On October 6, a report by Kommersant journalist Vladimir Soloviev titled “Moldova: The Failing Champion of European Integration” was presented in London. The report was prepared with the support of the Institute of Modern Russia and the Legatum Institute and was first launched this July in Washington, DC.

 

Left to right: Konstantin von Eggert, Anne Applebaum, Vladimir Soloviev and Olga Khvostunova at the Moldova paper launch in London. Photo: courtesy of the Legatum Institute.

 

The London launch of the report “Moldova: The Failing Champion of European Integration” was dedicated to discussing the current political climate in Moldova. It took place on October 6, and the findings were presented by the report’s author, Vladimir Soloviev, a Kommersant special correspondent to Chisinau. Other panelists included the editor-in-chief of imrussia.org, Olga Khvostunova; the director of the Legatum Institute’s Transition Forum, Anne Appelbaum; and political commentator and former bureau chief of BBC Russian Service Moscow, Konstantin von Eggert. 

Opening the discussion, Anne Appelbaum noted that the report was part of a series dedicated to the development of post-Soviet countries, including Ukraine and Georgia. These countries all share a set of problems that impede their democratic transition: primarily the problems of corruption and Moscow’s overbearing influence. According to Appelbaum, Moldova today is in many ways similar to Ukraine in 2004, after the Orange Revolution. 

When it was his turn to speak, Vladimir Soloviev agreed with Appelbaum’s assessment and detailed why, despite certain achievements like Moldova’s ruling pro-European political coalition and its signing of an association agreement with the European Union, it nevertheless remains a “failing champion” of European integration. The main reason he pointed to was that during the five years that it has been the ruling majority, Moldova’s pro-European coalition has been unable to achieve substantial results in conducting the reforms required by the EU. It appears the coalition members have been more focused on internal feuds than delivering on their pre-election promises. Another reason is that a lack of economic improvement in the country has undermined public support for Moldova’s European integration. 

Soloviev cited the summer 2014 poll conducted by the National Democratic Institute, according to which just 47 percent of Moldovans supported EU integration, while an equal number said they wanted the country to join the pro-Russia Customs Union. In 2009, when the pro-European coalition came to power, over 70 percent of respondents supported joining the EU. 

Another reason for Moldova’s failure is Russia’s increasing geopolitical influence, which aims at keeping Moldova under control. For instance, Russian propaganda, especially strong in Moldova’s Gagauzia and Transnistria regions, exaggerates the anti-European sentiment in the country. Nationalist forces in neighboring Romania also contribute to the growing split in the Moldovan public. In Soloviev’s words, he hasn’t yet met a Moldovan political leader who views the country as a unified whole. He concluded by saying that Moldova’s upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in November, will determine how the situation develops from here. 

Summarizing the discussion, Konstantin von Eggert identified de-Sovietization as one of Moldova’s most acute problems, as it is for other post-Soviet countries. And Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions impede the resolution of this problem. The Kremlin has been successful in propagating the idea that the Western world is based on interests rather than values, and this notion has taken root in Moldova’s public consciousness. It follows that if the West takes a tougher stance on Russian corruption, which has been largely exported to Europe in recent years, this could be a crucial factor in Moldova abdicating its Soviet legacy.

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