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New government, old challenges – Political and economic prospects for Moldova in 2020

Optimarc / Shutterstock
Optimarc / Shutterstock

What reform policies is the new Moldovan government pursuing? What is the thematic focus? Are relations with Russia or the EU being strengthened? Experts from Moldova discussed these and other questions on the assessment of the situation in the shadow of the pandemic.

On 12 February 2020, the Berlin Policy Hub at the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) organized a round table discussion on the political and economic prospects for Moldova in 2020 as well as the challenges that the new Moldovan government is facing. Three Moldovan experts were invited to share their insights: Iulian GROZA, Executive Director, Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), Adrian LUPUȘOR, Executive Director, Expert-Grup as well as Stanislav GHILETCHI, Deputy Executive Director, Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE). The expert statements were complemented by a commentary from Dr Tobias TUNKEL, Head of Division for Russia, Belarus, Moldova, CIS; EU External Relations with Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus, Central Asia including the Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea Cooperation at the German Federal Foreign Office.

After introductory remarks by Dr Funda TEKIN, Director at IEP, the ground was prepared for a fruitful discussion, moderated by our colleague Dr Cristina GHERASIMOV, Research Associate at the Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

Where does Moldova stand with regard to its good governance reform process?

After the break-up of the tactical coalition between the ACUM alliance and the Socialist Party in November 2019 over the appointment procedure for the Prosecutor General, a new “technocratic” government was established by the Socialist Party. 90 days into the government, the overall perception is that reform processes which were initiated under the previous government are not continued with the same speed or even put on hold. The Moldovan government is declaring to pursue a “new balanced foreign policy”, a narrative that the President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, is promoting. This approach would imply a more balanced relation between Moldova and the European Union as well as with Russia. In fact these relations could be considered as rather unbalanced as the orientation of the new government seem to be much stronger towards Moscow than to Brussels. The Moldovan government is furthermore declaring that it is continuing to pursue the implementation of the Association Agreement. However, according to the experts from Moldova, these declarations are not yet followed by concrete actions. Within the justice sector reform, a re-shift to an internal reform process could be observed. This is conducted without the initially foreseen support of external experts that would assess the performance of judges and prosecutors. The lack of transparency of the process of internal evaluation entails the risk of political interests influencing this process. The cooperation with the Council of Europe Venice Commission should be improved including a better ex-ante consultation process on the legislative initiatives in the justice sector. One of the major issues of concern is the increasing power concentration around the President, a fact that contradicts the constitutional provisions that foresee representative functions of the President. As the Moldovan government is mainly composed of former advisors of the president, they seem to follow the priorities that the president is setting.

What are the key economic challenges for the year 2020?

As regards the economic challenges the speakers were worried that the overall political and economic conditions would deteriorate in 2020. Fiscal effects that have been beneficial in 2019 will not endure in 2020. The estimated budget deficit of 3,4 % of the GDP could be considered as comparably high. Exports to the EU are declining and the migratory pressure is increasing. There are risks related to the ambitions to renegotiate conditions of the IMF agreement as well as related to the planned issuance of Eurobonds. The central bank’s independence is threatened by ideas put forward by the President and government to use profits of the central bank to reduce the debt burden from the “billion dollar theft”. Other means of budget consolidation such as privatization processes are also linked with severe risks of political exploitation before the presidential elections.

The German view on the challenges and prospects for the year 2020

It was highlighted that the new Moldovan government will be measured not by its declarations but by its deeds. The expectations within the European Union are clear, as regards the continuation of the reform processes the principle of “more for more” and “less for less” is applied. It is expected that in the field of Judicial Reform the Moldovan government continues to cooperate with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. Overall the following three “Cs” are guiding the German and European assistance policy towards the Republic of Moldova: 1. Conditionality, 2. Civil Society, 3. Communication.
Within the concluding discussion it was highlighted that in the short run, there might be a formalisation of the currently still informal coalition with the Democratic Party, which might come along with a reshuffling of the current government. Another major test case for the Republic of Moldova will be the Presidential elections in November 2020 for which Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu are currently the most popular possible candidates.

About the Berlin Policy Hub – Europeanization beyond process project: The Berlin Policy Hub, as part of the "Europeanisation beyond process" initiative, aims at networking research institutions and decision makers from different EU member states with think tanks from Eastern Partnership countries.

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