171 CDS 09 E rev 1 - The Republic of Moldova: Internal Challenges; Prospects for Euro-Atlantic Integration
MARC ANGEL (LUXEMBOURG) - SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
II. THE POLITICAL SITUATION AND THE 5 APRIL AND 29 JULY 2009 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
III. THE UNRESOLVED CONFLICT OVER TRANSDNIESTRIA
IV. CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS OF THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH NATO AND THE EU
1. The parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova on 5 April 2009 have led to a serious political crisis, with repercussions both at the domestic level and in the Republic of Moldova’s relations with some of its international partners. These developments demonstrate the persistent fragility of a country which, underneath an apparent political stability, is still riven by deep fault lines with a whole variety of consequences for its politics, socio-economic life and its foreign policy.
2. The early elections on 29 July 2009 have brought a new majority to office, which will have the difficult task of breaking the political deadlock in the country and reassigning priority to reforms, both political – to respond to the problems which the political crisis in the spring revealed anew – and economic – in particular to deal with the effects of the worldwide economic and financial crisis on the country.
3. Moreover, the new government will doubtless be anxious to reopen negotiations to resolve the conflict in Transdniestria, which also appear to be deadlocked, despite a recent series of direct meetings between Vladimir Voronin, the former Moldovan president, and Igor Smirnov, the selfproclaimed president of Transdniestria.
4. The new government has made European integration its first priority. It will be interesting to see what positive action it will take in this area. For its part, the European Union will have to show that it is capable of supporting the Moldovan authorities in their willingness to embrace reform and integration. As discussed later in this report, the issue of relations with NATO is still a more complex one, and major changes are unlikely in the short term.
5. The aim of this report is to examine the main features of the present situation in Moldova: the internal political situation and the tension surrounding the 5 April 2009 parliamentary elections and leading to the organisation of fresh elections on 29 July; the status of negotiations on the resolution of the conflict over Transdniestria; and the prospects and challenges of the partnerships which Moldova has built with NATO and the European Union (EU). The report on the visit by the SubCommittee on Democratic Governance to the Republic of Moldova on 2-4 November 2009 provides additional information on some of these points.
6. The parliamentary elections on 5 April 2009 led to a major crisis in the country, and were followed by the dissolution of the new Parliament barely a month after its inauguration and the organisation of fresh elections on 29 July. Unfortunately these events helped to reignite tensions over the issue of identity and reopened deep fault lines, of both ethno-linguistic and political character, which divide the people of Moldova.
7. The last census, taken in 2004, showed more than 75 % of the population claiming Moldovan identity, whereas only 2 % claim to be Romanian1. The same figures show 8.4 % of Moldovan citizens identifying themselves as Ukrainian and 5.9 % as Russian. However, these figures do not include the estimated 540,000 inhabitants of Transdniestria, 60 % of whom are, in a roughly halfand-half proportion, Ukrainian or Russian.
8. When it comes to political orientation, two opposing poles may be identified: on the one hand, the generally Russian-speaking population that on the whole favours close relations with Moscow, and, on the other hand, part of the Romanian-speaking population, that is attached to its historic links to Romania. However, a large part of the population is half-way between the two extremes, and is attached to Moldovan independence and to the Moldovan cultural identity.
9. Moldovan political life reflects the divisions in society, and is thus markedly polarised. The Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (Partidul Comunistilor din Republica Moldova, PCRM) has dominated the political scene since 2001. Traditionally, its electoral grassroots lie among the Russian-speakers and the rural classes. However, the party’s pro-European move in 2003 enabled it to broaden its electoral appeal, by attracting a younger cross-section of the population, more interested in Europe. So far, the PCRM has managed to accommodate the two tendencies among its supporters, by maintaining a degree of ambiguity towards both Moscow and Europe, alternating careful rapprochement with critical reserve.
10. There is a range of parties at the opposite end of the political spectrum with similar programmes, based on an anti-Communist and proEuropean stance. Until recently they remained divided, organised around leaders with strong personalities. Despite obtaining good results, they had not managed to unite in a common front against the PCRM.
11. The 5 April parliamentary elections were seen as a significant test both for the ruling party and for the opposition, especially as Vladimir Voronin, the President of the Republic and the leader of the PCRM, was approaching the end of his term in office and the new Parliament would be responsible for electing his successor.
12. Moldova’s unicameral Parliament is made up of 101 members, elected for a four-year term, with proportional representation by party lists, in one round of voting nationwide. Several reforms introduced during the pre-election period were roundly criticised by the competent international institutions, in particular: a) the banning of double nationals from several categories of elected and political positions; b) the raising of the threshold for the number of votes required to obtain a seat in Parliament (6% for the lists and 3% for independent candidates); and c) the banning of preelectoral alliances.
13. Twelve lists and five independent candidates were in contention on 5 April. It should be stressed that the ballot was not held in Transdniestria, because of the political situation in the region; nonetheless ten special polling stations had been set up there to enable residents of Transdniestria to participate in the elections. Preliminary results had given the PCRM a wide margin of victory, with 49.48 % of the votes (compared to 50 % in the previous elections in 2005), and 60 seats, or five more than in the previous Parliament. In addition, three opposition parties had crossed the 6% threshold: Mihai Ghimpu’s Liberal Party (Partidul Liberal, PL) (13.14 % of the votes, 15 seats); Vlad Filat’s Liberal Democrat Party of Moldova (Partidul Liberal Democrat din Moldova, PLDM) (12.43 %, 15 seats) and the “Our Moldova Alliance” (Alianta Moldova Noastra, AMN), led by Serafim Urecheanu (9.77 % of the votes, 11 seats).
14. The International Election Observation Mission consisting of delegations from the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE, from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and from the European Parliament, had concluded in its preliminary report: “The 5 April 2009 parliamentary elections took place in an overall pluralistic environment, offering voters distinct political alternatives and meeting many of the OSCE and Council of Europe commitments. Further improvements are required to ensure an electoral process free from undue administrative interference and to increase public confidence.”2 The assessment was thus on the whole positive, but nonetheless the international observers had identified important shortcomings, in particular numerous allegations of intimidation of voters and candidates, and probable irregularities in the compilation of voter lists.
15. The post-election period has been characterised by numerous complaints and by a major political crisis. The election results were immediately disputed by the opposition parties, which complained about a manipulation of voter lists. At the same time, large demonstrations by several thousands of people – mainly young people – took place in Chisinau in the days following the elections, denouncing electoral fraud and the PCRM’s policies. Unfortunately however, these demonstrations, described initially as a spontaneous impulse of revolt and frustration on the part of Moldovan young people against the political authorities they hold responsible for the country’s political and economic stagnation, turned ugly on 7 April when the demonstrators attacked the Presidential Palace and ransacked the Parliament building. Three people are reported to have died in these events – the Moldovan authorities have recognised only one death directly connected to the demonstrations – and more than 200 are said to have been injured.
16. This violence has been widely condemned by the authorities, by the opposition parties, and by the international community. Nonetheless it has fuelled mutual accusations by government and opposition. The opposition movements allege that the events were organised and manipulated by the authorities themselves in order to undermine their credibility and to justify a hardening of the regime’s conduct. The Moldovan authorities, for their part, have accused the movement of being stagemanaged from abroad, in particular from Romania, with the aim of overturning the regime in a scenario of colour-coded revolutions modelled on what happened in Georgia and Ukraine; these allegations are firmly refuted by Bucharest.
17. Tensions between Moldova and Romania subsequently increased following Chisinau’s decision to expel the Romanian Ambassador and another diplomat – both declared persona non grata - its rejection of the new candidate proposed by Bucharest for the post of ambassador and the imposition of a visa requirement for Romanian nationals wishing to enter Moldova. Bucharest viewed this measure as a violation of the visa-facilitation agreement signed between the EU and Moldova, since it imposed discrimination between EU nationals on the grounds of their nationality. For his part, the Romanian President has openly accused the Moldovan authorities of having provoked and allowed the violence. However, Bucharest has chosen to take no measures of reprisal. On the contrary, it has reaffirmed its support for the democratisation process in Moldova and the country’s integration in Euro-Atlantic structures. In addition, Romania has announced that the law of citizenship will be revised so that the procedure for obtaining and recovering Romanian citizenship will be simplified for certain categories of Moldovan nationals. Though taken in the light of every state’s sovereign right to define its rules for granting citizenship, this decision nonetheless carries the risk of further widening divisions in Moldovan politics and society as to its relationships with neighbouring Romania. The accession to power of the new coalition following the 29 July elections has helped the thaw in relations between Chisinau and Bucharest; this will be examined further below.
18. Many areas of uncertainty still remain today, due to the absence of an independent enquiry into the events of 7 April. Although Mr Voronin, the outgoing President, had ordered the establishment of a commission of enquiry consisting of members of Parliament, ministers and representatives of civil society, there seems to have been no further action on this initiative.
19. The Moldovan authorities’ response to post-election violence has also given rise to severe criticism. It is estimated that more than 200 people were arrested following the demonstrations. Several international bodies have confirmed that demonstrators were subjected to police violence, that those arrested were held in unacceptable conditions, and that the legal guarantees of a fair trial were generally ignored. The restrictions on freedom of expression imposed by the authorities in response to the demonstrations have also been denounced by competent bodies.
20. The authorities’ management of the post-electoral process has also been criticised. The final report by the ODIHR on the 5 April elections, published in July, notes that “[t]he observation of post-election day developments revealed further shortcomings that challenged some OSCE commitments, in particular the disregard for due process in adjudicating complaints of alleged irregularities and deficiencies in the compilation of voter lists lodged by opposition political parties”. As to the allegations of electoral fraud, the ODIHR concludes that “[w]hile most cases appeared credible, evidence presented to the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission was limited. A comprehensive analysis and thorough investigation would have been indispensable to reach authoritative conclusions on this issue”.
21. The Central Electoral Commission announced the final results of the election on 21 April after a recount, in which the opposition parties refused to participate. Some minor adjustments were made to the scores of the different political parties (PCRM: 49.5 % of votes; PL: 13.1 %; PLDM: 12.4 %; AMN: 9.8 %) and to the turn-out figure (57.5 % instead of 59.5%), but the apportioning of parliamentary seats remained unchanged.
22. The new Parliament’s first task was to elect a new President of the Republic to succeed Mr Voronin. The Moldovan Constitution provides for election of a president by a three-fifths majority, i.e. 61 seats. Although the PCRM was only one vote short of this threshold the opposition remained united, depriving the PCRM of the requisite majority in the two rounds organised on 20 May and 3 June 2009. In accordance with the Constitution, Mr Voronin was compelled to dissolve Parliament and call early parliamentary elections for 29 July.
23. Some amendments were made to the electoral law with these elections in mind, in accordance with OSCE recommendations. These include, inter alia, a lowering of the minimum threshold required to obtain seats from 6% to 5% and of the minimum turn-out figure essential for a valid election from 50% to 33%. Contrary to expectation, the elections led to a high turn-out, reaching 58.8%, even higher than the turn-out for the April elections.
24. The PCRM remained the leading party in the country with slightly less than 45% of the votes, but has lost 12 seats compared with the April results. With 48 seats it alone no longer has the majority. From now on four other parties are represented in the new Parliament. The PLDM, with 16.5% and 18 seats, improved on its April score. The PL, with 14.7% of the votes, retained its 15 seats. The AMN, with 7.3% of the votes, took 7 seats, 4 less than in the April elections. The Democratic Party of Moldova (Partidul Democrat din Moldova, PDM) benefited from the presence at the head of the list of Marian Lupu, the former President of the Moldovan Parliament, who had decided to leave the PCRM in June. It gained 12.5% of the votes, i.e. 13 seats.
25. The International Observation Mission’s assessment of the elections is again qualified. The report concludes that the elections “overall were well administered, allowing for competition of political parties representing a plurality of views. Many of the OSCE and Council of Europe commitments were met; however, the campaign environment was negatively affected by subtle intimidation, and bias in media coverage.” The observers mention a highly polarised campaign atmosphere marked by mutual accusations linked in particular with the events of April. Moreover, they raise many of the same problems identified during previous elections. In particular, the quality of voter lists is still open to question, because the national database project could not be fully implemented due to lack of time. Therefore the observers call for continuing democratic reforms in order to restore public confidence.
26. In the days following the elections the four parties in the liberal opposition signed an agreement to form a coalition government, which they called “Alliance for European Integration”. Taken together, these parties have a comfortable majority of 53 out of 101 seats, which is, however, insufficient for them to be able to elect their candidate for the presidency of the Republic – Mr Lupu – without the support of the PCRM.
27. The first session of Parliament was held on 28 August 2009. Alliance deputies elected Mihai Ghimpu, the leader of the Liberal Party, President of the Parliament in the absence of the PCRM, who had asked for the vote to be postponed. Moreover, Mr Voronin officially left office as President of the Republic on 11 September 2009. Mr Ghimpu acted as interim President pending the election of a new President. Negotiations that are likely to be difficult are in progress between the Alliance parties and the PCRM to form a sufficient majority for this election, thus avoiding a fresh political crisis. A first vote is scheduled for 23 October 2009. Should Parliament again find it impossible to elect the President, fresh elections would have to be organised3.
28. The new government, led by Vlad Filat, took office on 25 September 2009. In his inaugural speech the new Prime Minister set 5 priorities for his government:
29. The first measures adopted by the new government include goodwill gestures directed towards Bucharest. Thus the imposition of visas for Romanian citizens wishing to visit Moldova has been lifted. Moreover, the new Romanian ambassador to Chisinau is soon to take office. These measures will doubtless help to speed up the normalisation of relations between Chisinau and Bucharest, and by extension between Moldova and EU authorities.
30. Last year’s war between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia has drawn renewed attention to Europe’s other so-called “frozen conflicts”. Moldova’s breakaway province of Transdniestria is one such example; over fifteen years after the ceasefire and Transdniestria’s declaration of independence, attempts at settling the conflict have remained unsuccessful. The conflict over Transdniestria is the closest geographically to the European Union, whose Eastern borders are only 100 km away.
31. The territory which is now Moldova has had an eventful history. Between 1918 and 1991 alone, it was at various points united as part of Romania, split between Romania and the Soviet Union, or united as part of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR). The MSSR was first established from 1940 to 1941, and re-established at the end of the Second World War. In the period when Moldova’s current territory was split – between 1918 and 1940 – the dividing line was the Dniestr River, which today marks the separation between Transdniestria (on the left bank of the river, but also including the city of Tighina on the right bank) and the rest of Moldova (on the right bank).
32. Moldova’s Declaration of independence in August 1991 was preceded by a period of national awakening, which created tensions between the authorities and minority populations, in particular the Russophone communities on the left bank of the Dniestr. Transdniestria proclaimed itself an independent Republic by referendum in December 1991, establishing its own institutions. At the same time, an armed conflict broke out, with violence escalating throughout the spring of 1992. A ceasefire was signed in July 1992, with a 10 km demilitarised security zone established on both banks of the Dniestr River. The settlement was enforced by a tripartite – Russian, Moldovan and Transdniestrian – peacekeeping force.
33. Although the 1992 ceasefire has held, the political status of Transdniestria’s territory remains “frozen”. Moldovan authorities are unable in practice to exercise sovereignty over the left bank of the Dniestr. Meanwhile, Transdniestria developed its own institutions. It is organised as a presidential Republic, with its own government, Parliament, military, police, postal system and currency – the Transdniestrian ruble. Its authorities have adopted a constitution, flag, national anthem and coat of arms. In a referendum organised in September 2006, an overwhelming majority of the population of Transdniestria confirmed the entity’s independence and approved an eventual integration into Russia. Thus far, however, no state has recognised Transdniestria as independent.
34. Elections are regularly held in Transdniestria, but these are neither observed nor recognised by competent international bodies. The latest elections to the Supreme Council were held in December 2005 and resulted in victory for the “Renewal” movement, a party competing with the party of Igor Smirnov, the self-proclaimed president of Transdniestria but which, like him, advocates the province’s independence. This victory by the Renewal party, consisting mainly of businessmen in favour of a more liberal economic policy, had been a sign of possible developments on the Transdniestrian political scene. Nonetheless in December 2006 Mr Smirnov, in power since 1991, was re-elected for a fourth five-year term with 82% of the votes. In general, the approach to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Transdniestrian authorities has been severely criticised by independent observers. The Freedom House organisation puts the province in the “not free” category of political regimes, stressing that it is impossible for residents of Transdniestria to participate in Moldovan elections, and pointing to discrimination against the Moldovan-speaking population, restrictions on press freedom and freedom of movement and the lack of independence of the judiciary.4
35. Internationally mediated settlement talks have so far failed to promote a resolution of the conflict. Since 2005 the principal negotiation framework is the 5+2 format, in which talks between Chisinau and Tiraspol are mediated by the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine. The United States and the EU have observer status. However, these 5+2 talks soon faltered, and only informal meetings have been held since.
36. The year 2008 brought reasons for optimism, but also new dynamics in international efforts at a settlement of the conflict. Russia adopted a pro-active policy, taking the lead role in an international context marked by the war in Georgia. This Russian activism has nevertheless been seen by the other international mediators as an attempt to sidestep 5+2 talks.
37. In April and again in December 2008, the Moldovan President and the self-proclaimed President of Transdniestria met for the first time in seven years to discuss prospects of resuming the negotiation process and developing confidence-building measures in the socio-economic field. Another meeting took place on 18 March 2009 under the auspices of Russian President Medvedev. The exact terms of the discussion and the proposals made by Moscow remain unclear, particularly on the question of future peacekeeping arrangements – a Russian or an international force.
38. The Moldovan government has appeared willing to accept certain Russian conditions, but not a Russian military presence in a reunified Moldova. Already in 2003, Moscow attempted to take the lead with a proposal for a federal Moldovan state, referred to as the “Kozak memorandum” from the name of former advisor to then-President Putin, Dmitri Kozak. While initially favourable, the Moldovan President later rejected this Russian proposal, which was strongly opposed by other international mediators. While former President Voronin accepted the latest Russian mediation, he also regularly insisted on preserving the 5+2 framework. Tiraspol’s decision, at the end of March 2009, to impose a travel ban on EU and US negotiators, might have overstepped Chisinau’s “red lines” and could therefore mark the end of Moscow-mediated talks.
39. Almost 20 years of living apart have created a rift and a sense of estrangement between populations in Transdniestria and in the rest of Moldova. Transdniestria has built up links with Russia, which supports it with cheap gas, monthly $10 stipends to pensioners, the granting of Russian passports to Transdniestrian residents, and the presence of its military. Nevertheless, more than in any other “frozen” conflict situations, there are also regular people-to-people contacts and exchanges, and analysts generally consider that of all unresolved conflicts in the Black Sea region, Transdniestria stands the best chance of a settlement.
40. The focus of settlement efforts in recent years has been on promoting confidence-building measures, as well as on strengthening the rule of law on the territory of Transdniestria. Moldovan authorities themselves support a strategy of the “3 Ds”: democratisation, demilitarisation, and decriminalisation. However, some of these measures – in particular the establishment of a new customs regime with Ukraine, requiring businesses to be registered with official Moldovan authorities – have not been well received in Tiraspol.
41. Settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict is obviously one of the principal priorities of the new government in Chisinau. In his inaugural address the new Prime Minister summarised the key principles of Moldovan policy on this issue: settlement of the conflict by peaceful means on the basis of the Moldovan Constitution and laws and international standards; negotiations in the 5+2 framework; the simultaneous use of internal incentives (helping to make Moldova more attractive to the residents of Transdniestria) and diplomatic measures (consistency of the message for partners); a greater role for the European Union in settling the conflict; promoting Russia’s contribution to a comprehensive and viable settlement of the conflict respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova. However, the new authority in Chisinau will have to face two tricky problems: in the short term, as long as no agreement can be found on the election of the new President of the Republic, the uncertainty over the new government’s stability is likely to put it in a weak position in any negotiation; in the long term, the coalition in power will have to show that the pro-European trend in its foreign policy will not endanger the links that a substantial part of the Transdniestrian population wishes to retain with Russia.
42. Gagauzia, an autonomous territorial entity, is often mentioned as a possible model, or at least a positive precedent, for a settlement of the Transdniestrian issue. Since 1944 Gagauzia, a region in southern Moldova where most of the population is ethnically Turkic and Orthodox Christian in religion, has had the advantage of extensive autonomy in the management of its affairs, as well as autonomous institutions. Several major issues relating to implementation of the Gagauzia Autonomy Act and the compatibility of the Gagauzian legal system with the Moldovan Constitution and laws have still not been resolved, and have occasionally embittered relations between Comrat and Chisinau in the past. Nonetheless, preservation of the autonomy of Gagauzia is widely regarded as a success for Moldova and a good example of peaceful settlement of an ethno-identity dispute.
43. Moldova has developed partnerships with both NATO and the European Union. However, NATO integration remains a more divisive issue than EU integration. As a result, the EU also enjoys greater leverage to influence the course of reforms in the country. In addition, the EU plays a more direct and active role in promoting a resolution of the Transdniestrian conflict.
44. Moldova has developed a wide-ranging partnership with NATO. However, it does not have any ambition to become a NATO member. An important element in this regard is the country’s constitutionally-proclaimed status of neutrality.
45. Moldova has participated in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme since 1994 and in the PfP Planning and Review Process since 1997. In May 2006, Moldova concluded its first Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), a document designed to bring the host of co-operation mechanisms within one coherent framework and thus provide more targeted support for reforms. Chisinau concluded the first cycle of implementation of its IPAP in 2008.
46. In the IPAP framework, co-operation has focused primarily on supporting defence and security sector reform; specifically, NATO has assisted Moldova with the preparation of strategic documents, and with improving defence planning and budgeting, as well as military education and training. A second major pillar of co-operation relates to military interoperability. Moldova has declared a range of units available for PfP activities on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, five Moldovan helicopters currently support the UN mission in Afghanistan.
47. The Alliance regularly affirms its support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, and for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Transdniestria within the existing framework for negotiation. While NATO has no direct role in the resolution of this conflict, it has a direct interest in certain aspects of the conflict which relate to the implementation of the adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) and to the agreements reached at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit, known as the Istanbul Commitments. The latter include in particular formal deadlines for the withdrawal or destruction by Russia of all CFE-limited equipment located on the territory of Georgia and Moldova, and for the withdrawal of Russian troops stationed in Georgia and Transdniestria. However, this process of Russian withdrawal has been stalled for years. In July 2007, in a context of increasing tensions between Russia and the United States regarding plans for the establishment of a missile defence shield in Europe, Moscow decided to formally suspend its participation to the CFE Treaty.
48. The Alliance in turn has on multiple occasions stated that it will not support any settlement that does not fulfil the Istanbul Commitments. NATO members, as well as the government of Moldova, have taken the political decision not to ratify the adapted CFE Treaty until Russia meets its obligations under the Istanbul Commitments, including withdrawal of Russian troops from Transdniestria. At the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April 2009 the Heads of State and Government of the Alliance again reaffirmed their commitment to the CFE Treaty and called upon Russia to reconsider what is called the “parallel actions” package put forward by the Allies. This aims to break the current deadlock by providing for a series of actions to be taken in parallel by Russia on outstanding commitments regarding Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, and by the Allies on ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty. However, the after-effects of the August 2008 war in Georgia have made negotiations in this area even more complicated, and there has been no official discussion recently.
49. Although an upgrade in Moldova-NATO relations seems unlikely in the near future, particularly because of the country’s neutral status, the new majority in power might seek to give co-operation with NATO a fresh impetus. It is interesting to note in this respect that the campaign programmes of 3 of the 4 coalition parties were calling for an upgrade in relations with the Alliance, but with important qualifications.5 The governing coalition’s programme does not mention NATO specifically, and in his inaugural address Vlad Filat, the new Prime Minister, made only an indirect reference to upgrading political, economic, social and security links with the Euro-Atlantic community, as one of the priorities in Moldova’s bilateral relations with the United States. It should also be noted that the conditions set by the PCRM for its support for the majority’s candidate for the presidency of the Republic include inter alia the preservation of Moldova’s neutral status and no membership of military alliances.6 In this respect it is still too early to say what direction the new government will take on the NATO issue.
50. Nevertheless it is interesting to note that in a press release at the end of August, before his inauguration as Prime Minister, Mr Filat floated the idea of organising a referendum in 2 or 3 years on Moldova’s membership of the Alliance, with a careful note that for the present the neutrality clause in the Moldovan Constitution precluded any membership and that any referendum would have to be preceded by an active information campaign to explain to citizens the potential advantages and disadvantages of membership.
51. Current opinion polls show that unanimous support for NATO membership is still a long way off. Consultation by the Chisinau Institute for Public Policy of a sample of 1500 people in July 2009 shows that, assuming a referendum were held on Moldova’s NATO membership, 46.4% of those polled would vote “no”, and only 20.7% would vote “yes”. Moreover, in reply to the question “what is the best way to guarantee the security of the country?”, 57.5% of those polled referred to neutrality, as against 16.6% referring to NATO membership.
52. Whatever the country’s final decision regarding its future relations with NATO may be, it seems to your Rapporteur that it would be in everyone’s interest to press for better information for the people of Moldova on NATO and on the active and multidimensional co-operation that Moldova has already entered into with the Alliance. The NATO PA intends to continue to play an active part in this area, as far as it can and in close co-operation with the Moldovan parliamentary delegation to the NATO PA.
B. THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA’S RELATIONS WITH THE EU
54. The Republic of Moldova and the EU first established contractual relations in 1994 through a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), which entered into force in 1998. The agreement outlined a framework for political dialogue, trade liberalisation, legislative harmonisation and cooperation in a range of sectors. However, Chisinau’s commitment to EU integration remained hesitant until 2003, when the Moldovan President set a decisively pro-European course for the country.
55. Following the launch of the ENP in 2004 the PCA served as the basis for the elaboration of a joint EU-Moldova ENP Action Plan. The Action Plan was adopted in February 2005 for a period of three years. It sets out the strategic objectives of the relationship between Moldova and the EU. Moldova is invited to enter into intensified political, security, economic and cultural relations with the EU, to enhance cross border co-operation and to share responsibility in conflict prevention and resolution. The Union, on its part, offers the prospect of a stake in its internal market and further economic integration.
56. Co-operation under the Action Plan includes several main priority fields: political dialogue and reform; co-operation for the settlement of the Transdniestria conflict; economic and social reform and development; trade-related issues; market and regulatory reform; justice and home affairs; transport; energy; telecommunications; environment; research and innovation; and peopleto-people contacts. The goal is to elaborate and implement sectoral strategies and policies which are in line with EU policies and legislations. The EU and Moldova agreed to maintain the current Action Plan as an instrument to strengthen reforms and EU-Moldova relations beyond February 2008.
57. A further deepening of relations with Moldova is also underway within the framework of the new EU Eastern Partnership. This initiative seeks to propose to the EU’s Eastern neighbours a “step change” in their relations with the Union, which should bring a lasting political message of EU solidarity, alongside additional tangible support for democratic and market-oriented reforms and the consolidation of the partners’ statehood and territorial integrity. Nevertheless, as is the case of the ENP, the issue of EU membership is not addressed by the Eastern Partnership.
58. The Eastern Partnership was formally launched on 7 May 2009 at a summit meeting with the partner countries organised by the Czech Presidency. Nonetheless the absence of many Heads of State and Government of EU member-States was seen as showing a certain lack of interest, although the Eastern Partnership is intended to symbolise a renewal and strengthening of relations. Moreover, as regards partner countries, the absence of the Belarusian and Moldovan Presidents clearly revealed the potential difficulties likely to confront the Partnership in the future.
59. In practice, the Partnership’s bilateral track will provide for the upgrading of contractual relations through new Association Agreements (AAs) to supersede the current PCAs, including prospects for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) with each country that could eventually lead to the establishment of a Neighbourhood Economic Community in the longer term. A further part of that package includes: progressive visa liberalisation regimes and the conclusion of “mobility and security pacts”, deeper co-operation to enhance the energy security of the partners and the EU, and support for economic and social policies designed to reduce disparities within each partner country and across borders. The new contractual framework for a stronger engagement, however, will be negotiated only with partners that are willing and able to take on the resulting farreaching reforms and commitments with the EU.
60. The Republic of Moldova and the EU are to begin discussing a new and more far-reaching co-operation agreement this autumn, intended to replace the current PCA. The programme of the new coalition in power makes the conclusion of an AA with the EU one of its foreign policy priorities. In this respect the formation of the new government and the decision to reconsider the visa requirements for Romanian citizens have removed two major obstacles to these negotiations and should help to re-establish less troubled relations with the Union.
61. Besides the process of political and economic integration, another important aspect of Moldova’s relations with the EU is connected with the conflict in Transdniestria. In recent years, the EU has taken a more active role in promoting a political solution to the conflict. It participates as observer in the 5+2 negotiations. In addition, following a joint request from the Moldovan and Ukrainian Presidents, the EU established, in December 2005, an EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) to monitor the Transdniestrian section of the common Moldova-Ukraine border. The Mission has helped build capacities of the Moldovan and Ukrainian customs and border guard services, and enhance inter-agency co-operation within Moldova as well as between Moldova and Ukraine. Its activities have contributed to a more transparent management of the Moldova-Ukraine border, improving customs services and increasing customs revenue. Coupled with the introduction in 2006 of a new customs regime, whereby all import-export companies based in Moldova and active in Ukraine have to register with authorities in Chisinau, EUBAM has also helped curb unregulated economic activity, smuggling and trafficking through the Transdniestrian section of the border. The EUBAM mandate has been extended until the end of 2011.
62. In the medium and the long-terms, several challenges will most likely affect Moldova’s relationship with the EU. First is the issue of eventual membership. Moldovan authorities have indicated on several occasions that the country aspires to benefit from the same status as countries of the Western Balkans in relations with the EU, rather than be categorised as an “Eastern neighbour”. The new coalition in power, which has made European integration the “absolute priority” in its foreign policy, will also doubtless seek to pursue even fuller integration by Moldova into the EU.7 However, neither the ENP nor the Eastern Partnership deal with membership prospects for the Eastern neighbours. Since the accession of Romania to the EU, another major issue is that of visa liberalisation and freedom of movement, the concern being that the EU’s enlargement would mean new walls being erected between Romania and the Republic of Moldova. Romania’s generous citizenship laws – which allow many Moldovan citizens to acquire Romanian citizenship – was partly a response to these fears; however implementation of these measures may also prove very tricky. Lastly, the Union’s ability to contribute to a settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict, and if need be to any new peacekeeping arrangement that might be put in place, will be an important test of the credibility of EU action in Moldova.
63. The parliamentary elections on 5 April 2009 in the Republic of Moldova initiated a serious political crisis which helped to refuel a number of domestic tensions, leading to a worsening of Moldova’s relations with some of its neighbours and international partners, and crippling institutions at a time when the country was suffering the effects of the worldwide financial and economic crisis. Nonetheless, the democratic process continued on its course, and after fresh elections held on 29 July 2009 the political forces in the country seemed determined henceforth to pursue a constructive dialogue in order to put an end to the political crisis and reassign priority to the necessary political, economic and social reforms. The resolution of the constitutional crisis surrounding the election of the President of the Republic and the resumption of political dialogue, are also essential to the pursuit of the country’s foreign policy goals.
64. The NATO-Moldova partnership within the IPAP and PARP framework has helped in implementing substantial and necessary reforms in the defence and security sector. NATO has a unique experience and expertise in these matters, and the co-operation with the Alliance in these areas is in no way incompatible with the country’s neutrality. It would doubtless be useful to keep the Moldovan people better informed on the various aspects of this co-operation. The members of the Moldovan Parliament have an important part to play here, as essential channels of communication with the public. The NATO PA, as a key forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue on NATO issues, hopes for continuing active co-operation with the Parliament of Moldova and the Moldovan Delegation to the NATO PA.
65. With the launch of the Eastern Partnership, the European Union intended to breathe new life into its relations with its neighbours in the East. The success of this welcome initiative will depend above all on the commitment of all parties. The partners should take full advantage of this new framework for co-operation. The Union will have to show that it is ready to make the necessary resources available to gain the ambitious objectives of the Partnership. Since 2003 Moldova has embarked upon a policy firmly oriented towards European integration. Although substantial progress has been made since in terms of reforms, much still remains to be done in order to realise all the objectives of the EU-Moldova partnership. The planned adoption of a new cooperation agreement might be the opportunity for a renewal of relations between Brussels and Chisinau. In this connection one cannot but welcome statements by the new government emerging from the 29 July elections, which has made European integration the absolute priority in the country’s foreign policy.
66. Historically the European project has been built around the principle of neighbourly relations. In this respect, regional co-operation and European integration are complementary processes, which help to consolidate a European stability and security space. Moldova’s active participation in regional co-operation arrangements should therefore be welcomed and encouraged. Besides, it is important for the progressive normalisation of relations with Romania to continue, finally culminating in serene relations between the two countries. Bucharest and Chisinau have much to gain from active and multidimensional co-operation.
67. The unresolved conflict in Transdniestria rarely makes the front page in the western media. However, Transdniestria is barely a hundred kilometres from the frontiers of the European Union, and little progress has been made towards resolving this conflict, which has now lasted for 17 years. Any unresolved conflict situation is a potential source of instability. It is therefore essential to continue drawing the international community’s attention to the conflict in Transdniestria, to guard against any likelihood of deterioration in the situation in this region at all costs and not to relax the effort to arrive at a peaceful solution to the conflict. Negotiations in the 5+2 framework must resume as soon as possible. Priority must be given to specific proposals to re-establish confidence and to forge ahead.