Association Agreement with EU and paradoxes of President Dodon

The results of President Igor Dodon’s visit to Brussels (February 6-7, 2017) are rather modest in terms of statements and reactions with substance on the part of European officials. The Europeans showed themselves to be rather reserved in relation to the President of Moldova Igor Dodon. Not even after several days of the visit did the European institutions – European Council, European Commission, European External Action Service or the European Parliament – publish press releases dedicated to Igor Dodon on their websites.

Lacking emotional content, the meetings of Igor Dodon with European officials showed the latter’s real attitude to the President of Moldova. On the one hand, the Europeans are aware of the real weight of Igor Dodon in the decision-making process in Chisinau, where he has limited powers. On the other hand, the EU gave Igor Dodon a reciprocity-based welcome as it is practically impossible for Brussels to welcome him warmly after he made hostile statements about the EU in his meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2017. In general, Brussels is used to being criticized, but rejects the criticism that goes against the reality, especially the one that derives from the anti-European Russian propaganda.

It’s definite that the President of Moldova went to Brussels with other expectations and with a tight agenda. His performance and arguments were yet insufficiently convincing for impressing the European institutions. President Dodon tried to sensitize the Europeans to the fact that the pro-EU feelings are on the wane among the Moldovans (Presedinte.md, February 2017). Nothing of this worked. But the Europeans understand very well what is going on in Chisinau – starting with the politicized institutions and phenomenon of captured state and ending with the deficiencies of the banking system. They consider that the positive changes in Moldova can take place by fully implementing the Agreement, not by annulling it. This aspect runs counter to Igor Dodon’s view that the Agreement offers nothing good to the country and that this should be terminated after the parliamentary elections of 2018.

Five paradoxes of Igor Dodon

The rhetoric used by President Dodon used in Brussels generated a series of paradoxes that can do nothing but increasingly confuse the European officials about Moldova. Besides an oligarchic regime controlled by oligarchs, which pretends to be doing a series of reforms, the Europeans have to also additionally confront Euro-skeptical and pro-Russian populism.

The paradoxes explored by President Dodon show lack of coherence and logic. Though they stupefy the European public, such paradoxes are easily assimilated by Moldovan Euro-skeptical groups.

Paradox No. 1. European statistics clearly show, with small exceptions, that Moldova’s exports to the EU have increased, not vice versa (Expert-Grup, February 2017). Igor Dodon insists yet on truncated and erroneously interpreted data, discrediting the Agreement that enables to accumulate over €1 billion from exports to the EU, which represents over 10% of the country’s GDP.

Paradox No. 2. Dodon said that only the liberalization of visas could be felt by the people (Presedinte.md, February 2017), but simultaneously thanked the Europeans for the financial assistance and investments made in infrastructure. This way the President admits that not only the visas, but also the European investments in infrastructure bring results. Unlike the liberalization of the visa regime with the EU, namely the investments are directly due to and derive from the implementation of the Association Agreement.

Paradox Nr. 3. Igor Dodon said corruption increased in Moldova after the signing of the Association Agreement. In reality, the Agreement forces the revealing of cases of corruption by politicians, who have to attack each other in order to survive. As a result, this leads to the augmentation of the public perception of corruption rather than to the amplification of this phenomenon.

Paradox No. 4. The Moldovan President suggests a trilateral EU-Moldova-Russia dialogue on the restoration of the Moldova-Russian commercial relations. In parallel, he plans to scarp the Agreement with the EU in 2018. So, President Dodon aims to restore exports to Russia, using the trilateral dialogue with the EU so as to ultimately reject the Association Agreement. Such a combination is illogical and unachievable as the EU is not at all interested in taking part in trilateral dialogues with Russia, especially if these envision the suspension of its own Agreements.

Paradox No. 5. In general, Igor Dodon pleads for reforms related to justice, the fight against corruption etc. Moreover, the President offered to be the EU’s partner in their implementation. But Igor Dodon fails to explain how these reforms will take place if the Association Agreement with the EU, which ensures their implementation, is eventually annulled by a pro-Russian majority in 2018.

Instead of conclusion…

Even if the absolute majority of statements about the Association Agreement made by Igor Dodon contain huge proportions of untruths, these can be useful in the fight against the Euro-skeptical propaganda in Chisinau.

The continuous discrediting of the Agreement with the EU by Igor Dodon can lead to the weakening of the fight against corruption and to a slowdown in reforming the country, which serves the interests of the current political regime headed by Vlad Plahotniuc and of Russia.

So far the interest in the content of the Agreement with the EU was rather limited. That’s why the informational attacks launched by Igor Dodon could be used to raise again the Agreement and to better explain it to the general public.
Finally, Igor Dodon’s performance causes numerous challenges and also opportunities for putting to good use the Association Agreement with the EU. The better the Agreement is explained, the greater its legitimacy will be and the population will thus increasingly demand to implement this.

Article published on IPN News Agency on February 13th 2017

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