Key priorities and challenges for Moldova’s relations with the EU after 2020

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The Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), in partnership with the National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova and with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Republic of Moldova, organized on Tuesday, 30th of June 2020, an online discussion entitled “Eastern Partnership beyond 2020: key priorities and challenges for the EU-Republic of Moldova relations”.

The event aimed at discussing the main challenges and priorities for Moldova’s relations with the European Union in the context of Eastern Partnership (EaP) deliverables beyond 2020, the next the EU-Moldova Association Agenda and recent developments in the Republic of Moldova. The discussion provided an opportunity for structured policy dialogue and exchanges with the participation of governmental actors, representatives of the EU institutions, thank-tanks and civil society organisations.

Please find below a summary of key interventions of the speakers.

Marting Sieg, Head of KAS Representation in Republic of Moldova and Romania: „When we talk about the Eastern Partnership, it is very clear that we can talk about progress with respect to trade, visa liberalisation, bilateral relations. However, there is one sword that keeps popping up in my head and that is that the Eastern Partnership in the beginning was meant in particular to promote democracy, rule of law and democracy. It is a fair assessment that it has fall behind in these areas. Perhaps one of the things we should is how will we go from here and what should we do together to develop the Eastern Partnership more in this direction, that I suppose is core for deepening EU – Moldova relations”.

Oleg Țulea, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration: „On the dimension of Moldova’s relations with the EU, there are several aspects that need to be mentioned. First of all, we celebrate six years since the signature of the Association Agreement. These six years have been politically complicated. Among the main challenges encountered are the bank fraud, but also the cancellation of the election results for Chisinau City Hall. It is clear that our credibility has been seriously compromised. Despite these challenges, in these six years we have managed to bring our country closer to the EU, a result of both the Republic of Moldova and the EU. Our foreign trade is oriented towards the EU market, with an export rate of 68-69%. Our citizens travel to the EU without visas, only with a biometric passport. Throughout this period, we have advanced the dialogue with the EU, despite political or economic instability.”

Ina Coșeru, Coordinator of the National Platform CSF, President of the National Environment Centre: „The National Platform is involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the Association Agreement by the Republic of Moldova. The last statement we drafted focusses to NGO law, part in EU conditionalities for the disbursement of the second tranche of macro-financial assistance. Here I would like to assure you that we will monitor the application of the provisions of this law in the Republic of Moldova. Another important aspect is the development of NGOs at regional level and I would like to thank the European Commission for its support to civil society in the region and emphasize once again the crucial role of civil society for the sustainability of the Eastern Partnership.”.

Luc Devigne, Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia, European External Action Service (EEAS): “We continue to work on the strategy for the future of the Eastern Partnership and we will focus on the overall objective of strengthening the resilience of the Eastern Partnership. We aim to achieve this goal through five priorities. First of all, it is an economy that delivers for all, including youth, through greater interconnectivity. Secondly, we will try to strengthen the transparency of the institutions and the rule of law. Three, we will support the green transformation, which is a priority of the European Commission. Four, we will support the digitization process to address corruption issues as well. Fifth, we will help build inclusive societies. In addition to these elements, I must emphasize that the reform of the justice sector, the fight against corruption and the depoliticization of institutions remain our priorities related to the Republic of Moldova”.

Mathieu Bousquet, Head of Unit, DG NEAR, European Commission: „I must emphasize that the response to the COVID-19 crisis for the Eastern Partnership countries came from Team Europe, which includes the international financial institutions we work with: the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank, but also the EU Member States. We tried to respond quickly to the current situation and help the Republic of Moldova through bilateral programs, in addition to the 320 million euros grant component offered for the Eastern Partnership. We are currently in the process of negotiating a new EUR 100 million Memorandum of Understanding in the form of macro-financial assistance with Moldova. The EU continues to help the Republic of Moldova and the citizens of the Republic of Moldova”.

Michael Gahler, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-chair of the EPP Group, AFET member: „For me, a problem of interest in the context of the presidential elections is that the parties in the Republic of Moldova will not have access to conduct their election campaign in the Transnistrian region, and the inhabitants of the region will have access only to a certain type of information. Given the organized transportation of voters to the polls, these practices are far from correct. We, as members of the European Parliament, maintain a united position regarding the agenda of relations with the Republic of Moldova and the expectations we have from this dialogue.”.

Petras Auštrevičius, Member of the European Parliament, Rapporteur of the European Parliament on the Republic of Moldova (Renew Europe): „We can see significant progress in the relations with the associated countries to the European Union. As for the European Parliament, we have delivered a more optimistic message than the EU Council and the European Commission. We talked about European aspirations and the European perspective, which must be recognized for these countries. We need to have a more ambitious agenda for associated countries, such as the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. That is why I would like to talk about the Eastern Partnership, referring only to the “more for more” principle and not to “less for less”. We need to focus our efforts on differentiated integration. It is time to recognize sectorial results and better preparedness of associated countries on certain dimensions of cooperation with the EU”.

Cristina Gherasimov, Research Fellow, DGAP Berlin: „The key priorities for Moldova’s relations with the EU should be related to ensuring the fairness of this year’s presidential elections. Secondly, we must ensure that EU’s support for overcoming the COVID-19 crisis in the Republic of Moldova will reach the final beneficiaries and will not be used for electoral purposes. In terms of medium-term priorities, we should facilitate the development of SMEs, the youth sector and the reform of the health sector. At the same time, it is essential to support the arts and culture sector, especially within the current crisis”.

Dragoș Tudorache, Member of the European Parliament, Rapporteur of the European Parliament on the Republic of Moldova (Renew Europe Group): „The first component, which is important for Chisinau, is the Association Agreement, which is not just a matter of the legal framework, through which the Republic of Moldova has made a political, strategic choice, but in fact is a model of governance, democracy , which a state has chosen to implement. The second component is good governance, which is the most important pillar, because it is a political one and goes to the essence of that democratic model. The third component is the economic one. The figures show that the Association Agreement offered access to a huge market, which diversified the trade relations with the Moldovan entrepreneurs. So, the Association Agreement is a good framework and we need to continue it.”

Nicu Popescu, Director of the Wider Europe Programme ECFR Paris, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration: “With this COVID-19 crisis, it has been shown that the EU is the first and main partner which has the desire, interest and ability to systematically help the Republic of Moldova, both medically and economically. I would like to contrast EU assistance with discussions on Russian assistance. Today, Moldova pays more for Russian gas than Germany pays, Moldovan goods, which could be exported to the Russian market, remain blocked. This fact indicates once again who is actually ready to continue helping the Republic of Moldova. The crisis of the last two months has also developed a strange behavior, when the government was trying to promote a balanced foreign policy, but in reality we found ourselves isolated, and those fairly systematic anti-EU attacks deepened this perception”.

For more details you can watch the video recording of the event here.

This event was organized by IPRE in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and the National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum and with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, within the project “Policy Dialogue on the Future of the Eastern Partnership”.

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