Democracy Summit marks progress on reforms in Moldova

US President Joe Biden has invited leaders from 110 countries around the world to participate in the two-day Democracy Summit. Much has been written about governments that were not invited to this virtual summit, which will take place from December 9 to 10, such as the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey, but there is also several participants to note.

For example, regarding the nations that make up the former Soviet Union: Armenia, the three Baltic nations, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have been invited. In this brief commentary, we will briefly analyze the Chisinau-Washington relationship and why this invitation is an important sign of the White House’s confidence in the European country. Chairman Maia Sandu.

Maia Sandu in charge

Moldova’s challenges and problems since gaining independence have been well documented. These include bad governance, corruption and a Russian-backed breakaway region known as Transnistria. The author of this essay is co-author of a book chapter entitled “The question of Transnistria in Moldova: is the term” frozen conflict “still applicable? ” in Separatism and regionalism in modern Europe (Logos Verlag Berlin, 2020) which provides a summary of Moldova’s history, its current challenges and what its future looks like.

Rather than listing Moldova’s problems, this commentary will focus on how the country’s attitude to foreign policy has changed since President Maia Sandu came to power in December 2020. Sandu, former minister of ‘Education, was also a short-term Prime Minister, in office from June to November 2019. As a parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister is the head of government rather than the president. In this case, the current PM is Natalia Gavrilita, former Minister of Finance. Sandu and Gavrilita are both members of the Action and Solidarity Party (Partidul Acțiune și Solidaritate: NOT) a center-right liberal party.

Since coming to power, both as prime minister and president, Sandu has promoted a generally pro-Western foreign policy. Between the end of September and November, she visited Austria, France, Romania and also hosted the German and Slovenian presidents. A few days after the democracy summit, Sandu and Gavrilita will participate in the Eastern Partnership summit with the European Union on December 15.

While President Sandu has not yet visited Russia, she explained that she was seeking a “pragmatic relationship” with Moscow. For example, in mid-November Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu visited Moscow and met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Likewise, the Moldovan Minister of Defense Anatolia Nosatîi met the Russian Ambassador to Moldova, Oleg Vasnețov, and the military attaché, Andrei Lobov, to discuss military relations. Nonetheless, to call Moldova’s relations with Russia complex is an understatement. Moscow’s support for Transnistria is an obvious problem, but many Moldovans work in Russia and send funds home, and the two countries have strong cultural ties, with many Moldovans speaking Russian in addition to speaking Romanian. In addition, Russia is a key supplier of gas to the country, a problematic issue for Chisinau.

Chisinau-Washington relations

Both as prime minister and now as president, Maia Sandu has made it clear that she wants to have a dynamic relationship with Washington. As Prime Minister, she traveled to Washington in August 2019 – the author of the comment saw her deliver a speech at a DC think tank – to reassure American policymakers that her country would suffer a positive reform process. Although her tenure as Prime Minister was brief, which prevented her from carrying out many of her projects, her current role as President, along with a friendly Prime Minister and generally supportive citizens, allows it is up to Sandu to carry out essential reforms.

As for the Chisinau-Washington relations, if they cannot be qualified as “special relation” to the London-Washington, Moldovan officials are certainly making an effort to demonstrate that this relationship is important to Chisinau. Several recent meetings are worth noting. Moldovan Minister Popescu met Wendy R. Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State in October during the 76e session of the United Nations General Assembly, to promote bilateral strategic dialogue. Also in October, Deputy Secretary of State for Central and Eastern Europe, Robin Dunnigan, traveled to Chisinau, where she met President Sandu. “We stressed… that Moldova wishes to deepen the strategic dialogue with the United States, one of our main development partners,” said President Sandu.

Another senior U.S. official who recently visited Moldova was USAID Administrator Samantha Power, who visited the European nation from November 16-18. “While in Moldova, Power will launch a new program to improve the competitiveness of the country’s growing digital and communications technology sectors,” a USAID press release said ahead of the visit. Power met with both President Sandu and Prime Minister Gavrilita.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Gavrilita praised “the aid and development support that has been provided to the Republic of Moldova over the past 29 years by USAID and other US agencies,” an amount estimated at over a billion dollars. The latest initiative between the two governments is a five-year project, called Future Technology Activity, aimed at increasing “connectivity in the IT sector in our country.” This activity is significant proof of a receptive approach to American aid in Moldova, ”added the Prime Minister.

There is also a defense aspect to keep in mind. Article 11 of Moldova’s constitution states that the country is “permanently neutral; it cannot therefore join alliances like NATO. Nonetheless, the Moldovan military maintains strong defense ties with the United States through the United States National Guard State Partnership Program, through which Moldova teams up with the North Carolina National Guard. US Army General Christopher Cavoli, the US Army’s Commanding General for Europe and Africa, visited Moldova in early September on an important occasion.

Finally, it should be noted that the Moldovan army will for the first time provide troops to a UN peacekeeping mission, namely the UN mission in Lebanon, UNIFIL. The first 20 troops will be deployed in August 2022 and it is not clear whether additional troops will be deployed. The US military has supported the modernization of the Moldovan army, including the modernization of its training facilities in Bulboaca, hence the fact that Moldova is increasing its participation in international peace missions – it is already participating in the mission NATO in Kosovo: KFOR – is a development that Washington surely welcomes and supports.

Moldova and the Democracy Summit

There are cautious expectations about what will happen at the Democracy Summit. The two-day event would revolve around three key issues: defense against authoritarianism; dealing with and combating corruption; and promote respect for human rights. “Leaders will be encouraged to announce specific actions and commitments to meaningful internal reforms and international initiatives that advance the Summit’s goals,” a US State Department press release explained at the conference.

Besides what can realistically be achieved at this summit, analysts around the world have commented on which governments have been invited to participate or not, and what this list says about Washington’s foreign policy goals and strategy during the summit. Biden presidency. Many analyzes have been published on the participation or absence of participation of countries such as Israel, Singapore; Taiwan, Turkey, as well as how the Hungarian government blocked European Union participation in the summit.

The Republic of Moldova’s forthcoming participation has not received the international media attention it deserves. This invitation would have been unthinkable in several previous governments, such as those of Prime Minister Vladimir Filat (2009-2013), who subsequently spent time in prison, of Prime Minister Pavel Filip (2016-2019), or of the president openly. pro-moscow Igor Dodon. (2016-2020).

While it is not clear what the Moldovan government will say at the top, the very fact that Moldova has a seat at this (virtual) table, one of the few post-Soviet nations to participate, is an important event that should not be overlooked. . It will be important to monitor what President Sandu or Prime Minister Gavrilita say about Moldova’s achievements in the first year of the PAS in power. During her election campaign and now as president, Sandu pledged to fight corruption, reform Moldova’s justice system, support meritocracy and increase transparency to prevent incidents like embarrassing theft. $ 1 billion in 2014-2015 in Moldovan banks, which damaged the Moldovan economy. These are precisely the same topics the Summit will focus on.

As the European nation faces various challenges, the Biden administration has demonstrated in recent high-level meetings and through USAID and defense projects that it holds President Maia Sandu and the PM in high regard. Natalia Gavrilita. The participation of the Republic of Moldova in the Democracy Summit is a sign that Washington supports Moldova’s current path.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of

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