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What does the Moldovan parliamentary elections mean for Moldova- EU relations?

Parliamentary elections were held in Moldova on 24 February 2019 to elect the 101 members of the Moldovan Parliament. The pro-Russia Socialist Party, ally to Moldovan President Igor Dodon, came in first place. Second and third place were taken by two pro-European parties, the Democrats which are the current ruling party and Acum which ran an anti-corruption platform. As no party was able to secure a majority, new elections will have to be held if no agreement on a coalition can be reached within 45 days.

According to the election observation mission report lead by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) the elections offered voters a wide choice of political alternatives, the campaign was competitive and fundamental rights were respected, but the election was corrupted by pressures made on public employees, strong indications of vote buying and the misuse of state resources.

Moldova joined the EU's Eastern Partnership in 2009, since April 2014 Moldovan citizens with a biometric passport benefit of a visa-free regime to the Schengen area, and the EU-Moldova Association Agreement entered into force on 1 July 2016 including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). By signing the agreement, Moldova agreed to restructuring its national policies based on EU laws and practice. This showed Moldova’s will to have closer trade and political ties with the EU. Additionally, Moldova actively pursues EU membership aiming to submit an application for membership by 2019. However, Brussels has become more and more critical of Moldova’s performance on reforms arguing that "corruption still remains widespread, and independence of justice, law enforcement as well as national anti-corruption authorities need substantial improvement". Moreover, the unsolved question of Transnistria, over which the Moldovan government has no direct control and which hosts a Russian military base, is an important obstacle.

The composition of a coalition or the results of a new election will decide the political orientation of Moldova for the next four years: either the continuation of an integration into the European Union, or a return to Russia and its Eurasian Economic Union. The Eurasian Economic Union aims at assimilating the countries of the former Soviet Union into a regional regime while preserving Russia’s traditional influence. For now, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia are part of the Union, with Moldova having an observer status. Similarly, the future of the EU-Moldova association agreement will depend on the creation of a coalition or on the results of new parliamentary elections. The pro-Russian president previously declared that if his party won the parliamentary elections, Moldova would pull out of the agreement. Such results would also most likely jeopardise Moldova’s application for EU membership.

Finally, if the pro-Russian forces were to win new elections, Russia could open a corridor linking Transnistria, the Odessa region, Crimea and the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The entire basin of the Black Sea would come under Russian control. In this case Europe could not turn a blind eye if the elections result in a near-hostile regime at its border, next to Romania where NATO has installed a missile defence site that has already provoked strong reactions from Putin.

Author: Dr Fanny Tittel-Mosser

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