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On the 13-14th of May 2019 in Brussels, the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was celebrated with the representatives of the European (EU) Member States and the Eastern Partners[1].

The EaP includes the European Union (EU), EU Member States and six countries that were members of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine[2]. In this article, we will discuss the Eastern Partnership, its history, its founding principles and its evolution. Then, we will specifically analyse this partnership in Moldova in order to see its effects.

I.
Brief historical review of the Eastern Partnership

Firstly, the establishment of a
foreign policy towards the eastern part of Europe and the south caucasus was
quite complicated and long. This partnership was agreed in 2008 and inaugurated
in May 2009 during the Prague summit thanks to the momentum of two EU Members
States, Poland and Sweden. This partnership is an element of the European
neighborhood policy (ENP) and was created in order to strengthen the link
between former communist countries and the EU[3].

Secondly, the EaP was established
thanks to the eastern enlargements of 2004 and 2007  that encouraged the creation of links with
the EU. This is the reason why in this partnership the influence of former
communist countries which became EU Members States is important.

Notwithstanding, a cooperation
agreement between Moldova, Ukraine and the EU was already signed in 1994 and
ratified in 1997-1998[4]. It was a first step toward
further cooperation between these countries and the EU.

What are the goals of the Eastern Partnership ?

This partnership has different
goals such as « accelerate political association
and deepen economic integration between the EU and its eastern neighbors[5]

». Moreover, is it
based on « a shared commitment to international law and
fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, respect for human
rights, fundamental freedoms and gender equality, as well as to market economy,
sustainable development and good governance [6]».

Besides, every two years a summit
is organized in order to carry through this partnership. During the 2015 EaP
summit in Riga, the European institutions expressed their desires to continue
this partnership with these countries. These summits are organized with the «
participation of the EU and partner countries’ heads of state or government and
representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the
EEAS (European Union External Action Service)[7]

». Indeed, during the
summit of November 2017  the European
Council expressed its will to improve this partnership.

The EaP is based on the
establishment of a free trade zone and a softening of visas regimes between the
EU and these countries[8]. This partnership includes different
dimensions according to the European Parliament, « a
facility for SMEs, regional electricity markets and efforts to improve energy
efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy sources (…)[9]
 ».

Similarly, some challenges have to
be overcomed thanks to this partnership[10] : “the rule of law, the implementation
of judicial reforms and the fight against corruption”, then the protection of the
environment in order to tackle climate change, “countering hybrid threats and
disinformation” and finally, “the strengthening of the
environment for civil society and a free and independent media”[11]

II.
Moldova and the Eastern Partnership

Moldova is a member of the Eastern
Partnership. This country is located between Ukraine and Romania and was a
former member of the Soviet Union.

Moldova’s cooperation with the EU started
in 2003-2004 when an Action Plan was signed. It established the priorities that
Moldova should have solved : « the Transnistrian conflict,
supporting institutions, working for democracy and respect for the rule of law,
respect for the freedom of the media and freedom of expression, the support of
institutional and administrative capacities, the fight against poverty[12]

».

Then, in April 2014, Moldova signed
a visa liberalization with the EU. This visa exemption was developed in order
to improve travel, economic activities and networking, relationship  between people in Moldova. This is an example
of progress made through the Eastern Partnership[13]. Furthermore, in July 2016, an
Association Agreement that stated  the
implementation of a free trade zone between Moldova and the EU was signed[14]. Indeed, the EU is Moldova’s first trading partner and biggest
investor[15]: more than 68% of the exports of
Moldova go to the EU and only 8% to Russia.

The EaP addressed several
priorities in Moldova: a stronger economy, a stronger governance, a stronger
connectivity and a stronger society[16]. The EU has the will to reinforce
this partnership in the perspective of its adhesion. By the way, the EU
established a special funding program for Moldova with the European
Neighborhood Instrument (ENI) for the 2014-2020 period. For instance, in 2017,
the EU allocated €56 million in Moldova for projects
such as the « support to citizens’ empowerment to engage in
local decision making and participatory budgeting[17]
».

The
current situation of the Eastern Partnership in Moldova

Moldova faced some major political
changes since February 2019. Indeed, during the Parliamentary election of
February 2019, the four main Moldovan parties (the Socialists, the Democratic
Party, the ACUM electoral bloc and  the Șor) arrived at the top of the
results. However, after the election they did not find an agreement to form a
majority and a coalition. Therefore, the situation led to « a political crisis », as explained Nicu Popescu during
a  meeting organized by the CEPS, the
15th of July 2019[18].

The 8th of June, a coalition was
created between two Moldovan political parties which are the Socialist
(pro-Russian) and ACUM party (pro-Eu alliance) and was approved by the
Parliament[19]. The goal of this newly created
coalition is « to free Moldova of mono-oligarchic control[20]
», meaning keeping
away the democratic party of Vladimir Plahotniuc, an oligarch. He had been the
Democratic Party’s leader, although he did not hold
an official position in the country[21]. Maia Sandu from ACUM party, was
appointed Prime Minister (PM) by the Moldovan Parliament and her government has
been recognized by the European institutions and  by EU Member States.

The day after, the Moldovan
President, Igor Dodon, was removed by the Moldovan Court of Justice because he
refused to dissolve the Parliament and he was temporarily replaced by Pavel
Filip who dissolved the assembly and called for early elections on the 6th
September. However, the new coalition affirmed that these actions were illegal.
The 11th of June, Igor Dodon, canceled the dissolution of the Parliament, which
provoked Pavel Filip’s resignation. Currently, Igor
Dodon is the President of Moldova.

According to Nicu Popescu, this
coalition is based on the « rapprochement » with Russia and the maintenance of
closer relations with the EU[22]. Moldova wants to continue its
relations with the EU with the association agreement. Furthermore, he said
Moldova should stay neutral with NATO, reopen the access to the Russian market
and export. He declared Moldova will follow all the former international
agreements that were signed.

The
relationship between the EU and Moldova

In early July, the new PM Maia
Sandu reaffirmed the European perspective of Moldova. In a statement, she
thanked the EU for its « principled position, which played
a key role in persuading the previous government to leave peacefully and not to
try to cling onto power through brute force and repression[23]
».
This new
Moldovan government will continue to maintain good relationship with the EU in
order to pursue this partnership.

The EU congratulates Moldova’s progress and asks it to pursue
their reforms[24]. Johaness Hahn, the former
European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement
Negotiations said : « The Republic of Moldova can
count on European Union support both politically and – probably even more
importantly now – financially, to ensure sufficient resources are available for
the implementation of these fundamental reforms[25]

».

Federica Mogherini, High
Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also
encouraged the pursuit of this partnership : « We are glad that
Moldova has now a government, with a bold programme to tackle corruption and
reform the country. Obviously, after the programmes, reforms need to happen for
real and implementation has to come[26]

». She also said : « in
this spirit, what we want to do is keep accompanying and supporting reforms in
Moldova[27]

».

What progress should Moldova do in the EaP ?

Firstly, Moldova has not a good
image in the European institutions due to its corruption problems, its bad
management of affairs and its problems of money embezzlement. Moldova needs the
support of the European institutions to fight these problems.

Indeed, Nicu Popescu mentioned
during the meeting the priorities of the new Moldovan government. The first one
is to create jobs, then to export more towards the EU, to consolidate
democratic institutions, to gradually constrain people to stay in the country
and finally to re-attract people. The new Moldovan government should also
reform its the judicial sector,  boost
its security cooperation with EU member states and maintain good relationships
with Russia[28]. The foreign minister said it will
be « difficult,
slow and tough », however it will stay a
fundamental priority of the new government[29]. Nevertheless, at the same time,
Moldova should be less dependent of the Russian gas and try to develop its own
pipeline with Romania[30].

In addition, the Moldovans are
divided about the European question. Actually, Nicu Popescu said more than 40%
of Moldovans think they should join the EU. Nevertheless, at the same
time,  80% of them want good relations
with Russia, Ukraine, China,[31]etc.

Natalia
Yerashevic, director of the Eastern partnership civil society forum said that this new coalition is leading
to more consensus in political parties[32]. According to her, it is viewed as
a positive moment to unit the Moldovan population and it is the beginning of a
big social transformative process.

Thomas de
Waal, Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe, explained that depopulation and
immigration are the main issues on which the country has to work because they
have an effect on other eastern European countries. According to Vadim
Pistrinciuc, visiting Fellow at ECFR this new government should solve
the problems of « independence of media, selective
justice, high corruption scandals, invalidation of election results, and
changes in electoral legislation – all in defiance of strong objections lodged
by the EU

[33]».

The
Transnistrian conflict

According to Thomas de Waal, he
crucial point on which Moldova should progress 
is the Transnistrian conflict. Transnistria is a region located in
Ukraine where the majority of the population is Moldovan and wants to be
reattached to Russia. This conflict between Russia and Moldova has recently
evolved positively[34]. Furthermore, in Transnistria, the
cooperation to fight smuggling and illegal cooperation should be reinforced[35]. For Nicu Popescu, this conflict
is the most peaceful one of the post soviet period. As he explained, in
Transnistria there are still Russian troops : some are peacekeepers and are
over there because  of ceasefire
agreement between Moldova and Russia, even if it does not have a legal basis.
However, the Russians promised to withdraw the other group. The Transnistrian
issue is important  for  Moldova and the EU. In this region, more than
40% of Transnistrian inhabitants have an Moldovan ID. Nicu Popescu said it is
difficult to move faster with Transnistria and they should continue their
engagements. Nevertheless, Moldova is not in a position to have quicker
progress towards settlements[36]. The new government already
launched a dialogue with the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to cut
down smuggling around this region.

The EU has played a role in the
resolution of this conflict and has participated in the 5+2 negotiation process
on the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict[37]. In addition, the EU supports: « confidence
building measures designed to facilitate the settlement of the Transnistrian
conflict[38]

».

Source: Map of Moldova showing the zones of a frozen military conflict with Russia in Transnistria/Transdniestria and a resolved conflict in Gagauzia.

To conclude, the Eastern Partnership is still effective. In Moldova it brought a lot of progress in different fields. However, Moldova, which recently faced political changes, should continue its efforts to maintain this partnership.

Lucie Cazat


[1] The European Council. « Celebrating 10 years of the Eastern Partnership », 10 may 2019. Available : https://www.consilium.europa.eu/fr/press/press-releases/2019/05/10/celebrating-10-years-of-the-eastern-partnership/

[2] European Parliament. « Three
Eastern Partnership neighbours: Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus »,
Available : http://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/171/trois-voisins-du-partenariat-oriental-ukraine-moldavie-et-bielorussie

[3] Ibid.

[4] DELCOUR, Laure, TULMETS, ELSA. « La Moldavie et la politique de voisinage de l’Union européenne: quel partenariat ? », Revue
d’études comparatives Est-Ouest
, vol. 46, no. 1, 2015, pp. 137-159.

[5] European Parliament. « The European Neighbourhood Policy », Available : http://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/170/la-politique-europeenne-de-voisinage

[6] EU neighbours. « Eastern Partnership – 20 Deliverables for 2020 Focusing on key priorities and tangible results », joint staff working document, 2017. Disponible sur: https://library.euneighbours.eu/content/eastern-partnership-20-deliverables-2020-focusing-key-priorities-and-tangible-results.

[7] European Parliament. « The European Neighbourhood Policy »,
op.cit.

[8] European Council. « Eastern
Partnership », [online]. Available : https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eastern-partnership/

[9] European Parliament. « The
European Neighbourhood Policy », op.cit.

[10] European Commission. « Top 10 Achievements of the Eastern Partnership in the last 10 Years », Available : https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/eastern_partnerships_top_10_achievements.pdf.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] The European Council. « EU relations with the Republic of Moldova ». Available : https://www.consilium.europa.eu/fr/policies/eastern-partnership/moldova/.

[14] Ibid.

[15] European External Action Service. « Facts and figures about EU-Moldova relations ». Available : https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eap_factsheet_moldova_eng_web.pdf.

[16] European Commission. « Moldova », European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations. Available : https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/neighbourhood/countries/moldova_en

[17] Ibid.

[18]  POPESCU, Nicu,
Foreign Minister of Moldova. «
Is it a new Moldova ? »,
CEPS meeting, 15 july 2019.

[19] « En pleine crise politique, la Moldavie suspend son président et dissout son Parlement ». France 24, 9 June 2019. Available : https://www.france24.com/fr/20190609-moldavie-crise-politique-president-igor-dodon-dissolution-parlement.

[20] PISTRINCIUC, Vadim. « Moldova crisis: The first battle in the war for democracy », European council on foreign relations, 21 June 2019. Available : https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_moldova_crisis_the_first_battle_in_the_war_for_democracy#.

[21] Ibid.

[22] POPESCU, Nicu, Foreign Minister of Moldova. « Is
it a new Moldova ? », CEPS meeting, 15 July 2019.

[23] Mc LAUGHLIN, Daniel. « EU pledges cash to Moldova’s new government after political crisis », The Irish times, 3 July 2019. Available : https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/eu-pledges-cash-to-moldova-s-new-government-after-political-crisis-1.3945668.

[24] Eastern Partnership civil society facility. « Moldova
», [online]. Available 
: http://eapcivilsociety.eu/moldova.

[25] Mc LAUGHLIN, Daniel. « EU
pledges cash to Moldova’s new government after political crisis »,
op.cit.

[26] European External Action Service. « Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the plenary session of the European Parliament on the situation in the Republic of Moldova », 17 July 2019. Available: https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/united-states-america/65556/speech-high-representativevice-president-federica-mogherini-plenary-session-european_id.

[27]Ibid.

[28] POPESCU, Nicu, Foreign Minister of Moldova. « Is
it a new Moldova ? », CEPS meeting , 15 July 2019.

[29] Ibid.

[30] POPESCU, Nicu, Foreign Minister of Moldova. « Is
it a new Moldova ? », CEPS meeting , 15 July 2019.

[31] Ibid.

[32] YERASHEVICH, Natalia, director, secretariat of the Eastern
Partnership civil society forum, « Is it a new
Moldova ? », CEPS meeting , 15 July 2019.

[33] PISTRINCIUC, Vadim. « Moldova
crisis: The first battle in the war for democracy »,
op.cit.

[34] DE WAAL, Thomas, Carnegie Europe. « Is it a new
Moldova ? », CEPS meeting, 15 July 2019.

[35] Ibid. .

[36] POPESCU, Nicu, Foreign Minister of Moldova. « Is
it a new Moldova ? », CEPS meeting, 15 July 2019.

[37] European External Action Service. « Facts
and figures about EU-Moldova relations », [online].
Available : https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eap_factsheet_moldova_eng_web.pdf

[38] Ibid.

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