Moldova’s post-electoral turmoil and EU’s Eastern Partnership

Torsdag, 9. April 2009     0 kommentti(a)
Vadim Kononenko
forskare - forskningsprogrammet EU:s östra grannskap och Ryssland

The EU’s reaction to the street protests in Moldova following the parliamentary elections in this country on April 5, 2009 is presented in a press release published by the European Commission’s delegation in Chisinau three days after the start of the post-electoral turmoil. The statement which includes the words of Mrs Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Commissioner for EU’s external relations, calls on political parties to “calm and pursue dialogue.”

The attitude so reserved and diplomatically aloof stands in stark contrast to the gravity of the situation. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets claiming the results of the elections falsified and demanding recount. The parliament house and the president’s palace were ransacked by the crowds. The police had to intervene resulting in arrests and street fights. Not only did this happen in the EU’s neighbouring country, it also affected the EU directly as Moldovan-Romanian border was closed, and Romainia’s ambassador to Moldova was declared persona non grata. Moldova’s President Voronin explained these decisions by stating he feared that the unrest was orchestrated by Romanian nationalists who wanted a political union of Moldova and Romania. Does the EU need more reason to take a step beyond the ritualistic declarations of “deep concern” in a situation like that?

What the EU should do? One step would be to dispatch an EU high official to Chisinau to mediate solution between the opposition groups and the current leadership. To prevent Moldova’s further backslide and guarantee democratization any accords between power and opposition have to guarantee state TV free of political interference, freedom of speech and expression, reform of power ministries and judiciary, electoral legislation improvement.

Moldova’s situation has even wider significance for the EU. As such it shows that the Eastern Partnership, EU’s new initiative to turn its eastern neighbourhood into the ring of friendly, democratic and prosperous countries, is not going to be easy to implement. The EU can not afford relying on the leaders of these countries as sole guarantors of stability and order. Equally misleading is to keep trust in democratic institutions such as elections. On the other hand, opposition groups should be approached with care, too.

But the worst outcome for the EU would be if its Eastern Partnership initiative is stalled by the attitude of a permanently concerned observer rather than a rapid and action-oriented policy actor.

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