Moldova Needs EU Support to Improve Governance
By Viorel Ursu
Moldova's revolutionary moment took place in July 2009. Since then, the new governing coalition has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda, including in the areas of media, the judiciary, law enforcement, public administration and transparency. We believe these efforts are largely sincere and deserve enhanced EU support and mentorship.
Moldova is a rare example of successful democratic enforcement through EU conditionality, thanks to the terms imposed by the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers in June 2009. The promise to start negotiations on an Association Agreement was a clear and tangible incentive for the governing elite to address some (but not all) shortcomings of the unfair election campaign.
We welcome the EU's swift reaction in providing an additional package for democracy support, as well as capacitating the new government through the high-level advisors. The EU has to remain vigilant, and monitor and react forcefully if the current government does not translate soon its good intentions into real change for the population.
A few areas are essential for sustainable improvement of governance in Moldova:
Constitutional and electoral reforms: The long-lasting political crisis of 2009 was a consequence of an imperfect system set in the constitution and the electoral legislation. A commission for constitutional reform was quickly set up that immediately concluded in favour of adopting a new document.
However the work of the commission is neither transparent nor inclusive. As the commission discusses and suggests amending the fundamentals of the political system, it should reach out to all political forces and include civil society in a public debate. It would thereby avoid the previous mistake of adopting solutions that favour exclusively the current political forces in power and therefore create political stalemate as happened in Ukraine. While the Venice Commission is better placed to provide advice on constitutional reforms, the EU should put pressure on the authorities to open and widen the public debate.
Investigation of human rights abuses committed after the April 2009 elections: The data collected by the Soros Foundation-Moldova shows that local police ill-treated at least 300 peaceful protesters of the nearly 700 they detained following the elections in April. A group of independent lawyers documented personal accounts of people who suffered beatings, sleep deprivation and verbal abuse at the hands of police. Following an EU demand, the authorities set up an independent Investigation Commission, while the Prosecutor's office re-launched an investigation of individual cases of mistreatment.
Ten months later, Moldovan authorities have failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. To end impunity and restore confidence in the justice system will require profound revision of Moldovan legislation and strengthening of the existing safeguards in the law. The Council of Europe's enforcement of Moldova's commitments proved to be ineffective. Only the EU has the power to activate this process through clear conditions linked, for instance, to a visa liberalisation roadmap or an enhanced Association Agenda.
The way the authorities handled the post-electoral manifestations in April 2009 revealed the weakest link of governance in Moldova - law enforcement. The main problems are the political dependence of the criminal justice system and the systemic use of torture by the police. Our survey shows a very high level of fear in Moldova, where 58% of people are of the view that the state fails to ensure their personal safety.
There is also low public expectation of the judiciary owing to human rights infringements in the criminal justice system. Police reform is urgent, to change it in the direction of serving the needs of citizens, rather than its current role of being a police force serving the state. Although the EU lacks the competence and capacity to enforce such reforms, it could use its conditionality and funding instruments to encourage and monitor the process.