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2019 in retrospect: Moldova’s politics in international media

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In 2019, important political events happened in the Republic of Moldova: the country has changed 3 governments, it went through political and social crises, it has gained and lost the trust of international partners, etc. The most crucial events were reported not only by the biggest national media institutions but also drew the attention of international news channels. This is why, the end of the year is the proper time for a retrospection of these events and the way they were described by the top media outlets in the world.

Filat’s son ordered to pay £466,000

The year commenced with news about Luca Filat, the son of the former prime minister (PM), Vladimir Filat, who has been ordered “to hand over nearly £500,000 following a corruption investigation by the National Crime Agency,” The Guardian informed.

The media outlet wrote, at that moment, that the Luca’s accounts and expenses were funded by large deposits from overseas companies, including from Turkey and the Cayman Islands and that his accounts were hit with freezing orders in May 2018.

Parliamentary elections

On the eve of the parliamentary elections in Moldova on February 24, Associated Press (AP) News wrote about the close battle of the political powers of that moment: “No outright winner is expected and the ballot will likely deepen a rift between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces, amid concerns about endemic corruption and crumbling democracy.”

“There are three main parties: The Democratic Party, which heads the ruling coalition together with its junior partner the Popular European Party, the Socialists, who favour closer ties to Russia, and the pro-European ACUM which opposes both major parties and signed a pledge Thursday not to enter into a coalition with them if no party wins an outright majority,” explained AP News.

A special attention was paid to Ilan Șor – the leader of the “Șor” Party, who was just about to get elected, even though he was involved in a $1 billion bank fraud and was sentenced to seven years and a half in jail, as a Bloomberg article informed the world.

The forecasts were legitimate, thus became true. “Moldova’s election has produced a hung parliament, splitting the vote between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces at a time when the ex-Soviet republic’s relations with the European Union have soured,” commented Euronews after the elections.

Photo: Vadim Ghirda

According to the result of the parliamentary elections, 3 political parties (the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova – PSRM, the Democratic Party of Moldova – DPM and the “Șor” Party), 1 electoral bloc (ACUM) and 3 independent candidates were granted access in the Parliament.

A new government

After 3 months of uncertainty and unwillingness to cooperate, the parliament approved a new government based on an unprecedented alliance between pro-Russian and pro-European forces, as the Al Jazeera portal notified. “The Socialist Party of then-president Igor Dodon agreed to work with the pro-European ACUM alliance and freeze out the previously ruling Democratic Party, led by the powerful oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc,” the portal informed.

“The development was welcomed by foreign observers, but the Democrats, who were in power before the February election, opposed it, calling on their supporters to start street protests. They accused their rivals of trying to usurp power and surrender Moldova to Russia,” RT told its public.

Protesters at Constitutional Court| Photo: Roveliu Buga

An even heavier political crisis began when the Constitutional Court suspended President Igor Dodon and appointed ex-PM Pavel Filip as interim leader, who called for September snap vote. “The new acting president dissolved parliament and called elections just after legislators appeared to have formed a government following months of wrangling,” reported  Al Jazeera.

“This sort of manipulation is exactly why Moldova’s other parties, though sharply at odds over the country’s geopolitical orientation, found it more important to jointly take on Mr. Plahotniuc. They plan to restore independence to the court system and the national electoral commission, and reverse electoral law changes made to favor Mr. Plahotniuc. Then it would be possible to hold a new election,” The Washington Post claimed.

The international media reports finally became more optimistic: “Moldova now has a fragile chance to cleanse its political system. […] If the reform succeeds, Moldova would bolster an encouraging anti-corruption wave in its region,” was written in the same article of The Washington Post.

Maia Sandu, the newly appointed Prime Minister of Moldova, announced that Moldova is finally free and can fight corruption, sack dishonest officials, make the electoral system fairer and get foreign aid flowing. Reuters wrote the following: “Moldova’s new prime minister Maia Sandu consolidated her power on Friday as her predecessor resigned, appearing to ease a crisis that shook the country for the past week as two rival governments jostled for control.”

“We are in the process of liberating this captured state. The servants of the Plahotniuc regime are leaving, one after the other,” she declared in an interview for Deutsche Welle.

Later on, all six judges at Moldova’s Constitutional Court, whose decisions have fuelled the political crisis, have resigned, as AP News announced. What’s more, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office in Moldova seized assets of the former DPM leader, Vlad Plahotniuc, worth 55 million lei, Plahotniuc being investigated in two cases of large-scale money laundering, as Balkan Insight reported.

A new government (version 2.0)

Despite all the efforts to keep the PSRM and ACUM coalition together, the international media could observe the deep divergences between their ideologies. “It’s as if they are trying to have it every way with everyone — telling the West what it wants to hear via Ms. Sandu while Mr. Dodon plays directly to Russia,” was writing The Washington Times in September.

The delay-action bomb exploded anyway and Reuters along with other media publications announced the entire world in November: “A no-confidence vote brought down Moldova’s government threatening more instability just five months after pro-Western Prime Minister Maia Sandu took office promising to fight corruption.”

“The coalition has tussled over who should have the power to appoint a new prosecutor general. Sandu wanted to be able to make the choice herself, but the Socialists wanted a special commission under the justice ministry to decide,” it is explained in the same Reuters article.  

“Sandu wanted an independent candidate who would crack down on corruption and organised crime. But she was unable to push this through against resistance from the old cliques, including the Socialists, who insisted that not the prime minister but a Justice Ministry commission should take the decision on the appointment,” added Deutsche Welle.

Protesters in Chisinau demonstrated against Sandu’s ouster| source: DW/Y Semenowa

Dodon said, as Reuters reported, that the Socialists would try to run a minority government if ACUM and PSRM could not compromise on a new prime minister candidacy.

The next day, the same media institution announced that “the Moldovan President Igor Dodon nominated former finance minister Ion Chicu to be the next prime minister in what is likely to be a Socialist Party-backed minority government following the collapse of the ruling coalition.”

“Now, the only strongman left in Moldova is President Igor Dodon. […] The speed at which he installed the new government is mind-boggling. There is reason to believe that he had been pulling strings in the background for some time, negotiating with the Democratic Party about toppling the Sandu government and setting up a new Cabinet,” said Deutsche Welle.

Even though the new PM Ion Chicu emphasized that his Cabinet had no political attachments, more than half of the 11 ministers in the new government, including Chicu, are former advisers to Russia-backed President Igor Dodon, as AP News disclosed.

In the shadow of the new government, “Moldova’s new prime minister raised the possibility of a “pause” in its cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, a day after he said his ex-Soviet republic was negotiating a $500 million loan with Russia,” Reuters reported.  The future of the EU disbursements in the budget of Moldova, as a support assistance to help deliver much needed reforms, is also uncertain, as the disbursement were initially granted to the Government led by Maia Sandu.

Therefore, as Reuters claimed, the new old socialist government suggests a likely pivot back towards Russia.

Photo: ipi.media

Important

EU official: “It’s been a long time we’ve been patient. We will judge the Government’s actions objectively.”

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Director for Russia, Eastern partnership, Central Asia and OSCE, and Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service (EEAS), Luc Pierre Devigne, paid a visit to Chișinău today to participate in the 5th meeting of the EU-Moldova Association Committee.

He addressed a message to the Moldovan government during a press conference, criticising the way the reforms were implemented in the country, especially the way the famous bank fraud from Moldova, called also “the theft of the century” was investigated. Devigne considers inadmissible the fact that, after five years, the persons and companies that were involved in the fraud were not held accountable.

“It is unacceptable that after the theft of the billion was uncovered and deeply investigated by a leading financial investigation team – the Kroll company, whose findings were made publicly available, the investigation was still not finalised on various pretexts. We cannot believe that it is legally not possible to prosecute such a fraud.[…] It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that justice works in the country. We want to see an open and transparent process that includes not only the Government, but also the consultation of opposition, civil society and the EU institutions recommendations.” said Devigne.

The EU official told the Moldovan politicians: “It’s time for actions. It’s been a long time we’ve been supportive, we’ve been patient. Now, we will judge the Government’s actions objectively.”

“The EU has always supported the Republic of Moldova, but the EU cannot substitute for good governance and the actions that should be taken by the Government. Our support is not unconditional.”

He said that European assistance will depend on how laws and democratic standards will be respected in Moldova. Particularly, Luc Pierre Devigne mentioned that the Republic of Moldova should join the Anticorruption Network for an effective fight against corruption, strengthen independent media and improve the quality of life in the case of the Moldovan citizens.

Luc Pierre Devigne also referred to the subject of the Citizenship by Investment Law, on which the Government applied a moratorium, but only until February 24, 2020. The official was disappointed that people who obtained such kind of citizenship remained anonymous. “We do not see this as compatible with a serious and secure visa liberalisation regime. It’s a security issue.” highlighted Devigne.

One of the central messages of the EU delegation to Moldova concerned the importance of boosting the cooperation between Moldova and the community bloc.

At the same time, the Moldovan authorities reiterated their commitment to comply with the recommendations of international organisations such as the OSCE and the Venice Commission, and to ensure public consultations on major projects.

Photo: cotidianul.md

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Economy

Global Talent Competitiveness Index: Moldova when it comes to Artificial Intelligence

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The 7th edition of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) addressed the topic Global Talent in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. The index is used to rank 132 national economies, across all groups of income and levels of development, that representing 97% of the world’s GDP and 94% of its population. The report referred, first of all, to the level of innovation and technology development, exploring how the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not only changing the nature of work but also forcing a re-evaluation of workplace practices, corporate structures and innovation ecosystems.

This year, Moldova ranked 86th out of 132 analysed economies, being ranked behind the neighbouring countries such as Ukraine and Romania, which ranked 66th and 64th, respectively.

The countries that are best positioned to benefit from the AI revolution are also the most developed countries in the world, especially when it comes to the competitiveness and potential of attracting and training best professionals. Top ten countries in the ranking are Switzerland, the United States of America, Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway and Australia.

New York, London, Singapore, San Francisco, Boston, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Munich are among the most developed cities in this regard.

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source: insead.edu

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source: insead.edu

GTCI highlights

One of the most important observations made in the GTCI report for 2020 is that the gap between talent champions (almost all of them high-income countries) and the rest of the world is widening. Still, AI may provide significant opportunities for emerging countries to leapfrog.

The top of the GTCI rankings is still dominated by Europe, including the Nordic countries – a significant number of small high-income economies, many of them being either landlocked, island or quasi-island economies, including Switzerland (1st), Singapore (3rd), Luxembourg (8th), Iceland (14th) or Austria (17th).

According to the report, the key factor is developing relatively open socio-economic policies in which talent growth and management are central priorities in the age of AI.

Moldova

Moldova managed to get a score of 36.64, being ranked 86th out of 132 countries. It was classified as lower-middle income country and ranked 7th out of 32 countries included in this category. The country’s talent competitiveness index weakened as compared to the period between 2015-2017, when it was listed around the 61st position.

Moldova was evaluated with the highest scores for such aspects as gender development gap, ease of doing business, number of female graduates, competition intensity and political stability, while the lowest scores were given for its share of R&D expenditure, robot density, university ranking, number of registered researchers, scientific journal articles, labour productivity per employee, new business density and collaboration across organisations.

This year’s model of the GTCI index includes a total of 70 variables, up from 68 indicators used in the GTCI 2019.

source: insead.edu

Photo: cambridgealert.com

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Society

How corrupt Moldovan citizens are? Comparative figures

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When talking about corruption, most of Moldovan citizens blame the ‘system’ built by politicians and their political regimes throughout history. And that may be true, but only to some degree. When looking deeper, it can be actually observed that little corruption acts are perceived as a normality by a lot of individuals and legal entities in the country. That is what is shown in a recent study conducted by by the Center for Social Studies and Marketing “CBS – Research”. The study assessed the impact of the National Integrity and Anticorruption Strategy for the years 2017-2020.

 516 million lei – this is the total amount of bribes offered by Moldovans in 2019. On average, a Moldovan citizen has offered at least five bribes, while an enterprise has been involved in about three corruption acts. Businesses paid bribes worth 197,3 million lei, while individuals offered a total of 319,4 million lei as bribes during the last year, estimated the study. The value of the one illegal payment ranged from 50 to 20 thousand lei.

The research was carried out on the basis of a national survey where 1 120 persons, 506 companies and 606 civil servants from central, district and local public administration participated. The data were presented in comparison to the situation in 2017, when the first such survey was conducted. It was carried out within the project “Fight against corruption by strengthening integrity in the Republic of Moldova”, implemented by UNDP in collaboration with the National Anticorruption Center, and the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The total value of the bribes offered by Moldovans is lower, however, compared to those from two years ago, when the amounts varied between 100 and 500 thousand lei in the case of companies and between 50 lei and 8 thousand lei in the case of individuals, as the study stated.

Even though the study affirmed that corruption remains a serious problem for the Moldovan society, the level of intolerance of the population towards corruption has increased. Thus, about 62% of individuals (compared to 45% in 2017) and 83% of businesses (compared to 61% in 2017) consider any corruption situations unacceptable and declare that they do not accept to offer or receive bribes, regardless of the situation and implied personal benefit.

Moreover, both individuals (73% of respondents) and companies (80% of them) are aware that bribery entails punishment of both parties involved, and 87% of them, on average, would report the corruption acts to the anti-corruption agencies in the event of such a situation.

In the opinion of the civil servants participating in the survey, among the main causes of corruption are the low salaries in the public sector and the mentality of demanding and giving bribes in money and /or goods.

The same causes for corruption acts were emphasised by a survey conducted by Transparency International (TI) Moldova throughout the employees of 13 central public authorities. The survey results revealed that a quarter (24.6%) of civil servants who work in public institutions, and answered the survey, consider that their workplace is affected by corruption. More details about the survey can be found here.

Although the legislation obliges civil servants to report corruption cases and other abuses to the head of the public entity or to the responsible authority, a considerable part of the respondents (about 27%) are openly not willing to do it for reasons of personal security and lack of trust in empowered bodies, according to the TI-Moldova report.

Thus, the main factors that could determine the involvement of citizens in corruption abatement activities are the confidence that they will be protected if they denounce a public official for corruption acts, as well as the trust in the independence of the justice, showed the Center for Social Studies and Marketing study, as being reported by TV8.

“Committing acts of corruption must become non-profitable. But to drive forward those reforms, independent, effective, and incorruptible leaders of the judiciary and law enforcement bodies are urgently needed,” said Stanislav Pavlovschi, a Moldovan judge formerly at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), for the Global Voices portal.

In 2019, Moldova registered a score of 32 points for the Corruption Perception Index for 2019 released by Transparency International, being ranked 120th out of 180 countries. The score for Moldova worsened as compared to the 2018 year, when the country recorded 33 points, whereas improved when confronted to the data from 2017 – 31 points. More details here.

Photo: freepik.com

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