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Moldova Parliament speaker points at possible “evaluation of damage made by Russian troops presence”, Russia officials enraged

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In an interview for Latvijas Avize, quoted by Newsmaker, the speaker of Moldova’s Parliament, Andrian Candu, declared that the Moldovan authorities intend to contract an international juridical firm to evaluate the damage made by the military presence of the Russian troops in the last 25 years.

The Democrat told the Latvian online paper that the Russian Federation holds around 2000 soldiers in the Transnistrian region of Moldova, calling the troops- “occupation troops”:

“The Russian military units represent a security threat because of its illegal presence, as it happens with the presence of the Russian army in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Eastern Ukraine”, says Candu, mentioning that Russia violates the international law and caused damages of billions. Asked by the Latvian journalists about the evaluation of Soviet occupation damage, the Parliament speaker confessed that it might be a sensitive issue for the society, despite deportations, famine and other crimes committed by the Communist authorities.

The first Russian official to react to Candu’s statement was Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Prime-Minister and Putin’s Special Representative for the Transnistrian conflict:

“Over the past year, the Moldovan authorities have taken so many Anti-Russian actions, so many mistakes have been made in their foreign policy, that now it is not clear how they are going to take it all back”, said Rogozin in a Facebook post.

The members of the Russian Federation Council also had to say something on the topic. Frantz Klinkevich declared that it is Russia who needs to propose a “paycheck” to Moldova on the work of the peacekeepers in Moldova:

“I think that Russia is right to give Moldova a reciprocal paycheck. The Russian peacekeepers are fulfilling an important function in this region, preventing an inevitable armed conflict in their absence, which is obviously related to financial expenditures, not some small ones”, said Klinkevich, pointing out that Moldova is a bankrupt country and cannot pay the services of the peacekeepers.

Another member of the Federation Council, Aleksey Pushkov, tweeted that the Moldovan authorities want billions for a “mythical occupation of Transnistria”:

“In Moldova (they) want to get billions from Russia for the mythical “occupation of Transnistria”? A typical logic of parasites: to fake a pretext and to cry “give money”! Attempts meant for failure. They shouldn’t even think. This way, one can get out of the Russian market and lack it totally”, said the senator from Permskaya oblast.

Note: Besides the 402 so-called peacekeepers, Russia holds the Operative Group of the Russian Forces in the Transnistrian region of Moldova containing approximately 1200 regular soldiers, mainly recruited among locals. The Group is the new shape of the former 14th Guards Army of the Soviet Union that is illegally stationed in Transnistria after the collapse of SU. The Group and the Peacekeeping Mission are strongly interconnected through the rotation of troops between them and both contain local Transnistrian men with Russian passports, despite their neutrality claims.

The Republic of Moldova addressed the United Nations with the request to include the issue of the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping forces from Transnistria to the agenda of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. In a letter from the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the UN, Victor Moraru stated that the presence of Russian troops “constitutes a danger to the maintenance of international peace and security.” The subject was due to be discussed in the plenary session of the UN General Assembly on 23 October but then was delayed by the Moldovan Representative to the UN.

Currently studying International Relations at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Study focus: Transnistrian conflict settlement, Moldovan statehood, Moldovan democracy. Inquiries at [email protected]

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Ambassador of Canada: The international community will closely follow the upcoming elections in Moldova

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The international community will carefully observe what is happening in the pre-electoral context and during the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova, declared the Canadian ambassador to Bucharest, Kevin Hamilton. At the end of a visit to Chisinau carried out in the context of the electoral ballot along with other ambassadors, the diplomat said that as partners and friends of the Republic of Moldova they will be here to monitor and see what is happening during this period.

The official mentioned that he came to Moldova together with other colleagues, ambassadors of the states, that are members of the European Union. According to the ambassador, the visit takes place largely in the pre-electoral context but is also carried out with the aim of following the elections that will take place in Moldova on 24 February.

“As far as Canada is concerned, we have expressed our concern and the desire for this election to take place in a fair and free manner. We will certainly appoint our short-term observers within the OSCE Mission, who will monitor and monitor the way these elections are held. In addition, we want to make sure that no candidate and no political party is subjected to harassment or intimidation,” the official noted.

Kevin Hamilton said that in Chisinau the ambassadors had several meetings, including representatives of the Election Bloc “ACUM”, Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase, in order to make sure that these candidates would not be harassed or intimidated, as happened in local elections in Chisinau last summer.

Asked by journalists if there are meetings with other parties, including the Democratic Party or the Socialist Party, but the ambassador answered that their program and the current agenda did not allow it right now.

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Miroslav Lajčák: “The OSCE and Slovakia are ready to provide the necessary support within the Transnistrian settlement process”

“We need a regulation based on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within internationally recognized borders, including a special status for the Transnistrian region.”

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The statement was made today in Chisinau by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajčák, after his meeting with Foreign and European Integration Minister Tudor Ulianovschi.

In this context, Minister Miroslav Lajčák welcomed the efforts and contribution of the Government of the Republic of Moldova to achieve real results that are beneficial to the citizens.

“I am glad to see that we are seeing a real and tangible process – the bridge is open, the children attend schools with the Latin script, the farmers process their land in Dubasari, the cars circulate with the neutral registration plates. We need to use this “momentum” and grow it continuously,” declared the Bratislava official.

In this context, the Slovak Foreign Minister stressed that “OSCE and Slovakia, as the country holding the presidency, are ready to give all the necessary support.”

“I presented the priorities of the Slovak presidency at the end of last year in Vienna, and today I am in Chisinau. This shows how important Moldova and the Transnistrian settlement process in particular really is to us. We want to focus on the political aspect, but also to help people affected by conflicts. “

Referring to the parliamentary elections in February 2019, Miroslav Lajcak reiterated their importance for the Republic of Moldova, noting that the mission of OSCE observers is already active in our country.

For his part, Minister Tudor Ulianovschi expressed confidence that this year, with joint efforts, there will be efficient cooperation, based on mutual respect, in order to increase the dialogue in the framework of political negotiations and advancement in the Transnistrian settlement process.

During the dialogue, the head of Moldovan diplomacy reiterated the increased interest of the Chisinau authorities regarding the organization by the Slovak Presidency of new rounds of negotiations in the “5 + 2” format.

The official stressed that the Republic of Moldova relies on Slovakia’s support in its efforts to resume talks on the withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory on the OSCE platform and to transform the current peacekeeping operation from the security zone into a civilian international mandate.

Moreover, Minister Tudor Ulianovschi also referred to the need to carry out an international inspection of the Cobasna ammunition depot, which, in the shadow of political discussions, is becoming a growing socio-humanitarian danger for both the Republic of Moldova and the neighboring states.

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“The parliamentary elections will be a crucial test for Moldova” – Interview with Maja Kocijancic, the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

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We spoke with Mrs. Maja Kocijancic, the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy about the situation created in the Republic of Moldova, in the context of the future parliamentary elections.

The Parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova will be organised soon, on February 24th. The political situation is already strained, even though the campaigning period starts only on January 25th. How exactly is the approaching elections seen by European Commission?

Credible, inclusive, and transparent elections at all levels, be it national or local, are pillars of any democracy and respecting the will of voters is one of the fundamental democratic principles. Hence, the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova are of critical importance for the credibility of Chisinau’s commitment towards political association to the EU and for its democratic credentials, first and foremost, vis-à-vis the Moldovan citizens.

The EU is strongly committed to helping deliver real changes to the lives of the Moldovan people and so we would like to believe in the same level of commitment on the side of the Moldovan authorities. Unfortunately, recent developments, in particular the invalidation of the results of the mayoral elections in Chisinau, put into serious question the respect for democratic values and the rule of law in the country. These values are at the heart of the EU’s relations with the Republic of Moldova, as enshrined in our Association Agreement. The upcoming parliamentary elections will be yet another very crucial test for the respect for those core values and principles we agreed upon when signing the Agreement.

We therefore expect the authorities of the Republic of Moldova to ensure that the parliamentary elections are conducted in line with international standards.

The pending recommendations of the Council of Europe Venice Commission opinion of March 2018 and OSCE/ODIHR final reports should be implemented, including in particular by ensuring that all candidates receive equal opportunity to stand for the elections and have access to media, as well as ensuring appropriate international and national monitoring throughout the entire electoral process. The Moldovan authorities should also implement recommendations related to the transparency rules of party and campaign financing.

Is the situation during the electoral period supervised by the EU officials? What is the attitude towards the abuses committed by the Moldovan political parties during the pre-election period, investigated by the Promo-LEX Association, and what is the attitude regarding the invalidation of the last municipal elections for the mayor of Chisinau?

The changes to the electoral code adopted in 2017 were against the recommendations of the Council of Europe Venice Commission and OSCE/ODHIR. We said that at the time, publicly and to our Moldovan counterparts at various meetings. Since then, we have been very clear that the EU will continue to closely monitor the consequences of the new electoral system during the electoral process, including during the campaign, on Election Day and the period thereafter, with respect to their impact on democracy in general and on the multi-party system in particular.

Following the non-transparent invalidation of mayoral elections in Chisinau in July 2018, High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn issued a joint statement expressing the importance for the government to respect the will of the voters. And in September 2018, Commissioner Hahn clearly communicated to Prime Minister Filip that we expect the Moldovan authorities to take further urgent actions to address our concerns, including the growing pressure on opposition, independent media and civil society.

The EU and other international partners are also regularly raising issues pertaining to human rights, including cases related to widespread use of preventive arrest, non-transparent judicial processes, as well as detention conditions and treatment of detainees, including several recent allegations of ill-treatment.

Now, in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, the EU will continue to follow with the closest attention all aspects relevant to the preparation and conduct of the elections.

As already mentioned, parliamentary elections in line with international standards, respecting democratic principles, are of crucial importance for us and so is the rule of law and human rights in Moldova, including the situation of the civil society and media. Guaranteeing an enabling environment for opposition and civil society is a key component of democracy.

We are also fully aware of, amongst others, the Promo-Lex report, as well as of the reactions it received. The findings of this national NGO with a long and reputable tradition in election monitoring should be considered by the relevant authorities and serve as the basis for taking appropriate steps to address identified shortcomings.

The Republic of Moldova was to receive a macro financial assistance of 100 million Euro from the EU, but the financial assistance was blocked, mainly due to the modification of the electoral system despite the recommendations of the European institutions and also due to the invalidation of elections for the mayor of Chisinau. Could you please evaluate the implementation by the Moldovan government of the reforms as part of the Eastern Partnership?

The EU supports political and economic reforms in Moldova in line with the Association Agreement. We also support Moldova through the cooperation in the Eastern Partnership format and provide assistance to improve the lives of citizens. However, it is the responsibility of the Moldovan authorities to effectively implement reforms and make good use of our support. In the Council Conclusions of February 2018, the EU reaffirmed these commitments, but also expressed concern at the lack of implementation of key reforms in Moldova. The new electoral law did not address some of the key recommendations of the Council of Europe Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR, and immediate changes were also needed elsewhere, namely, the need to ensure media freedom and pluralism; to decisively fight against corruption; and to pursue a thorough reform of the judiciary.

At its meetings with the Moldovan counterparts, including at the Association Council in May 2018 and Association Committee in November 2018, the EU acknowledged that Moldova has made some progress in economic reforms, fiscal consolidation and bank restructuring, as well as in implementing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, but clearly stated the areas where it feels there are shortcomings and where more decisive actions are needed.

While the EU acknowledges progress in Moldova in terms of economic development, it has witnessed a backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and, in particular, citizens’ rights. The European Commission, Parliament and the Member States have all expressed their concerns over the situation in Moldova.

In light of this deterioration, and in line with the principle of strict conditionality, payments under the Macro-Financial Assistance and EU budget support programmes have been put on hold, pending tangible progress in the areas already specified in the Council Conclusions of February 2018 and in those where we have been repeatedly voicing our concerns. Furthermore, the European Commission has taken the decision to substantially recalibrate its financial assistance and redirect support to projects that have a direct, positive impact on Moldovan citizens.

Taking into consideration the political context and the pre-election environment, is the Republic of Moldova on its way of approaching the EU and how willing is the EU to continue this process? Is the Association Agreement endangered by the direction of the events that take place in Chișinău?

The EU’s policy and assistance towards the Republic of Moldova remains focused on bringing tangible improvements in the lives of citizens. The EU has no intention of disengaging from the country. On the contrary, we will continue to engage by, i.a., stepping up our support for citizens’ empowerment, independent media and strategic communications. We also intend to support socio-economic development at regional level, focussing on Ungheni and Cahul. We will also continue supporting the peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict and strengthening the rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms.

The EU will remain committed to the Association Agreement as we believe the Moldovan citizens deserve better, and more specifically, they deserve the upcoming elections to be free and fair, a government committed to fight against corruption and a truly independent judiciary. The EU will continue to assist Moldova to this end, as one of our closest neighbours who made a clear European choice as testified by our Association Agreement.  But we expect the current and future Moldovan authorities to stay committed to this most ambitious agreement signed with the EU.

Our stability, security and prosperity are interdependent: a strong EU will help Moldova, and a strong Moldova will help the EU.  For such a partnership to work effectively and bear fruit, we need to rely on the establishment and proper functioning of democratic institutions, a strong and active civil society, and economic structures that facilitate and support development, inward investment, jobs and growth.

What should the priorities in the EU-Moldova relationship be and what measures should be taken considering the current situation?

The priorities in the EU-Moldova relationship are clearly stated by the Association Agreement. With signing it, Moldova decided to come closer to the EU and to adhere to our values. Moldova also committed to the swift and thorough implementation of key reforms aimed at bringing positive changes to the lives of the Moldovan people. The revised Association Agenda, setting out 13 key priorities for action, and the 20 deliverables for 2020 under the Eastern Partnership framework, also serve as practical guidance to this end.

Structural reforms are needed to create jobs and reduce poverty. But most of all, what remains absolutely crucial is building the State’s resilience, which can only be done with a genuine and decisive fight against vested interests and corruption, in order to build stronger institutions and contribute to the country’s growth. The EU stands ready to assist the Republic of Moldova to this end, but it is vital that the Moldovan authorities demonstrate their deep commitment to such values as the rule of law and democratic principles.

The EU expects the Moldovan authorities to take some urgent actions in order to redress the current situation. Our expectations concern elections, which should be credible, inclusive and transparent, but also other critical areas related to the respect of the rule of law. These include in particular:

  • a comprehensive and impartial prosecution of the banking fraud case, including in particular progress on Mr Shor’s case. The recurrent delays in judicial proceedings related to this case raise serious doubts about the credibility of efforts to prosecute this massive fraudulent scheme in a comprehensive and transparent manner. A thorough, impartial and comprehensive investigation and prosecution of the cases of the banking fraud with the aim of recovering the misappropriated funds and bringing all those responsible to justice, irrespective of any political affiliations without further delay and in full respect of the rule of law, is critical. This is what the EU has been repeatedly calling for during the past four years;
  • a substantive justice reform which is long overdue. The EU expects the Moldovan authorities to guarantee judicial accountability, transparency, impartiality and independence in line with the country’s international commitments as one of the key principles of the rule of law, a crucial element of democracy and the protection of human rights, and a long-standing expectation of the Moldovan citizens;
  • a decisive fight against high level corruption and vested interests.

Photo source: tiranatimes.com

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