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Socio-economic and political situation in Moldova not to change soon

16:16 | 02.07.2013 | Analytic


2 July 2013. PenzaNews. More than half of the Moldovan citizens are dissatisfied with the socio-economic and political situation in the country, according to a public opinion poll conducted by the Institute of Marketing and Social Research IMAS from 10 to 26 May 2013.

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The main problems, according to the Moldovans, are unemployment, political instability and poverty — so say 40%, 35% and 27% of respondents, respectively. About 24% of citizens are more dissatisfied with high levels of corruption, and 19% of people — with low salaries and pensions.

This situation is aggravated by the fact that according to 77% of the Moldovan citizens, the country is moving in the wrong direction. Moreover, 87% of respondents believe that the state is mired in a political crisis. The main reasons for it are quarrels between Vlad Filat and Vlad Plahotniuc, corruption in the government, Padurea Domneasca tragedy and the Liberal Democratic Party’s desire to gain power at any cost, says information bureau Notum.

Meanwhile, the polling results are not unexpected: according to a recent survey by the Ministry of Economy of Moldova, about 1 million citizens are living below the poverty line; and according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the number of unemployed people in the first quarter of 2013 was over 90 million people, or 11 thousand more than in the same period of the prior year.

Commenting on the situation in Moldova, Andrei Vedutenko, director of the news portal Gagauzinfo, stressed that three years ago, the number of people who criticized the political course of the country was also distressing, however, it did not exceed 50%.

“People are primarily dissatisfied with the lack of decent paying jobs which is forcing them to seek a better life in Russia, the EU and Turkey. But we cannot put the blame only on the current government of Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, especially because he was appointed less than one hundred days ago. However, if you make a link between this government and its predecessor, the Filat government (they were both assigned by the same coalition for European integration) there is no escaping the impression that Moldova is moving towards the successful development of European grants and loans but does not take any steps for the revival of the national economy. Moreover, people do not know the amount of theses grants and loans, and what the mechanism of their development is. A few tens of kilometers of repaired roads seems to be the only tangible result,” the expert said in an interview with news agency “PenzaNews.”

According to him, today Moldova is trying to “jump into the passing train of the European Union enlargement’s process.”

“While the EU officially stated that any enlargement – if it happens in the next decade – would be connected with the Balkan states, the pro-European parliamentary parties in Moldova convince the electorate otherwise. We will learn how important the republic is for the European Union by the end of the November EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius when the EU officially declares what exactly it is ready to “reward” the post-Soviet countries with for their friendship with Brussels. The main expectation of Moldova’s citizens is the opportunity to enter the Schengen area without a visa,” the head of the news portal said.

He also noted that the number of Eurosceptics within Moldova is increasing. They stand for Eurasian integration and rapprochement with Russia arguing that the Moldovan export depends on the Russian market, and the entire Moldovan economy relies upon Russian gas.

“According to the same survey, the number of supporters of Moldova’s integration into the Customs Union has already exceeded the number of those who support European integration,” said Andrei Vedutenko, adding, however, that the improvement of socio-economic situation is mainly dependent on domestic policy of the state.

In his opinion, the main problem of small and medium-sized businesses in Moldova is not the lack of markets abroad or expensive natural gas, but exorbitant taxes and penalties, constant checks, governmental and judicial corruption.

“All of this taken together creates nervousness among business people making long-term investments extremely risky and encouraging businesses to move to the shadow economy. The fight against corruption at all levels, independence of judges, de-monopolization of markets – in my opinion, these should be the priorities of Moldovan government,” he said.

Speaking about the most favorable development of the republic’s foreign policy, the expert noted that the country has no clear proposals from leading international players.

“European integration is declared priority, but the European Union is ready to speak only of good-neighborliness and not about the actual roadmap for Moldova to enter the EU. In the east, the other integration project is gaining momentum – the Customs Union (CU). But is it possible for us to build economic and social ties in the East if our western neighbor – Romania – is the EU member state, and the eastern neighbor – Ukraine – is eager to be one?” the expert wondered.

According to him, there will hardly be any major changes in the domestic and foreign policy of Moldova in the next year and a half, when the coalition of pro-European parties is in power.

“However, it will be extremely difficult for them to again win the support of the Moldovan voters in parliamentary elections in 2014. Then there might be surprises in the form of coming to power of left, pro-Russian forces,” Andrei Vedutenko said.

According to the independent Latvian journalist Aleksey Vesyoliy, the political situation in Moldova is aggravated by the fact that at the level of civil society population tends to unity and creation of a federal state.

“Lower classes” cannot do anything and the “upper classes” do not want to. This expression aptly describes the republic today. People will have to make a difficult choice: who is closer to them, more economically attractive and can best ensure security in the region: the European Union, Romania or Russia. And I would draw a clear line between Brussels and Bucharest – temporary membership can turn into a fiasco for the authorities, and after the adoption of Croatia into the European Union they can sacrifice Romania. In this scenario, Romania will be forced to act, and this will result in increasing the already high presence of this country in Moldova,” said the expert.

“The situation in Transnistria will be hard if Romania offers the most interesting project for the federal state of Moldova. Transnistria residents may be granted limited political rights, and there will be a non-citizen status in the country, like in Latvia where these people differ from citizens mainly in that they cannot participate in the elections,” he added.

Aleksey Vesyoliy stressed the need to solve the existing conflict and expressed his hope for the victory of constructive forces that can unite the Moldovan citizens without depriving the rights of any group of people.

Michael Emerson, associate senior research fellow at Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), former Ambassador of the EU to Russia, noted that the political system of Moldova has rather deep dysfunctional aspects, like the impossibility to elect a president for such a long time, and now the undue influence of an oligarch over the formation of a government.

In his opinion, Moldova’s very modest role on the international scene is due to the fact that it is Europe’s poorest country and one of its smallest.

“In order to raise the standard of living, the authorities could look at Georgia economic policy of the last decade. While I am no admirer of Mikhail Saakkashvili, politically he made important progress in reducing corruption more than any other former Soviet state and in making the economy “business-friendly,” the analyst said.

Meanwhile, according to him, Moldova’s priority for cooperation today is its big neighbors Romania and Ukraine, even bigger almost-neighbor Russia, and the EU, which now concludes negotiations for an Association Agreement and Deep Free Trade Area Agreement.

“Moldova should both integrate with the EU and have good relations with Russia. And for its part Russia should stop playing neo-imperialist games through Transnistria,” Michael Emerson noted.

In turn, Andrey Safonov, presidential candidate in Transnistria in 2006 and 2011, Chairman of the Transnistrian Society of Independent Political Scientists, does not consider EU integration promising.

“I see no reason why Moldova should head for joining the decaying, overcrowded with wild migrants from Africa and the Middle East, homosexual (in the literal sense of the word) European Union. Alas, Europe is no more the Europe Soviet people knew from historical and political books. What we see is an amorphous, degrading union governed by degenerated liberals,” the expert said.

According to him, Chisinau should find a clear realistic formula for rapprochement with the countries of the former Soviet Union.

“Moldova, for example, may join the Customs Union; but I am opposed to integration on the basis of former Soviet republics’ borders. You cannot step into the same river twice. It is not necessary to encourage Kishinev with the “head” of Transnistria for the country to join the CU. Tiraspol will join the Eurasian project anyway, regardless of the wishes of Chisinau,” the analyst explained.

At the same time, he noted that the current government is under the western control, which makes Moldovan foreign policy dependent on it.

“The republic is focused on the EU, Romania and the United States. In particular, Vitalie Marinuta, the Minister of Defense of Moldova is focused on Washington. Prime Minister Iurie Leanca and Speaker of Parliament Igor Corman are career diplomats who have worked in the West for several years. Today, they are authorized by the European Union and Romania to separate the former Soviet Moldova, including Transnistria, from the post-Soviet space. If they cope with a task, the next step, I believe, will be abandoning the constitutional neutrality of the country and applying for accession of Moldova to NATO. The defense minister is an open supporter of the North-Atlantic Alliance membership,” Andrey Safonov said.

He also suggested that in the short term the events would unfold quite rapidly.

“In November, Eastern Partnership Summit will take place in Vilnius; the countries are expected to initial the EU association and free trade zone agreement. This means that the paths of Moldova and Transnistria will be diverged and political negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol will lose their meaning,” the analyst said.

“These days the situation escalates in the security zone, which is the area of the Moldovan-Transdniestrian conflict in 1992. It is necessary to carefully monitor what is happening there and be prepared to prevent even the slightest collision. On both sides of the Dniester there are forces that wish to distract citizens from problems in the economy and social sphere with the war drums,” he added.

In turn, Nikolay Tsvyatkov, senior researcher at the Department of Political Science, the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, noted that the situation in the country is complicated due to a variety of reasons, including the economic crisis, change of the political forces and worsening of the confrontation between Moscow and Brussels for the control of the republic.

“However, we should be very careful quoting the numbers of sociological surveys because they can be an instrument of manipulation. Our country has significant achievements in promoting democratic traditions: in the last 20 years, the power has repeatedly passed to different political forces in a democratic way. This increased the liability of the parties and their leaders for their campaign promises, because failing to meet them inevitably led to the departure from the political scene,” the analyst reminded.

According to him, the situation has deteriorated dramatically when the Alliance for European Integration came to power in 2009.

“The numerous scandals, theft, raider attacks, smuggling, curtailing social programs could lead to the collapse of the coalition but the European officials and diplomats entered the political game. Playing on the Moldovans’ expectations, they lend informational and financial support to the current government, which allows these parties to keep the situation under control,” the expert said.

In his view, the so-called pro-European alliance supports the ruling parties due to geo-political attitudes rather than their actual achievements.

“The European Union is interested in the control of the republic as a counter to Russian influence in the region. Confrontation of the major powers divided the Moldovan society in half and now brings new threats,” Nikolay Tsvyatkov noted.

He stressed that, given the weakness of state institutions and the introduction of partial external control by the IMF and other international institutions, Moldova is not independent in making decisions about its foreign policy.

“It is not easy to predict the development of the situation, but one thing is for sure – the majority of the citizens are waiting for the elections to the Parliament, as it is the only remaining instrument of effective influence on the government and the political situation in the country,” the analyst concluded.

Moldova is a parliamentary republic with a president as head of state. Its central legislative body is the unicameral parliament. The capital city is Chisinau. Population is more than 3.4 million people as of 2004.

Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe located between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south.

It is the agro-industrial country. The basis of the economy is agriculture.

In 2005, according to the World Bank it became the poorest country in Europe.

In 2012, its GDP amounted to 7.559 billion US dollars – about 2.128 dollars per capita.

In March 2013, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of Moldova, the average monthly salary in the country amounted to about 290 US dollars.

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