Europe Needs to Pay Attention to What’s Happening in Moldova
After five months in power, Maia Sandu’s pro-European government in Moldova has collapsed. President Igor Dodon, whose sympathies are with Russia, has appointed Ion Chicu, a Euroskeptic, as interim prime minister.
The situation worries Moldovans — but it should also worry the EU. Read more
Despite Historical Ties, Moldova Unlikely to Follow Romania’s Path
Unlike my colleague and friend Irina Staver, my culture and native language are not Romanian. I am an expatriate living in the neighboring Republic of Moldova, a country with close cultural and historical ties to Romania.
Yet I have observed with great interest the parallel evolutions of these two countries. A number of similarities thus spring to mind, so that I might be able to draw from the current Romanian context a few lessons for Moldova. Read more
Moldova’s President of Smoke and Mirrors
Moldova’s new president is no friend of liberal democracy. Igor Dodon, who came to power in December, enjoys basking in the glow of Vladimir Putin and his entourage. Read more
Battles and Breaks
While the world was looking at the Russian military campaign in Syria, Russia may have scored a victory in Europe: the government of Valeriu Streleț in Moldova was toppled by a vote of no confidence initiated by pro-Russian parties in the Chișinău parliament. Meanwhile, opposition protesters clashed with police in Montenegro’s capital and the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, visited Moscow. It seemed as if Russia had been on a winning streak. But in reality, Vladimir Putin has too many battles to fight and his own strategy — if there is one — put him under pressure. In fact, Russia is winning only where it does not have to have a strategy. Read more
Communists Back Pro-European Coalition in Moldova
Dependent on the Communist Party for its majority, Moldova’s new government may have to downplay its interest in deepening ties with the rest of Europe.
Parliament voted in a new administration in Chișinău on Wednesday, led by the former businessman Chiril Gaburici. His Liberal Democratic Party won 20 percent support in November’s election, placing it behind the pro-Russian Socialist Party which got 21 percent support.
The Liberal Democrats failed to renew their alliance with the Liberal Party but still govern in coalition with the Democratic Party. Both are centrist and pro-European but do not command a majority in parliament between them. They needed the Communists to keep them in power.
The Communists ruled Moldova before it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Unlike the more radical Socialists, they claim to support integration with the European Union but seek to revise Moldova’s trade agreements with the bloc to shield farmers from competition.
However, Communist Party voters tend to be more sympathetic to Russia and many switched to the Socialists in last year’s election as tensions between Russia and the West mounted over the standoff in Moldova’s neighbor, Ukraine.
If the Socialists do well in local elections that are likely to be called in July, that could raise pressure on the Communists to pull their support from the pro-European coalition.
Russia has hurt Moldova’s economy by banning meat, vegetable and wine exports after the country signed an association agreement with the European Union last summer that put it on a path to membership.
The trade and visa agreements with the European Union have helped buoy the economy but Moldova remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Pro-Europe Parties Lose Support in Moldova, Maintain Majority
Parliamentary elections in Moldova on Sunday showed support for Prime Minister Iurie Leancă’s shift toward the European Union and away from Russia but the ruling pro-Western parties were nevertheless on course to lose several seats as a result of their inability to tackle corruption.
With 85 percent of the votes counted on Monday, the outcome also showed the country eying its former Soviet master with the Communist and Socialist Parties, both of which advocate closer relations with Russia, winning 18 and 21 percent support, respectively.
Russia has hurt Moldova’s economy by banning meat, vegetable and wine exports after the country signed an association agreement with the European Union this summer that put it on a path to membership. Read more
Moldova Next? Voters Asked to Choose Between Europe, Russia
Moldovans are asked to choose between further integration with the rest of Europe or better relations with their former Soviet master, Russia, in parliamentary elections on Sunday. The stark choice is reminiscent of recent events in Ukraine where large demonstrations in favor of closer relations with Europe brought down the government and prompted Russia to back a separatist insurgency in the southeast.
“If before everyone thought it was possible to adapt and find a stable balance between East and West, now, I think, voters really must make a choice between East and West,” Romania’s former foreign minister, Teodor Baconschi, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an interview.
Prime Minister Iurie Leancă’s pro-European parties are at 49 percent in the opinion polls. But his Liberal Democratic Party is neck and neck with the Communists. Both are polling at 21 percent support.
Although the Communist Party that led Moldova until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is generally considered pro-Russian, it is internally divided. Rather it is the mainstream Socialist Party that looks likely to make the most significant gains. It not only favors closer relations with Russia; the party advocates the interests of Moldova’s 9 percent ethnic Russian minority.
An alliance between the two left-wing parties would be complicated. Socialist Party leader Igor Dodon split from the Communists three years ago. He may be more likely to enter into a coalition with the centrist Democratic Party, even if it currently supports Leancă’s government and Moldova’s integration with the European Union.
Moreover, the Communists and Socialists are likely to fall short of a governing majority without the pro-Russian Patria party. It was disqualified from running by the country’s election commission on Thursday which said it had illegally used “foreign funds” to finance its campaign. It was polling at around 12 percent support.
Although most Moldovans favor the government’s pro-European policy, they are also disenchanted with its poor record in fighting corruption.
Economic growth has been volatile. After 7.1 and 6.4 percent growth in 2010 and 2011, the economy contracted .7 percent in 2012 before recovering the following year and expanding 8.9 percent. Figures point to lower growth this year.
Trade and visa agreements with the European Union have helped buoy the economy but Moldova remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.
It has also been hit by Russian import restrictions on meat, vegetables and wine, enacted after Moldova signed an association agreement with the European Union this summer that put it on a path to membership.
A similar association agreement with Ukraine sparked its standoff with Russia. When former president Viktor Yanukovich unexpectedly pulled out of the treaty talks late last year, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the decision. Yanukovich resigned in February and Russian troops moved into the Crimean Peninsula the next month. After it formally annexed the territory, which headquarters its Black Sea fleet, the Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria requested similar admission into the Russian Federation.
Moldova does not appear to have either the capacity or the intention of recovering Transnistria, an enclave on its border with Ukraine that is home to half a million people.
Transnistria looks similar to the self-declared “people’s republic” in eastern Ukraine which have received military support from Russia. However, Russia does not appear to have stepped up support for Transnistria in recent months. It altogether ignored the region’s request for annexation.
Moldova and Russia also recently signed a new contract for natural gas supplies. Like many states in Eastern Europe, Moldova depends almost entirely on Russian gas. But that might change.
A new pipeline with Romania, partially financed by the European Union, was inaugurated last year and is supposed to help provide up to a third of Moldova’s gas requirements by the end of 2014.