The EU member states criticized strongly the slow pace of reforms in Moldova, urging authorities to stick to their commitments and work harder on fighting corruption and money laundering, reforming the judiciary, including the prosecution service, bringing to justice the persons responsible for the massive banking fraud exposed in 2014, and to ensure transparent, inclusive and credible elections and guarantee media freedom and pluralism.
The EU foreign ministers discussed relations with Moldova at their regular meeting on 26 February in Brussels warning the release of the new financial support of 100 million euros will only happen if the conditions for it are met. The conditions, adopted in June 2017 include respect for effective democratic mechanisms, a multi-party parliamentary system, the rule of law, and guarantees for human rights.
Speaking after the meeting the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security Federica Mogherini said the decision for the disbursement of the first tranche of the financial assistance for Moldova has not been taken yet and that further assessment will be needed in order the money to be released.
Mogherini who chaired the meeting underlined
the EU supports Moldova and its citizens, but certain number of measures need to be delivered in order the support to be credible. Our aim is to support the country and the people, and this requires strong and credible national moves by the authorities on anticorruption, reform of judiciary and economic reforms. The two things go together,
the EU top diplomat said after the meeting. She said information from Moldovan citizens and “certain trends in society” made the EU express its position.
In its stance, adopted unanimously by the Council, the EU asks for “satisfactory progress in reforms” and promises to strengthen monitoring. The EU is noting that the “weak governance, politicisation of state institutions, systemic corruption are remaining Moldova’s problems”.
The Bulgarian Presidency of the Council tweeted “maintenance of high standards in human rights in accordance with commitments is important task for the authorities”.
The EU regrets that the new electoral law doesn’t follow the recommendations of the Venice Commission and OSCE. Foreign ministers warn against the lack of consensus on the electoral reform and reiterate concerns that majoritarian candidates are prone to influence from external interests. The EU is asking for monitoring the electoral system starting from the election campaign, through election day and after, especially for the impact of the new rules on the democracy and the multi-party system.
Media freedom in the focus
The modernisation of audiovisual code, the transparency of media ownership and the creation of conditions for independent outlets to prosper will be strictly observed, the Council notes in its conclusions. The document also comments on the recent amendments to the audiovisual code of Moldova and “acknowledges that disinformation and propaganda can have considerable negative effects, but it also notes that the measures adopted should be necessary, proportionate and in conformity with the relevant international law”.
still needs to show a proven track-record of convictions, especially at the high level: “A proven track-record of convictions for corruption and respect of rule of law are key elements to restore the trust of citizens”, the EU ministers are writing. Setting up of autonomous office for prevention and fighting money-laundering is suggested together with establishing mechanisms for identification and freezing of suspicious transactions and assets, for confiscation and recovery. The EU insists an asset declarations and verification system should be put in place and the independence of the anti-corruption institutions should be guaranteed.
More results are expected from Moldova in ensuring the rule of law. Concerns are expressed over the “prosecution of layers, judge and political opponents”. The unfinished investigation of the banking fraud in 2014 is also mentioned in the decision of the Council, which is urging for a “ thorough, impartial and comprehensive investigation and prosecution, with a view to recovering the misappropriated funds and to bringing all those responsible to justice, irrespectively of any political affiliation”.
On the bright side, the EU hails the macroeconomic stability and restored credibility with the international donors but notes the business and investment climate needs to be improved in order Moldova to achieve higher economic growth.
More can be desired on Moldavian side to enforce the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) in force since 2014 and the commitments on intellectual property rights protection, competitiveness and transparency in the energy sector, both for gas and electricity, as well as the tariff-setting for energy and the interconnection projects.
The European Parliament’s speaker on Moldova Petras Auštrevičius (Lithuania, ALDE) said the fight against corruption, media freedom and the new electoral law are very important areas that the Moldovan government still needs to improve:
Structural reforms cannot be implemented without securing basic democratic institutions, such as a free media or fair and credible elections. I therefore particularly join the Council in regretting that the way the election law was amended did lack certain credibility and openness. With this in mind, I welcome these Council conclusions and stand ready to continue working with our Moldovan counterparts in a spirit of frank and genuine partnership.
The conclusions of the Council follow the European Commission’s criticism of Moldova in the report on the implementation of the Visa Suspension Mechanism, published in December 2017. The European Commission alerts for serious delays in fulfillment of commitments and political interference in anticorruption and anti-money laundering measures and calls for ‘immediate actions’.
Council conclusions on Moldova: Full text
OMH Article: Reforms to Achieve Visa Free Travel to the EU Did Not Help Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia Deal with Corruption, Organised Crime
Council endorses agreement on financial assistance to Moldova: Press Release