Send to friend | Print

EU to start Moldova talks despite election fears

EU to start Moldova talks despite election fears

The EU will start negotiations on a new partnership agreement with Moldova despite the risk the Communist government may exploit the move in the run up to general elections next spring, Kalman Miszei, the EU's top diplomat on Moldova told MEPs on Monday (6 October).

Estonian socialist MEP and head of the EU-Moldova delegation Marianne Mikko warned that the approval of a negotiation mandate for the new partnership pact by 27 EU states could be an image boost for the current Communist leadership, despite its poor record on economic and judicial reform, amid rampant corruption and human trafficking problems.

But the EU wants to speed-up negotiations with Moldova in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia conflict, with Moldova also home to a Russian-fueled frozen conflict in Transnistria, a strategically important region bordering Ukraine on the EU's eastern fringe.

"The risk for the ruling party to exploit the benefits of a Commission mandate before the elections is outplayed by the positive effects of this EU signal to Moldova, which has a geopolitical significance," Mr Missei said. A "wait and see" attitude due to the upcoming elections would be far less effective, he added.

The diplomat also supported creating EU visa-free travel for Moldovans, while admitting the job will prove difficult as European capitals fear a westward exodus from Europe's poorest country, which is home to 4 million people.

Visa-free travel is a matter of national security for Moldova, Mr Miszei explained, as Russia has given passports to Transnistrians in a direct parallel to passport policy in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where it later invoked protection of Russian citizens to invade Georgia.

"We need to insure that the Moldovan citizenship is not seen as worse than other citizenships," Mr Miszei said.

The diplomat also called upon Russia to adopt a "constructive" attitude to the Transnistrian conflict, following Moscow's recent attempts to negotiate dicrectly with Chisinau instead of using the internationally-agreed "5+2 format" (Russia, Ukraine, EU, OSCE and US plus the Moldovan and Transnistrian sides).

"Russia made it clear that it treats Transnistria fundamentally differently from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It needs now to use its influence to get back to the approved international format of 5+2," he said, adding the EU won't accept any solution brokered outside this format.

The negotiations on the new partnership pact are set to start at the end of the year, according to the French EU presidency timetable.

Speaking in Chisinau on Monday, French secretary of state for EU affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet confirmed that the negotiations will start by the end of this year, stressing the importance for visa-free travel to be included in the package, Romanian news agency NewsIn reports.

Corruption and human trafficking

President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova at a meeting with French EU affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet in Chisinau on Monday spoke of his support for European values, deepening EU-Moldovan relations and ending the EU visa regime.

But analysts agree that his administration has performed weakly since 2001, especially on fighting corruption and human trafficking.

In the latest corruption perception index by watchdog Transparency International, Moldova ranked 109th amongst 180 countries in the world.

The latest US report on human trafficking says Moldova is "a major source" for women and girls trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

"It is estimated that slightly more than 1 percent of the approximately 750,000 Moldovans working abroad are trafficking victims," the report reads.

"The Government of Moldova does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so," it adds, recommending that authorities investigate and prosecute "vigorously" public officials complicit in trafficking.

Mr Miszei stressed that the trafficking problem almost led to a recent freeze of US funding to Moldova totaling 0 million, a measure Chisinau managed to avoid by the skin of its teeth.



Comments (0)