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Dominika Lange: around the EU

My thoughts on the European Union

Moldova at the crossroads?

According to information provided by the Polish development aid programme Polish Aid, Moldova is the country with a low level of GDP growth and of the other development indicators. “It is one of the most impoverished countries in Europe, largely dependent on foreign aid. Despite good reforms, the economy is based on monoculture, which makes it prone to economic fluctuations and export limitations. A serious problem for the Moldovan economy is its dependence on Russian supplies of raw materials and the existence of the internationally unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic/Transnistria[1].” Nevertheless, despite economic problems, Moldova has built its position among the Eastern Partnership (the EaP) countries as the country, which wants to follow EU’s good governance objectives and applies reforms within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. However, situation in Moldova within its government and corruption scandal, where, according to the national Central Bank, three Moldovan financial institutions granted unknown loans for a total of around €1 billion, just before the parliamentary elections in November 2014, significantly have undermined the EU relation with Moldova.

The importance of Moldova’s current situation cannot be neglected by the EU because of several reasons, which do not only include economic and security issues, but point the stability and success of the Eastern Partnership policy. EU’s activity in Eastern region has been undermined in almost all countries belonging to the EaP and consequently, make this region a crucial area of its foreign policy. Whereas conducting policy coordination in Ukraine is strongly determined by the current political situation with Russia, in Armenia and Azerbaijan the situation mainly derived from their current political attitude. Armenia actively demonstrated willingness to cooperate with Brussels until September 2013 when President Serzh Sargsyan announced that closer ties with the EU was no longer on his agenda. In October 2014, Armenia became a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, thereby joining Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan negotiated an Association Agreement with the EU but then resigned from the idea and proposed an alternative strategic modernisation partnership[2]. In Belarus, almost no EU’s technical assistance projects are provided (except of TAIEX) due to the political situation of the country and a little desire in developing democracy rules. Thus, only Georgia remains still the partner country which cooperates with the EU without any major disruptions and follows to implement bilateral institution-building programmes designed to improve supporting internal institutional and economic reforms.

Moldova still is, along with Georgia and Ukraine, the country which integrates most of EU’s technical assistance programmes provided within the EaP policy, although it has proved that once established pro-EU approach may not last forever. After last parliamentary elections in November 2014, the most pro-European parties, the Democratic Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, established a minority government, which surprisingly supported the pro-Russia Communist Party. In return, the Democrats limited their reform plans. Clearly, no one wants to deny democratically selected representatives, but the new political landscape somehow has indicates changes which in the long-term perspective may be significant in terms of Moldovan society’s approach towards the EU. Elections constitute the most visible opinion about a political shape of state and should be treated as a relevant reflection of future possible social-political scenarios. Thus, despite the still existing majority of pro-European parties in the government, the strongest party in the parliament after last elections in 2014 became the pro-Russian Socialist Party (PSRM), which increased support among voters demonstrates some important shift in citizens’ thinking- rapprochement to the Eurasian Economic Union instead of the EU. This has to be a signal for EU officials to upgrade and reform its attitude towards Moldova and in particular, to its society. While the government’s pro-EU support is definitely a crucial thing to implement desired internal reforms, it is even more important first to express those interests to people and make them aware of common norms and values promoted through the EaP bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Refreshed two-sided approach towards Moldova, namely towards its high government officials and citizens should have the same high priority within the EU agenda as other initiatives within the framework of the Eastern Partnership policy. Although, the financial aspect constitutes a difficult part to re-negotiate in any of agreed EU policies, the additional activities within the society should be strongly encouraged in Moldovan government by the EU. “For many in Moldova, the Russian civilizational model is the only one they are accustomed to; relatively few appreciate and take advantage of visa-free travel to Europe. The EU needs to address its failure in communicating with populations in the Eastern neighborhood, and more effectively promote its intentions and values[3]”. Thus, as Moldova still represents pro-EU attitude in its parliament, the joint cooperation should first of all improves country’s bottom-up approach. Every single technical assistance project promoted by the EU in Eastern countries has its crucial implementation phase at the subordinate levels, which includes individuals responsible for managing accepted reforms and requires their active role in applying new norms and rules. Their attitude may prevail over the policy outcome.

According to Aline Robert (2015), “the official differentiation between the two groups (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus) is a logical step in the evolution of relations since the Vilnius summit. During this period, the EU has provided massive financial support to Ukraine, and to a lesser extent to Moldova and Georgia. The three other countries do not have access to the same levels of financial aid, which is mainly used to support the education and judicial systems, as well as for economic development”[4]. Thus, the alternative solution proposed by Russia in the form of the Eurasian Union, established in January 2015, should be seen as a sign for the EU to strengthen its relations with Eastern partners through more individualistic approach which responds to the actual political position of each country. Although, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have been offered by the Eurasian Economic Union a membership, all three countries opted for the European Union[5]. Hopefully, this will remain Moldova’s the most important goal in its foreign policy.

Some parts of this post come from my master thesis on: “Technical Assistance” in EU foreign policy: to support good governance in the European Neighbourhood Policy. Polish aid in the preparation and implementation of the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy.


[1] https://www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/Moldova,187.html

[2] Azerbaijan is not a member of Eurasian Custom Union, but it is possible that it may happen despite the cooperation with the EU, which currently is rather limited. The economic situation of this partner country to the EU situates its position between those two integration organisations.

[3] Inayeh, A. and Panainte, S. 2015. “The EU and Moldova: How to Liberate a Captured State”, http://www.gmfus.org/blog/2015/06/16/eu-and-moldova-how-liberate-captured-state#sthash.X2z4LGjQ.dpuf

[4] Robert, A. 2015. “Two tier Eastern Partnership on the table at Riga summit.” EurActiv.com, http://www.euractiv.com/sections/europes-east/two-tier-eastern-partnership-table-riga-summit-314726

[5] However, break-away regions, so-called “frozen conflicts” with Russia, of Moldova (Transnistria), Ukraine (Donetsk and Lugansk) and Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) have expressed a desire to join the Eurasian Customs Union and integrate into the Eurasian Economic Union.



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