Panel Discussion on the Moldovan Parliamentary Elections on 13 March 2019

On 13 March 2019 our panel discussion on “Democracy in Moldova after the parlia­mentary elections – what to expect from a new government?” took place in Berlin. The event was organised by the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) in the framework of the Berlin Policy Hub in cooper­ation with the German-Moldovan Forum and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). As experts from the region, repre­sen­ta­tives of two Moldovan think tanks, the Expert-Grup and the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), were invited. Around 50 partic­i­pants joined the discussion on the election results, the state of government formation and the impli­ca­tions for the future of EU-Moldova relations.

Dr. Katrin Böttger welcomed the partic­i­pants and raised the question of how the EU could meaning­fully support the Republic of Moldova in its democ­ratic endeavours. In his intro­ductory remarks the Moldovan ambas­sador, H.E. Dr. Oleg Serebrian, outlined the political devel­op­ments after the elections against the background of a hung parliament.

The following panel discussion featured Iulian Groza, Director of IPRE, Adrian Lupușor, Director of Expert-Grup, Dr. Fritz Felgentreu, Member of Parliament (SPD) and Chairman of the German-Moldovan Forum, as well as Dr. Hans-Peter Hinrichsen as repre­sen­tative of the Federal Foreign Office. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Christina Gherasimov, research fellow at DGAP. Iulian Groza analysed the current political situation in the Republic of Moldova in regard to EU-Moldova relations. According to him, the suspension of the EU’s macro-financial assis­tance last year did not lead to the desired improve­ments regarding democ­ratic standards and the rule of law in the country. In his view it is crucial for the EU to direct its financial support less to the central government than to local, reform-oriented author­ities and repre­sen­ta­tives of civil society. Subse­quently, Adrian Lupușor outlined the social and economic policies of the previous government, which will be a difficult legacy for the incoming government. However, according to him, none of the ruling parties will have an interest in seriously addressing problems such as the chronic budget deficit and in assuming political respon­si­bility for it. He therefore does not expect a stable government to be formed and agreed with Iulian Groza that the EU should focus on other Moldovan actors than the central government.

In his contri­bution Dr. Fritz Felgentreu agreed with the Moldovan experts, but replied that the EU had already partially imple­mented this paradig­matic shift. All in all, he described the results of the parlia­mentary elections as little surprising. They did not give rise to great expec­ta­tions, but they did not close any doors either. Overall, Germany and the EU could only offer their help – impulses for reforms had to come from Moldova itself. Dr. Hans-Peter Hinrichsen stated that there probably would be no substantial change in EU-Moldovan relations. The basic principle of condi­tion­ality provided a suffi­cient framework for cooper­ation. The decisive factor was the will of the prospective government to implement the associ­ation agreement and to carry out the necessary reforms. Provided that the future government acted in a reform-oriented manner, the compo­sition of the government was of secondary impor­tance. However, a potential involvement of the Șor party in the future government could make cooper­ation with the EU consid­erably more difficult. Prior to the elections the party leader Ilan Șor was convicted in the first instance for money laundering and fraud.

In the course of the discussion, the four experts also analysed the election campaign. According to them a “de-geopoliti­ci­sation” of the campaign rhetoric could be observed. Both the Democ­ratic Party (PDM) and the Party of Socialists (PSRM) were largely pursuing a “Moldova first” approach. In addition, domestic instead of foreign policy issues had dominated the election campaign, for example the expansion of social benefits. While the former was a welcome devel­opment, the latter was described by Iulian Groza and Adrian Lupușor as “social populism”, which in itself does not represent a sustainable reform agenda. Rather, the resulting increase of the budget deficit was a burden for the future government. In addition, the experts touched upon the recently intro­duced possi­bility to acquire Moldovan citizenship through the „Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment“ initiative, the demands of the ACUM bloc concerning the fight against corruption, and the pariah status of the Șor Party. Finally, the Moldovan panel­lists agreed that a PDM-led minority government with indirect support from PSRM and Șor seemed most likely at this time.

The Berlin Policy Hub is part of the “Europeanization beyond process” initiative supported by the Open Society Foundation and aims to intensify exchanges between Eastern European think tanks and their German counter­parts and to facil­itate new forms of cooper­ation. The project gives researchers from Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine the oppor­tunity to present their expertise and research results to a German audience, while at the same time gaining a better under­standing of the discourse within Germany on these topics.