By Pavel Filip, Prime Minister of Moldova
(EurActiv) — As the European Union enters a crucial election period which will define the direction and priorities of the incoming European Commission and Parliament for the next five years, two of its Eastern neighbours are also facing a year of change, with crucial elections taking place in Ukraine and Moldova. In both countries, the public is looking to the EU for inspiration and support.
In Moldova, this Sunday’s election comes down to a straight choice between voting for a pro-European party or pro-Russian forces. The outcome is on a knife-edge.
For the past three years, the coalition government which I am proud to lead has implemented bold reforms that have transformed the economy and our national institutions. We could not have done this without the springboard of our Association Agreement with the EU, in force since July 2016. The agreement continues to be an essential catalyst for reforms which have steered our country away from the abyss.
The European Union has supported Moldova with financial aid and policy recommendations. We are also working with the IMF, the World Bank, the Council of Europe and other international partners to deliver a better future for our people, who enjoy a much better quality of life today than when we came into office. Our results-driven partnerships have been key to this achievement.
GDP growth has exceeded 4.5% per annum over the past three years. The EU is the destination for two thirds of our exports. We have dynamised the business environment and economy by cutting bureaucracy. Our budget revenues have swelled by 780 million euros since 2016 thanks to stricter customs controls, improved tax collection and banking reforms.
We have a zero-tolerance policy against fraud and corruption. We have strengthened the General Prosecutor’s office, based on recommendations by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, reducing the risk of political influence and clarifying the prosecutor’s role. We have elected a new Attorney General and created two specialized departments, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organized Crimes and Special Causes, to step up the fight against graft and organised crime. Our government launched a thorough international investigation into the banking fraud that took place under the previous administration’s watch in 2014. We have modernised the judicial system and aligned it with European standards.
With the support of the OSCE, we have taken huge strides towards resolving the Transdniestrian conflict, while respecting Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The EU Neighbours East 2018 Opinion Survey showed that three quarters of Moldovans have a positive view of our relationship with the EU and 87% are aware of the financial support that we have received from the Union.
So it was with dismay that we learned that the EU decided to suspend its financial support for Moldova last November. Concerns over rule of law were cited, but I believe the decision was based more on misguided politicking than on an objective assessment of our actions.
The pro-Russian parties have not missed the opportunity to claim that the aid suspension shows that the EU backs Moldova in words, but less so in practice. Our opponents have unlimited Kremlin resources at their disposal and are supported by large-scale disinformation campaigns. Unfortunately, many people are taken in by these falsehoods.
The present government has steered the country towards the EU because we firmly believe that a European future means a brighter future. But the progress we have achieved could be derailed if Sunday’s vote goes against the reformers.
Any change of direction now would unfortunately risk un-doing everything we have achieved and bring Moldova firmly back into Russia’s corrupting zone of influence, just as the EU prepares to celebrate 10 years of the Eastern Partnership.
The stakes are high and it is not too late to avoid a catastrophe. We are ready to put aside disagreements we have had with other pro-European parties in Moldova to ensure that Moscow’s friends do not wreck our privileged relationship with the EU.
We are urging pro-European forces to unite and act in the country’s national interest: my party, the PDM (Democratic Party of Moldova), is ready to extend the hand of friendship. Together, we can build a new pro-European coalition based on transparency, responsibility and clear policy objectives that reflect the broad church of opinion across our pro-European parties.
We hope, in turn, that Europe demonstrates that it cares about Moldova’s future. Our elections, and the European Parliament elections in May, will be an opportunity to revive a positive relationship between our country and the EU. While I do not have a crystal ball to determine the outcome of this weekend’s vote, I hope and pray that we can look forward to continuing our fight for a brighter and better European future for all Moldovans.