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The EU Ambassador’s polemical interference in Moldova

Wednesday, 12 August 2020
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

In Moldova, currently in preparation to celebrate its 29th year of independence, a scandal took place involving European diplomatic corps representatives.

It’s not very loud. However, the episode demonstrates both the style and the essence of the European Community’s relations with its closest neighbors, trapped by Brussels in the “ghetto” of the “Eastern Partnership”, without the slightest chance of breaking out of its borders and finding a distinct European perspective

While trying to illustrate the lack of progress in reforming the justice system, Peter Michalko, the head of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Moldova, expressed his bewilderment at the constant postponement of the court hearings in the case of businessman and politician, the head of the opposition party Ilan Shor, one of the figures in the so-called “theft of the century”, during which about a billion euros were withdrawn from the banking system of Moldova in 2014.

Party members and Shor’s supporters took this public statement of the European official as an attempt to put pressure on the court, going far beyond the powers of a diplomatic official. They held a small picket in front of the EU Delegation office in Chisinau, where they spoke very correctly about the European Union and harshly about Michalko. In particular, he was charged with contempt of the presumption of innocence.

As his answer, Mr. Michalko posted a link on his social network page to a report by American detective agency Kroll, which blames Shor for stealing money from the Moldovan banking system. As part of the corporate solidarity, several other EU ambassadors stationed in Chisinau expressed support to their colleague.

The basis of any relationship, including interstate ones, certainly is respect. What this ambassador said was perceived as arrogantly lecture the authorities in a small, impoverished, corrupt country. It is even more serious since he represents a large and wealthy international community based on universal human values.

We have read posts and protesting messages: “it looks disrespectful when a diplomat representing the European Community puts the report of a private detective agency above the Prosecutor General’s Office of a sovereign country”. Even though the reproaches and claims are a thousand times deserved, their public expression is perceived as an insult.

In addition, Michalko has also expressed outraged by the fact that Moldovans continue to treat Russia well, despite the fact that “EU money is everywhere.” What kind of people would like to be reproached with money, that somebody would try to buy their love with money and make them stop liking their traditional external partners. Such a shocking frankness is the spirit of the ‘Wild West’ conquerors, which has led to the fact that today statutes and monuments of great discoverers are being vandalized in American and European cities.

Today, under pressure from protesters, it is customary to repent. There are no protests against neocolonialism in Moldova now. But does this mean that European politicians, officials, diplomats have nothing to repent to the Moldovan people?

When the largest bank theft in the history of Moldova took place six years ago – which could not have happened without the active participation of the corrupt elite – EU officials called it “a success story.” They were so happy about the communists defeat and the arrival of the so-called ‘pro-Europeans’ that they chose not to pay attention to how their charges turned into one of the most corrupt regimes in Europe under their tactful guidance.

It is rather strange that when Michalko formulated his claims to the justice system, did not mention the court decision which suddenly set Moldova’s former Prime Minister free, cancelling a long-term sentence for corruption as well as complicity in the theft of a billion.

Not a word from the European diplomat about another sensational decision, according to which Veaceslav Platon, one of the architects of the Russian Laundromat – a transnational system for withdrawing Russian funds to offshores – was released from prison. By the way, none of the representatives of Brussels repented for the fact that European banks and offshore zones were actively used in schemes to withdraw Russian and Moldovan money.

It is characteristic that one of those who supported Peter Miсhalko in his correspondence dispute with the SHOR Party was Moldova’s very Minister of Justice Fadei Nagacevschi. The same person who successfully fails the justice reform with the money of European taxpayers. The Supreme Council of Magistracy, “reformed” by him, recently appointed a judge to the position of head of the Chisinau Court of Appeal, who in 2019 cancelled the results of the elections for the mayor of Chisinau.

The pro-European opposition accuses the Ministry of Justice of promoting corrupt judges to leadership positions that are politically acceptable to incumbent President Igor Dodon. With an eye on the presidential elections scheduled for November.

This is what’s most delicate with the EU delegate’s statements. Shor’s party is parliamentary. Polls show that it doubled its parliamentary rating, and Ilan Shor himself, despite his actual absence in the public space, is the third most popular political figure in Moldova. Observers note that this happened, among other things, due to the ironclad, tough position that both the party and Shor personally take in relation to the current government under Dodon’s leadership.

The Shor party is the only political formation consistently opposed to Dodon in Moldova. The rest of the parliamentary parties took part in a coalition with him, but not Shor’s party, which has been in a state of open political war with Dodon for several years. Shor party deputies were active not only in criticizing the authorities, but also in consolidating opposition against the current government.

Defined by many people at home and abroad, a stooge for the Kremlin, Dodon is accused of trying to reproduce the dictatorial-corruption system that has already turned Moldova into one of the poorest states on the continent.

Why should Miсhalko strike at one of Dodon’s most important and effective opponents? Was it happen by chance that Peter Miсhalko chose Shor’s, not the most eloquent example out of all the numerous outright failures of Moldova’s justice system. Moreover, doing it at a key moment when Moldovan will choose its geopolitical orientation and by large its future. Which – in the event of a historical defeat for politicians like Igor Dodon – may be much more definite than endless trampling in EU reception rooms.

It is important to understand if these statements from an EU representative were accidental, or whether he, for some unknown reason, played on Dodon’s side. Otherwise, the EU policy towards Eastern Partnership states, already devoid of respect, risks turning into a new corruption scheme.