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Moldova: Political survival of pro-European forces at risk in opposition | Europe | KG

DW: What is behind the all-purpose coalition of pro-Russian socialists (PSRM or President Igor Dodon) – and the pro-European bloc ACUM? Is it only the common goal to depose the oligarchs and party leader of the Democrats (PDM), Vlad Plahotniuc?

Martin Sieg: ACUM and PSRM have little in common. Not only do they separate differences between pro-European and pro-Russian, although President Dodon is now clearly committed to the Association Agreement with the EU. The common denominator is the rejection of Vlad Plahotniuc and his system of power. The fact that Moldova under the previous government has made significant steps backwards in terms of democracy and the rule of law has also been increasingly criticized by the European institutions and sanctioned by restrictions on financial aid and contacts. Both ACUM and the PSRM saw themselves increasingly threatened by this development. In addition, ACUM faced strong pressure from Moldovan civil society to work with PSRM to facilitate a shift in power.

How strong is the external influence of the EU, US and Russia on this development?

The EU has announced cooperation with the new government as the democratically legitimate government. In a joint statement, Germany, France, Great Britain, Poland and Sweden have also stated that in the current constitutional crisis – and thus against the intervention of the Constitutional Court and the former government – they support the parliament and thus also the government elected by parliament.

Republic of Moldova parliamentary elections 2019 | President Igor Dodon (Imago / ITAR-TASS / V. Denisov)

Igor Dodon, President of the Republic of Moldova after the vote on 24 February 2019

The attitude of the EU, US and Russia is relevant in Moldova's domestic politics and in fact often part of the legitimacy of power. EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn mediated the ultimately fruitful negotiations on forming a government last Monday. The US has also supported government formation in its opinions. Irrespective of this, Russia has acted on the PSRM to reject PDM coalition offerings. Moscow apparently feared that an overpowering PDM would also be a threat to the PSRM or its independence. The only alternative was working with ACUM.

What is the danger of a violent conflict between the two camps?

PSRM and ACUM will not use force. You have neither the option nor a motive. Whether they are forcibly prevented from assuming the government is the unanswered question. The PDM does not accept the new government. She relies on a questionable decision of the Constitutional Court, which, however, is considered to be controlled by the PDM itself. The constitution provides for the formation of a government first three months after the validation of a parliamentary election – which was held on 9 March; after its expiration, the president may order new elections. The Constitutional Court has just announced on June 7, when an agreement between ACUM and PSRM emerged, in a snap decision that the three-month period would not expire after three calendar months, ie on June 9 – as everyone had expected – but be to be understood as a period of 90 days and therefore expired on 7 June. Therefore, the President must dissolve Parliament immediately, all other decisions are ineffective.

Hans Martin Sieg, DGAP (DGAP)

Romanian and Moldovan expert Hans Martin Sieg

Non-lawyers will also recognize contradictions here. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe described the judgment as "arbitrary" and requested an opinion from the Venice Commission (Council of Europe body, which constitutionally advises States). In another questionable decision, the Constitutional Court suspended President Dodon from office and declared former Prime Minister Filip of the PDM as acting head of state, who then declared the dissolution of parliament. This means that we now have on one side the parliament and the elected and internationally supported government, while on the other hand the former rulers in the ministries are entrenched.

What is the danger of a federalization of Moldova?

This is a phantom debate designed to discredit the new government. That was not the subject of negotiations or agreements.

Has this new coalition in Chisnau failed to reach the EU for the time being? Have the pro-European forces been politically marginalized by the pact with Dodon – ie dependency on Moscow?

It would be misleading to interpret the formation of a government as geopolitical. I would also fundamentally warn against measuring domestic developments too much in terms of geopolitical preferences. Geopolitical labels often hide other agendas. In addition, we can quickly come to the point where we have to ask ourselves what democratic and rule-of-law cuts we may want to justify in order to limit the influence of Russia or Russia-related forces; and this logic can not work because it undermines its own credibility and only strengthens forces that actually or even openly oppose a European development.

Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu Chair ACUM Party (picture-alliance / AP Photo / V. Ghirda)

Maia Sandu, chair of the ACUM party

The fact is that the rapprochement of the EU due to the democratic and rule-of-law regression has so far obviously been at a dead end. Allegations of corruption and the lack of information on the so-called "billions robbery" from the Moldovan banking system had destroyed trust. Grants were canceled by the EU and political contacts were largely abandoned. The new government opens up new opportunities here.

The foreign policy basis of the government is the implementation of the association agreement with the EU, in addition, the geopolitical preferences of the actors are not part of the agenda. Also through the composition of the government ACUM did not go into dependencies. The PSRM has nominated experts for two dossiers: defense and reintegration, the latter referring to Transnistria. The rest of the government has formed ACUM. Alongside Maia Sandu, Andrei Nastase, chairman of the second ACUM-affiliated opposition party, is also the government's deputy prime minister and interior minister.

For ACUM and PSRM, the domestic reform agenda is now crucial, on which one's own self-assertion depends. Once this agenda has been completed, ACUM and PSRM will again become political competitors. This is not a long-term alliance. The opposition would have already endangered the survival of pro-European forces in Moldova.

How to explain Romania's previous restraint in the case of these recent developments in the Republic of Moldova?

Not least because of its geographical position on the south-eastern flank of the EU and NATO, Romania is especially vigilant against Russian influences in the European neighborhood. However, Romania has also declared its support for the Parliament, and implicitly for the new government it has elected.

Hans Martin Sieg leads the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) foreign office for Romania and the Republic of Moldova

The interview was conducted by Robert Schwartz.

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