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Nicolae Timofti elected Moldova’s President: political future of the state

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Nicolae Timofti’s election as the President of Moldova is stipulated by the search of a compromise figure that would be able to consolidate political forces-members of governing coalition.

Timofti became Mihai Ghimpu’s protégé, thus causing the Liberals to refuse struggling for the post of Parliamentary speaker.

He hasn’t revealed his political ambitions before; moreover he hasn’t got his own team.

All above-listed testifies ambiguity of his own political game, thus meaning maximal concentration on implementation of the political course that would be in behalf of the AEI (The Alliance for European Integration).

We’re expecting the policy of the new Moldova’s President to be oriented towards relatively fast systematic reforms’ implementation, in the legal sphere uppermost.

We estimate that the opposition law adoption would be one of the primary N.Timofti’s initiatives, aiming at the relocation of the opposition forces’ activity from the streets to the interior of the Parliament.

We’re supposing that the whole block of this draft law would be devoted to the creation of the system of opposition forces’ responsibility and would restrict their possibilities of radical counteraction to the governing regime.

Being a lawyer, the current President would take legal reform implementation (judicial system, prosecutor’s office, procedural legislation) under control in the framework of directions  designated by the AEI program “The European integration: Freedom, Democracy, Wellbeing” 2009-2013.

The particular accent could be made on the creation of the independent judicial system and depolitization of law-enforcement machinery.

Timofti’s statements as for his becoming “the president for every citizen” may suggest that the policy of the country’s leader will also be concentrated on fulfillment of the part of the program in the sphere of civil society consolidation and cooperation with public sector.

It foresees the creation of the legislative base favorable for the civil society development in the capacity of the intermediary for the greater public good and the partner of public authority bodies in the process of internal policy implementation.

We’re supposing the main President’s task on a mid-term horizon would mean becoming a mediator between the power and the opposition, thus providing the maximum possible non-conflict and fast harmonization of the European standards with the national legislation.

In our opinion, N.Timofti is likely to initiate the changes in the Constitution of Moldova in so far as it relates to the Presidential election.

Preparation for the Presidential election was accompanied by the active discussion of the national idea search in the Moldovan mass-media.

In the course of his speech in the parliament Timofti said: “Society consolidation is the biggest problem. We need an idea integrating the whole society. And European integration should become this idea”.

According to our assessments, the process of Moldovan European integration, on the whole, is identical to the integration with Romania for the most part of the AEI and the unionists.

In particular, in the beginning of March 2012 members of the National Council for the unification of Romania and Moldova claimed their intentions to conduct the propaganda company inside the country, one of the main theses being: “unification with the neighbor country [Romania] is the most effective way of Europeanisation of the Republic of Moldova”.

Despite the fact that Timofti does not declare officially his support to the unification with Rumania in his comments, confining himself just to the thesis of ill-timing of such discussions, the representatives of the AEI, especially the leader of the National Liberal Party Vitalia Pavlichenko hailed the candidate for presidency not being antiunionist.

It’s worth paying attention that Timofti held talks with the representative of the Moldovan Socialists Dodon, saying that “we shouldn’t discuss the question of unification today, but it doesn’t mean that the generations to come shouldn’t discuss it”.

In response to Dodon’s objection as for the necessity to create conditions in order to exclude the rise of this question for the generations to come, Timofti emphasized that he didn’t know how to do it.

According to our assessments, it means that Timofti’s election, who had received Socialists’ votes in the Parliament, evidently took place as a change to non-stating publicly the unification with Romania.

But there is high probability that the Presidential stand would be altered into more open support of the unification after implementing necessary legal and constitutional reforms.

It should be noted that such scenario will be supported by the official Bucharest.

In January 2011, The President of Romania Traian Băsescu stated: “The Republic of Moldova remains the priority! Romania will further support the process of its approaching to the EU. I hope that in 2012 Kishinev will have the President, and the process of reforms will be intensified”.

In December 2010 «Da Vinci AG» issued the operational report “Scenarios of Romanian policy development in relation to Moldova” where two scenarios of Moldova and Romania unification were mentioned: historical reunification and unification following the EU integration.

At that time we emphasized that the fall of electoral support of the Communists in Moldova favored the realization of the EU integration scenario by Kishinev followed by the further unification with Bucharest.

Ex-President Voronin’s resignation, political crisis and election of the AEI candidate, supporting the plans of signing The EU accession agreement, increase the scenario realization probability.

In this case Kishinev and Bucharest may appeal to Serbia’s precedent that is preparing to the EU joining, regardless the existence of conflict territories.

Timofti’s policy as to Transnistria will apparently correspond to the AEI program of the PMR reintegration.

The main emphasis will be made on the renewal of «5+2» talks, as well as on the attempt to replace peace-keeping forces by the civil mission, thus giving the opportunity to level integration barriers.

The process of “soft integration” with Romania may be dramatized by Bucharest itself.

Romania is supposed to probably start speeding up the events within 1,5 years and try to expedite the process of states convergence at the economical and social and cultural levels.

Two main factors say much for it:

  1. A) Domestic policy problems among the ruling groups in Romania connected with the deterioration of social and economic welfare of the citizens and upcoming hustings.

As the result of post-crisis agreements with the IMF, budget salaries in Romania have been reduced by 30%, pensions – by 15%, retirement age increasing up to 65 years.

Sales tax has been increased likewise.

In the end of 2011 the decision to “freeze” salaries and pensions increase has also been made.

These and some other measures resulted in the protest moods intensifying, mass riots and negatively influence authorities rating.

In its turn, “The Great Romania” theme, including first of all Moldova affiliation, is traditionally exploited by current ruling groups in order to raise their own rating inside the country, remove social tension and unite the nation.

We consider this technology to be used this time likewise as a response to the social challenges that the new government faces.

It means that the question of Romania and Moldova unification may be enforced by the ruling groups of Bucharest in order to maintain domestic and social stability.

Closer to 2014, when Romania faces fierce presidential election campaign without the direct participation of Traian Băsescu, “Moldovan issue” may become the key point for the electors. Upcomingchanges in the UE structure.

As of today the most likely scenario is to change the EU structure further, alongside with centrifugal tendencies intensification.

Every next year the probability of new members joining the EU or entry of new territories in any other way will decrease.

That’s why the long-term and leisurely strategy as for Moldova will unlikely be convenient for Bucharest, where these risks are estimated beyond all doubt.

At the same time, macroeconomic performance of Moldova as of today is capable of impairing fatally social and economic situation in Romania.

For instance, Moldovan export in 2011 amounted USD 2221,6 mln., whereas import – USD  5191,6 mln.

Meanwhile Romania occupies only the third place in the geographic structure of Moldova’s import after Russia and Ukraine.

So, Romania’s economics, especially at its current, crisis-like stage of development won’t bear the “unification strike”.

Thereby, it is extremely beneficial for official Bucharest to create more effective social and economic model in Moldova and to conduct pro-european reforms.

The main directions of such steps are estimated to be the following:

  1. Unification of Moldova’s legislative base in social and economic sphere with the Romanian legislation under the auspices of the all-European standards.
  2. Activation of mutual cooperation at the governmental level, aiming at elaboration of similar development model for two countries.
  3. Energy resources supply diversification in order to reduce Russia’s influence on Moldova.

Particularly, this direction includes “Iași – Ungheni” gas pipeline construction and mutual link-up of power lines.

  1. Increase of the level of goods interpenetration to the markets of both countries. The main emphasis particularly being on creation of joint projects in agricultural sector.
  2. Joint projects in defense sphere and border guard.
  3. Activation of “Transnistria question” approach and finding compromise in favor of Moldova. It’s worth noting that recently the leaders of Moldova and Transnistria have been trying to start developing constructive dialogue.
  4. Activation of educational and training projects for Moldovan youth.
  5. Active propaganda campaign in Moldova as for the European integration of the country alongside with activation of “The Great Romania” thesis implementation by Bucharest on its territory.

Taking into account the above mentioned the main risks for such Romanian strategy in regard of Moldova would be the following:

  1. Russia’s position as for Transnistria and Moldova. Vladimir Putin, after being elected the President of Russia once more, is likely to pay more attention to the “Moldovan vector” trying to limit Romania’s influence in the region that is strategic for the Kremlin. The latest is evidently to activate its work with left-wing political forces (The Communist Party of Moldova first of all), as well as with political movements representing national minorities’ interests.
  2. Imbalance in social and economic development of Moldova and Romania. Per capita income in Moldova, according to World Banks’ data, totals USD 1810, in Romania – USD 7840. The average pension amount, in accordance with statistics data, amounts EUR 52, in Romania – EUR 175.
  3. Antiunionist forces counteraction inside Moldova (with the support of Russia as well), whose actions may be aimed at destabilization of the situation, internal political conflict and republic crushing.

None of these risks is estimated to be insuperable for Bucharest, though the weight of these factors is evident. Thus, we evaluate the possibility of the above-mentioned scenario realization at the level of “probable”.

Thereby we deem necessary to indicate the risks that Ukraine may face in case of Romania’s implementation of this scenario as for Moldova.

  1. Decline in Ukrainian goods’ part at Moldova’s market. Increase in Romanian goods’ part at Moldova’s market required by Bucharest may be realized through the lowering of the role  of two eastern state’s partners: Ukraine and Russia. It’s worth mentioning that in comparison with 2008, export of Ukrainian goods to Moldova has decreased from USD 1,17 bln. to USD 874,4 mln. annually.
  2. Strengthening of the informational, cultural and diplomatic tension, alongside with the intensification of Romanian intelligence services activity as for Ukraine regarding the territorial questions of Bukovina and the southern part of Odessa region in the framework of strategy of “The Great Romania” construction.
  3. Decrease in Kyiv’s influence on the processes in Transnistria, reduction of protection possibilities for Ukrainians living within the territory of PMR, and also of Ukrainian capital interests and of the state economic interests within this territory.

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Eastern Europe

Unhappy Iran Battles for Lost Influence in South Caucasus

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Events that might not matter elsewhere in the world matter quite a lot in the South Caucasus. Given a recent history of conflict, with all the bad feelings that generates, plus outside powers playing geostrategic games, and its growing importance as an energy corridor between Europe and Central Asia, the region is vulnerable. 

This has been worsened by the two-year-long Western absence of engagement. In 2020, Europe and the U.S. were barely involved as the second Nagorno-Karabakh war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, leaving about 7,000 dead. With tensions now on the rise between Azerbaijan and Iran, Western uninterest is again evident, even though this might have wider ramifications for future re-alignment in the South Caucasus. 

The drumbeat of Iranian activity against Azerbaijan has been consistent in recent months. Iran is getting increasingly edgy about Israel’s presence in the South Caucasus — hardly surprising given Israel’s painfully well-targeted assassination and computer hacking campaigns against nuclear staff and facilities — and especially its growing security and military ties with Azerbaijan, with whom Iran shares a 765km (430 mile) border. Iran has also voiced concern about the presence in the region of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries, who were used as Azeri assault troops last year.  

Much of the anger has been played out in military exercises. The Azeri military has been busy since its victory, exercising near the strategic Lachin corridor which connects the separatist region to Armenia, and in the Caspian Sea, where it has jointly exercised with Turkish personnel. Iran, in turn, sent units to the border region this month for drills of an unstated scale. 

This week, the Azeri and Iranian foreign ministers agreed to dial down the rhetoric amid much talk of mutual understanding. Whether that involved promises regarding the Israeli presence or a pledge by Iran to abandon a newly promised road to Armenia was not stated. 

Iran’s behavior is a recognition of the long-term strategic changes caused by the Armenian defeat last year. Iran has been sidelined. Its diplomatic initiatives have failed, and it has been unwelcome in post-conflict discussions. 

It is true that Iran was never a dominant power in the South Caucasus. Unlike Russia or Turkey, the traditional power brokers, it has not had a true ally. Iran was certainly part of the calculus for states in the region, but it was not feared, like Russia or Turkey. And yet, the South Caucasus represents an area of key influence, based on millennia of close political and cultural contacts. 

Seen in this light, it is unsurprising that Iran ratcheted up tensions with Azerbaijan. Firstly, this reasserted the involvement of the Islamic Republic in the geopolitics of the South Caucasus. It was also a thinly-veiled warning to Turkey that its growing ambitions and presence in the region are seen as a threat. In Iran’s view, Turkey’s key role as an enabler of Azeri irridentism is unmistakable. 

Turkish involvement has disrupted the foundations of the South Caucasian status quo established in the 1990s. To expect Turkey to become a major power there is an overstretch, but it nevertheless worries Iran. For example, the recent Caspian Sea exercises between Azerbaijan and Turkey appear to run counter to a 2018 agreement among the sea’s littoral states stipulating no external military involvement. 

The Caspian Sea has always been regarded by Iranians as an exclusive zone shared first with the Russian Empire, later the Soviets, and presently the Russian Federation. Other littoral states play a minor role. This makes Turkish moves in the basin and the recent improvement of ties between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan an unpleasant development for Iran — fewer barriers to the Trans-Caspian Pipeline threatens the Islamic Republic’s ability to block the project.  

This is where Iranian views align almost squarely with the Kremlin’s. Both fear Turkish progress and new energy routes. The new Iranian leadership might now lean strongly toward Russia. With Russia’s backing, opposition to Turkey would become more serious; Iran’s foreign minister said this month that his country was seeking a “big jump” in relations with Russia. 

The fact is that the region is increasingly fractured and is being pulled in different directions by the greater powers around it. This state of affairs essentially dooms the prospects of pan-regional peace and cooperation initiatives. Take the latest effort by Russia and Turkey to introduce a 3+3 platform with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as Iran. Beyond excluding the West, disagreements will eventually preclude any meaningful progress. There is no unity of purpose between the six states and there are profound disagreements. 

Thus, trouble will at some point recur between Iran and Azerbaijan, and by extension Turkey. Given the current situation, and Iran’s visible discontent, it is likely it will take some kind of initiative lest it loses completely its position to Turkey and Russia. 

Author’s note: first published in cepa

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Eastern Europe

Right-wing extremist soldiers pose threat to Lithuania

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It is no secret that Lithuania has become a victim of German army’s radicalization. Could this country count on its partners further or foreign military criminals threaten locals?

It is well known that Germany is one of the largest provider of troops in NATO. There are about 600 German troops in Lithuania, leading a Nato battlegroup. According to Lithuanian authorities, Lithuania needs their support to train national military and to protect NATO’s Central and Northern European member states on NATO’s eastern flank.

Two sides of the same coin should be mentioned when we look at foreign troops in Lithuania.

Though Russian threat fortunately remains hypothetical, foreign soldiers deployed in the country cause serious trouble. Thus, the German defence minister admitted that reported this year cases of racist and sexual abuse in a German platoon based in Lithuania was unacceptable.

Members of the platoon allegedly filmed an incident of sexual assault against another soldier and sang anti-Semitic songs. Later more allegations emerged of sexual and racial abuse in the platoon, including soldiers singing a song to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday on 20 April this year.

It turned out that German media report that far-right abuses among the Lithuania-based troops had already surfaced last year. In one case, a soldier allegedly racially abused a non-white fellow soldier. In another case, four German soldiers smoking outside a Lithuanian barracks made animal noises when a black soldier walked past.

Lithuania’s Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said later that the investigation was carried out by Germany and that Lithuania was not privy to its details. The more so, Lithuania is not privy to its details even now. “We are not being informed about the details of the investigation. […] The Lithuanian military is not involved in the investigation, nor can it be,” Anušauskas told reporters, stressing that Germany was in charge of the matter.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, German defence minister, said that these misdeeds would be severely prosecuted and punished. Time has passed, and the details are not still known.

It should be said Germany has for years struggled to modernize its military as it becomes more involved in Nato operations. Nevertheless problems existed and have not been solved yet. According to the annual report on the state of the Bundeswehr made in 2020 by Hans-Peter Bartel, then armed forces commissioner for the German Bundestag, Germany’s army “has too little materiel, too few personnel and too much bureaucracy despite a big budget increase.” Mr Bartels’ report made clear that the Bundeswehr continues to be plagued by deep-seated problems. Recruitment remains a key problem. Mr Bartels said 20,000 army posts remained unfilled, and last year the number of newly recruited soldiers stood at just over 20,000, 3,000 fewer than in 2017. The other problem is radicalization of the armed forces.

Apparently, moral requirements for those wishing to serve in the German army have been reduced. Federal Volunteer Military Service Candidate must be subjected to a thorough medical examination. Desirable to play sports, have a driver’s license and be able to eliminate minor malfunctions in the motor, to speak at least one foreign language, have experience of communicating with representatives of other nationalities, be initiative and independent. After the general the interview follows the establishment of the candidate’s suitability for service in certain types of armed forces, taking into account his wishes. Further candidate passes a test on a computer. He will be asked if he wants study a foreign language and attend courses, then serve in German French, German-Dutch formations or institutions NATO.

So, any strong and healthy person could be admitted, even though he or she could adhere to far-right views or even belong to neo-Nazi groups. Such persons served in Lithuania and, probably, serve now and pose a real threat to Lithuanian military, local population. Neo-Nazism leads to cultivating racial inequalities. The main goal of the neo-Nazis is to cause disorder and chaos in the country, as well as to take over the army and security organs. Lithuanian authorities should fully realize this threat and do not turn a blind eye to the criminal behaviour of foreign military in Lithuania. There is no room to excessive loyalty in this case.

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Lithuanian foreign policy: Image is everything

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It seems as if Lithuanian government takes care of its image in the eyes of EU and NATO partners much more than of its population. Over the past year Lithuania managed to quarrel with such important for its economy states like China and Belarus, condemned Hungary for the ban on the distribution of images of LGBT relationships among minors, Latvia and Estonia for refusing to completely cut energy from Belarus. Judging by the actions of the authorities, Lithuania has few tools to achieve its political goals. So, it failed to find a compromise and to maintain mutually beneficial relations with economic partners and neighbours. The authorities decided to achieve the desired results by demanding from EU and NATO member states various sanctions for those countries that, in their opinion, are misbehaving.

Calling for sanctions and demonstrating its “enduring political will”, Lithuania exposed the welfare of its own population. Thus, district heating prices will surge by around 30 percent on average across Lithuania.

The more so, prices for biofuels, which make up 70 percent of heat production on average, are now about 40 higher than last year, Taparauskas, a member of the National Energy Regulatory Council (VERT) said.

“Such a huge jump in prices at such a tense time could threaten a social crisis and an even greater increase in tensions in society. We believe that the state must take responsibility for managing rising prices, especially given the situation of the most vulnerable members of society and the potential consequences for them. All the more so as companies such as Ignitis or Vilnius heating networks “has not only financial resources, but also a certain duty again,” sums up Lukas Tamulynas, the chairman of the LSDP Momentum Vilnius movement.

It should be said, that according to the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, prices for consumer goods and services have been rising for the eighth month in a row. According to the latest figures, the annual inflation rate is five percent.

Earlier it became known that in 2020 every fifth inhabitant of Lithuania was below the poverty risk line.

Pensioners are considered one of the most vulnerable groups in Lithuania. In 2019, Lithuania was included in the top five EU anti-leaders in terms of poverty risk for pensioners. The share of people over 65 at risk of poverty was 18.7 percent.

In such situation sanctions imposed on neighbouring countries which tightly connected to Lithuanian economy and directly influence the welfare of people in Lithuania are at least damaging. The more so, according Vladimir Andreichenko, the speaker of the House of Representatives of the Belarus parliament, “the unification of the economic potentials of Minsk and Moscow would be a good response to sanctions.” It turned out that Lithuania itself makes its opponents stronger. Such counter-productiveness is obvious to everyone in Lithuania except for its authorities.

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