After the war broke out in Eastern Ukraine, many observers in Europe held the EU at least partly responsible. Political realists in the West, led by Henri Kissinger and John Mearsheimer, have put at least a part of the blame for Russia`s belligerence on the West.
They argued, that Washington and Brussels should have consulted more with Russia about its plans for expansion, including EU`s 2009 Eastern Partnership program.
The “issues paper” prepared by the EU foreign policy apparatus in January also suggested establishing “a level of engagement” with Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. Despite a rebuke from both the US and European policy buffs, such statements created a general feeling that the Western policymakers are considering a degree of shared influence over the Eastern Partnership countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine - with Russia. The European leaders might not see it as a best-case scenario, but as a probable outcome of the current tensions.
Moldova is the archetype of what a “shared” space could look like. And it is neither happy nor stable.
For many years, Moldova oscillated in its political choices. But in the mid-2000’s, the President and Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin started to turn more decidedly towards the West. This choice became clearer in July 2009, with the formation of the Alliance for European Integration. In May 2013, when the governing coalition fell apart, the Pro-European Coalition was voted into office. In June 2014, Moldova signed an Association Agreement with the EU. One would have thought that the decision to approach Europe was final.
But declarations and signatures aside, the oligarchs leading the Pro-European Coalition seem eminently comfortable in the grey zone between Russia and the EU.
“[MP Vladimir] Plahotniuc, [ex-PM Vlad] Filat and others - our oligarchs who are running the country, say they are pro-European. But they don’t want Moldova to be fully ruled by European standards. They carefully follow what’s going on in Romania, our closest neighbour, and they see that former high officials are on trial for corruption [there]. Even the current Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Ponta, was indicted in mid-September. [This can happen] in Bucharest, because the Prosecutor’s Office is now independent and hardworking. In Chisinau, the judicial system is under the control of Vlad Plahotniuc”, says Igor Boţan, a well-known Moldovan political analyst and civil activist.
The firm grip that the oligarchs have on justice system extends the National Bank. Earlier this year, the government allowed the National Bank to cover up the theft of 1 billion USD – a staggering 12 percent of Moldova’s annual GDP - under the carpet. The amount disappeared from Moldova`s three major banks in a series of murky loans made last May. The sum had to be reimbursed from the state coffers to prevent the collapse of the banking system. To date, no one has been prosecuted. Media investigations, like the one published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in 2014, suggest the national banking system has been shaped in the last two decades to launder dirty Russian money.
Moldovans are angry. In an opinion poll fielded by the Center for Sociological Investigations CBS-AXA in mid-September, 87% said the country is going in the wrong direction. “I never saw that in my career,” says Arcadie Barbăroşie, a political analyst and director of the Institute for Public Policy (IPP). Barbăroşie thinks that while the rejection of the political class nearly universal, Moldovans still support the pro-European path. He argues that the field is clear for a new political force.
Indeed, up to 50 thousand gathered in the center of Chisinau on September 6 responding to the call of the civic platform “Dignity and Truth” (“Demnitate şi Adevăr”, now known as DA). They called for the resignation of President Nicolae Timofta and for early general elections, their main slogan was “Let’s bring the country back to the people!” A plethora of tents emerged in front of the government office and demonstrations were held every Sunday. Eventually, the crowd dwindled, partly due to lack of money to sustain the protests and partly because no vocal leaders emerged from the spontaneous protest.
“The irresponsible governance of our political leaders made a pro-EU success story a failure... Now only about 30 percent of the population are pro-EU, while 75 percent were five years ago,” says Igor Boţan, one of the DA founders.
The banking scandal shook Moldova`s politics to the core, but for now confusion and disappointment for the population have been its only outcomes. In Chisinau, Western diplomats are trying hard to keep the Pro-European Coalition alive. They ask for the prosecution of those responsible for the banking scandals. The IMF and EU suspended new loans and financial support until the government cleans up its act.
But the government is ignoring both the street protestors’ and the Western diplomats’ demands. The oligarchs have their own, compelling reasons for resisting the European pull. Transparency demanded by the Western actors is fundamentally at odds with the opaque deals characteristic for the shared space of interlinked economic and political interests with Russia.
Mr. Platonhiuc who generated part of his wealth in Romania, is considered the most influential man in Moldovan politics. For him, following the European advice means exposing the murky deals between the Moldovan and Russian politicians/businessmen. This would create trouble at home, and risk destabilizing the governing coalition, which balances the interests of Mr. Platonhiuc’s Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) with those of Vlad Filat’s Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PDLM) precariously. The two parties are natural allies in their pro-EU aspirations, but the two leaders compete bitterly for leadership.
“This mess could end with the pro-Russian forces coming to the government,” Barbăroşie says. On September 27, Igor Dodon`s Socialists and Renato Usatii’s Our Party - two parties widely seen as pro-Russian – set their tents just 300 meters away from those of DA. With an estimated 15 to 20 thousand protesters under their red and blue banners, the two parties tried to wrestle the initiative from DA.
“Dodon and Usatii are just followers in this protest,” says an adviser of an influential member of the parliament from the governing coalition, who asked to remain anonymous due to sensitivity of his position. He says the two “can potentially become big beneficiaries of [the popular] anger,” but argues their action is a show of strength rather than a grab for power – at least for now. He also says that while Mr. Dodon and Mr. Usatii are protesting against Plahotniuc`s influence, by dissipating the protest momentum of DA, they seem to be playing into the oligarch’s hands.
“One thing is sure,” says the anonymous advisor, “We will stay in the swamp between Russia and EU for a long time.”
Régis Genté is based in Tbilisi, Georgia. He has been covering politics in the post-Soviet space for Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Le Figaro since 2002.
( ) Read all
Two weeks ago, an emergency decree that would have decriminalized several graft offences enraged people, who took to the streets. Thousands of Romanians in over 70 cities began to #resist for an idea. A new generation spoke up. Digi24 is streaming, today at 21:00, the first documentary about the...( ) Read all
As Moldova recently celebrated its 25th anniversary of Independence, TIMPUL sat down with Prime Minister Pavel Filip to discuss how our country has fared over the past quarter-century. About Moldova’s ups and downs, about plans and prospects, and also about national pride – it’s...( ) Read all
Your Excellency, The interview of your colleague, the Extraordinary and Fully Empowered Ambassador of the United States in America in the Republic of Moldova, His Excellency, Mr. James Pettit, granted to the State television network in Chișinău on August 28, 2016, in which he referred to a...( ) Read all
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the declaration of Moldova’s Independence, IPN News Agency decided to depict the portrait of the current Republic of Moldova. For the purpose, we challenged a number of people, including state officials, politicians, businessmen, civil rights...( ) Read all
An interview with Dainius Žalimas, President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania centres on one of the recent judgments of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova, which has generated much attention and debate and was handed down for the first time to declare the...( ) Read all
People attend a rally in front of the Parliament building in Chisinau, Moldova, Jan. 24, 2016. Some 40,000 opposition demonstrators took to the streets of the capital calling for early elections amid a political crisis.( ) Read all
The dialogue announced by Head of Parliament Andrian Candu with representatives of protesters for January 25 didn’t take place. The Parliament’s press service didn’t provide information about the holding of a meeting, while protesters’ leaders said they haven’t been...( ) Read all
More than 200 women die from cervical cancer in Moldova yearly. Veronica Ciobanu, gynecologist of the Oncological Institute, has told IPN that cervical cancer affects mainly women aged between 35 and 60. The population is to be informed about the prophylaxis and early detection of this disease...( ) Read all
The fire that happened at the shopping center located on Ismail St in Chisinau on January 23 started because the anti-fire rules when using the smoke and fire ventilation system were violated, deputy head of the Chisinau Emergencies Division Liviu Merzancu said in the ordinary meeting of...( ) Read all
The first woman to be Romania’s prosecutor general, Laura Codruţa Kövesi, was only 33 when appointed in 2006. Seven years later, she marked another milestone when she was named the head of the Romanian Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), an institution created to fight high-level...( ) Read all
Moldovan winemaker Purcari’s Freedom Blend was created in 2011 to commemorate Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine’s 20 years of independence from the Soviet Union. But it took on another meaning when Russian tanks rolled into Crimea last year.( ) Read all
The representatives of the PDM, PL and PPEM decided to form a working group that will draft the agreement of the future government coalition.( ) Read all
Former Moldovan prime minister Vlad Filat was arrested on Thursday after he was implicated in the theft of $1 billion (647.02 million pound) from the banking system that has led thousands to camp out in the capital in protest.( ) Read all
When the French engineers and inventors Paul de Faget de Casteljau and Pierre Étienne Bézier came up with the idea of Bézier curves in the middle of the last century — they hardly thought about the fact that in the XXI century — the age of the ideal curves,...( ) Read all
The five countries investigating the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine a year ago are considering setting up an independent international tribunal after Russia vetoed attempts to establish a U.N.-backed court to prosecute suspects.( ) Read all
Participants in the action in Baghramyan Avenue have only one demand – President Serzh Sargsyan must revoke the decision of the Public Services Regulatory Commission raising electricity tariffs from August 1.( ) Read all
Russia is reportedly planning to build a gas pipeline to Germany. Gazprom announced on Thursday that it plans to build a pipeline with a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea with E.ON, Shell, and OMV, according to Kommersant.( ) Read all
It's a mystery that's thrown Europe's poorest nation into deep crisis - $1bn has vanished from three of Moldova's leading banks, much of it passing through UK companies. A confidential report has blamed 28-year-old businessman, Ilan Shor, but in an exclusive BBC interview he proclaims his innocence.( ) Read all
Pro-Russian separatist leaders in the contested regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are now prepared to remain part of Ukraine under a specially recognized status, according to Ukrainian media, a move which has full support from Russian President Vladimir Putin.( ) Read all
It is understandable that in recent months the still-unresolved crisis in Ukraine and renewed Cold War with Russia have commanded the attention of most western watchers of events in the former Soviet Union.( ) Read all
The recent Russian intervention in Ukraine has generated much debate about the use and effectiveness of hybrid warfare, a type of warfare widely understood to blend conventional/unconventional, regular/irregular, and information and cyber warfare.( ) Read all