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The man who runs the show in #Moldova

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From the outside, Moldova's foreign policy appears to be governed by the same dilemma as many other states sandwiched between the superpowers of the European Union and Russia - whether to turn east or west. However, from the inside, politicians and commentators who know the system say the country's swings from one side to another are governed less by politics than the interests of one man.

A possible collusion  and secretive dealings between Mr. Dodon, the pro-Russian president, and Mr. Plahotniuc, the de facto leader of the pro-Western governing coalition, could be at the heart of Moldova’s foreign policy. According to Vladimir Socor, an analyst of Eastern European affairs, Mr. Dodon has won the presidency with the backing of Mr. Plahotniuc’s Democractic Party and his media empire. Plahotniuc needs president Dodon to pursue the anti-Western agenda so that the government can remain pro-European and benefit from western support. "The dealings between Dodon and Plahotniuc are long-standing, strategic and not based on principles", explained the foreign relations expert, Dan Dungaciu, for a Moldovan newspaper.

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In public, the two constantly finds themselves at loggerheads. Moldova’s pro-Russia president, Igor Dodon, has accused the pro-European governing coalition, headed by Vlad Plahotniuc’s Democractic Party, of unlawfully preventing him from addressing the UN General Assembly. According to Mr. Dodon’s spokesperson, the move is intended to bolster the government’s popularity “marred by corruption allegations and plummeting living standards.” On the other hand, the liberal, pro-European, faction within the Parliament accused the president of violating the Constitution and asked for his impeachment. Also, Prime Minister Pavel Filip has overruled an order by Dodon, sending out Moldovan soldiers to attend NATO-led exercises in Ukraine despite the president’s opposition.

This tit-for-tat between Dodon and Plahotniuc has captured the public’s attention, while sidelining Moldova’s social and economic woes from the national discourse.  Dan Dungaciu, an expert on Moldovan internal affairs, points out that Mr.Plahotniuc, with the Constitutional Court under his control, has the means to resolve this political limbo.

Ion Sturza, former Prime Minister of Moldova, told EU Reporter that “Mr.Plahotniuc has the ability to do whatever he wants. He has absolute control over political decisions and he alone can choose whether the president gets impeached or the Constitution gets amended.”

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Vlad Plahotniuc is regarded as the most powerful of the businessman-politicians who dominate Moldova. Vitalie Calugareanu, a local journalist and Deutsche Welle correspondent, believes that “Plahotniuc has subjected to his control every state institution in Moldova. He controls everything that moves in the country”.

Before joining the Democratic Party and the pro-Western coalition, Mr.Plahotniuc was a close supporter of ex-president Voronin and the pro-Russian Party of Communists. Plahotniuc quickly changed sides once communists lost power and got replaced by a coalition of center-right parties. Within the coalition, Mr.Plahotniuc power grew and so did his political ambitions. After the coalition fell apart, Plahotniuc planned to head the government himself. Opposition protests and the general public discontent pressured him to nominate his protégé Pavel Filip as PM.

Following the disappearance of $1 billion from Moldovan banks in 2014, the equivalent of 12% of the country’s GDP, large protests erupted, taking aim at the oligarchic regime and Mr. Plahotniuc. Even though Plahotniuc hasn’t been officially charged with any wrongdoing, international reports  and the local public perception allude to his involvement. In two separate polls done by The Center for Sociological Research and The Association of Sociologist and Demographers, 22% and 16% of respondents regard Vlad Plahotniuc as the most corrupt politician in Moldova, and the culprit responsible for the country's dire situation. In a recent poll, only 3,2% of those questioned said they trust Mr.Plahotniuc. In a separate poll ordered by Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party, 8% of respondents said they trust Mr.Plahotniuc and would vote for his political party.

Asked to comment on the claims of influence peddling by Mr.Plahotniuc, Democratic Party spokesperson, Vitalie Gamurari, replied to EU Reporter that such accusation is political mudslinging ahead of next year’s parliamentary election, aimed at tarnishing the government’s credibility. He added that Mr. Plahotniuc is focused on politics and no longer takes part in business activities. As for Mr. Plahotniuc’s involvement in the Moldovan bank fraud scandal, Vitalie Gamurari restated that no official charges have be brought against his boss, who now acts to secure the country’s banking sector.

 

Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

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European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

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The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

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The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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