners and would further endanger Moldova’s European future.
Author: Iulian Groza Email: [email protected]