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Russian elections on Moldovan territory

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A defiance of a sovereign and independent state, that’s how Foreign Ministry officials from the Republic of Moldova described last week’s decision by the Russian Federation to open polling stations in the breakaway Transnistrian region, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway state located in the narrow strip of land between the river Dniester and the Moldovan–Ukrainian border that is internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Moldova.

The Russian backed region has been the bone of contention between Russia and the Republic of Moldova ever since Moldova gain its independence in August 1991.

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The Russian federal election that took place at the end of last week reignited the debate over Transnistria, prompting Moldovan officials to react.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration regrets that, despite the position consistently expressed by the Moldovan authorities, the Russian side has acted in a manner that does not correspond to the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova and the bilateral legal framework”, officials in Chisinau said in a press release.

The press release issued by Moldavian authorities goes on say that officials called on the Russian side to refrain from opening the 27 polling stations in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova.

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Moldovan diplomats “requested since July 30 that Russia not open polling stations in localities under the control of the constitutional authorities of the Republic of Moldova given also the impossibility of ensuring the necessary security conditions for the conduct of the election “, the press release shows.

Political pundits in the Republic of Moldova argued that the government avoided a harsher tone in relation to Moscow to avoid complicating the situation.

Speaking to EU Reporter, political science professor and expert on the former soviet region, Armand Gosu said that the election for the Russian Duma held on Moldova’s territory represents “indisputably a violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. Moscow negotiated directly with Tiraspol (capital of Transnitria) the opening and operation of polling stations on the territory of the separatist republic, which amounts to not recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova.”

Russia has in past got involved in organizing elections in the breakaway region of Transnistria. Despite protests in Chisinau, Russia has continued to increase the number of polling stations in the Transnistrian separatist enclave at every election in recent years.

In addition to Transnistria, Russian authorities opened polling stations in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova, as well as the cities of Comrat and Balti. It is the largest number of polling stations opened by Russia outside its borders.

Russia has so far offered more than 220,000 Russian passports in Transnistria, which means that about two-thirds of the citizens living on the left bank of the Dniester are already Russian citizens. Yet, according to data by authorities in Transnistria, the turnout wasn’t rosy showing that only 27,000 people voted in the separatist region.

But for Transnistria, this election is about pleasing Putin.

“For separatist leaders, it is important to prove their loyalty to the Kremlin by delivering as many votes as possible for Putin's party”, Gosu told EU Reporter.

Armand Gosu also commented on the nature of the Russian election saying that “the elections in Russia are neither fair nor reflect the will of the electorate.”

The same view was shared by Pasa Valeriu working for the Moldovan based NGO, WatchDog.MD, who told EU Reporter that ”I can’t call what is happening in Russia as being an election. It’s nothing more than a sham. Therefore the question of a secure electoral process in Transnistria falls under the same category.”

Last week’s election in Transnistria for the Russian Duma was widely publicized by the local administration and its sponsored media.

It was portrayed as very important for the breakaway region and used to showcase Russia's decisive role, its help and support for the region. The reality paints a different story with Russia's assistance, as well as trade with Transnistrian, one of the poorest regions in Europe, steadily declining over the past years.

European Commission

Macro-financial assistance: EU disburses €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova

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The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has carried out another round of disbursements under the €3 billion macro-financial assistance package for ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners. The programme is a concrete demonstration of the EU's solidarity with its partners to help respond to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission has disbursed €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova. This support is provided through loans at very favourable rates. With these disbursements, the EU has successfully completed five out of the 10 MFA programmes in the €3 billion COVID-19 MFA package, and disbursed the first tranches to all partners. The Commission continues to work closely with the rest of its MFA partners on the timely implementation of the agreed policy programmes. 

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Moldova

Moldovans see Russia as its biggest threat and EU integration as a national objective

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A recent survey ordered by NATO Moldova Center for Information and Documentation showed that Russia represent the biggest security threat for the greatest number of Moldavians answering the survey, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

As the country is celebrating its 30 years of independence from the former USSR, present day Russia is regarded by 24.1% of respondents as the biggest source of danger for the security of the Republic of Moldova. Russia is followed in this ranking by terrorist groups with 20.5%, NATO with 10.5%, USA with 10.2% and neighboring Romania with 4.4%.

The results of the survey come on the backdrop of the Kiev Summit and the launch of "Crimea Platform" that took place in Kiev on August 23. The event was attended by representatives from 46 countries that supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the Republic of Moldova with President Maia Sandu also being present. The Crimean platform adopted a final statement condemning the occupation and militarization of the Russian-annexed peninsula in 2014. Russia's foreign ministry responded saying that Russia will take note of the position of states participating in the Crimean Platform summit and draw "appropriate conclusions", seeing it as "an attack on the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation."

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Viorel Cibotaru, director of the European Institute of Political Studies in Moldova, co-founder of CID NATO, says that interest in security is not limited to the survey that says which country Moldovans fear most, but would like to be a starting point for other topics of debate and action in the field of institution reform, and also the development of a better culture for reforming and debating about the country’s security infrastructure.

The survey also showed that 65% of Moldavians consider the country to be heading towards closer ties with the EU. Amongst the results, Russia was mentioned by 9% of respondents and Romania - almost 5% as countries towards which Moldova looks to aim for closer ties.

As for the direction respondents personally wished the country was heading towards, they would like to see Moldova moving towards the EU -about 50% of the respondents-, towards Russia - 21% and about 2% he would like Moldova to have closer ties with neighboring Romania.

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Moldova's recently elected pro-European president, as well the current parliamentary majority, want to take the country towards EU and the West, different from the previous Eastern looking and Russian orientated administration.

This summer, president Sandu’s pro-European Party of Action and Solidarity secured a majority of votes in the parliamentary elections. Sandu became Moldova’s president at the end of last year following also a large support from Moldova’s considerable diaspora. For example, during the parliamentary elections more than 86% of Moldovan citizens abroad backed President Maia Sandu's Action and Solidarity Party (PAS). The PAS victory offers Sandhu a friendly legislature to work with while trying to put the country on a path to European integration.

But in order for country to move towards EU integration, much needs to be done. Moldova needs an overhaul of its governance and a drastic break with past oligarch practices - which the current government has said it will undertake.

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Bulgaria

Election weekend in Eastern Europe brings unexpected change and hope for progress

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On Sunday (11 July), Bulgarians went to the polls for a second time in less than six months after former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov failed to form a governing coalition following April’s parliamentary election, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

With 95% of ballots tallied, former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov's GERB center-right party came out first winning 23.9% of the vote, according to data provided by the Central Election Commission.

Borisov's party is neck and neck with the newcomer anti-establishment party "There is such a people" (ITN), lead by singer and television presenter Slavi Trifonov.

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Borissov’s narrow lead might not be enough for him to retake control of government.

Anti-corruption parties "Democratic Bulgaria" and "Stand up! Mafia, out! ”, ITN's potential coalition partners received 12.6% and 5% of the vote, respectively. The Socialists obtained 13.6%, and the MRF party, representing ethnic Turks, 10.6%.

Some political pundits have speculated that ITN, Trifonov's party - which avoided forming a governing coalition in April - could now try to form a majority with the liberal alliance Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Mafia out! parties. This would see a populist party with no clear political agenda taking power. However, the three parties may not get the majority needed to form a government and may be forced to seek support from members of the Socialist Party or the Movement for the Rights and Freedom of Ethnic Turks.

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Boiko Borisov's GERB center-right party which has been in power for almost the entire past decade has been tainted by graft scandals and the continuous nation-wide protests which only ended in April.

In Republic of Moldova, president Sandu’s pro-European Party of Action and Solidarity secured a majority of votes in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. As Moldova is trying to get out of Russia’s grip and head towards Europe, the election struggle again saw pro-Europeans and pro-Russians locking horns. The two directions are antagonistic and were an additional reason for the division of society, which fails to find its link to build together the future of the poorest state in Europe.

More than 3.2 million Moldovans were expected to get out and vote to nominate their representatives in the future parliament in Chisinau, but the real impact was done by Moldavians living abroad. Moldovian diaspora help Sandu’s pro-European party secure the win and thus possibly opening the way for Republic of Moldova future European integration.

More than 86% of Moldovan citizens abroad, who voted in Sunday's early parliamentary elections, backed President Maia Sandu's Action and Solidarity Party (PAS). A PAS victory offers Sandhu a friendly legislature to work with while trying to put the country on a path to European integration.

Maia Sandu promised before the Sunday vote that a win for her party would bring the country back into the European fold, focusing on better relations with both neighboring Romania and Brussels.

Much like it happened during November’s vote which saw Maia Sandu winning the presidency, Moldavians living aboard made all the difference as a good many voted for pro-European candidates.

Talking to EU Reporter, Armand Gosu, associate professor at Bucharest University and specialist in the ex-Soviet region said about the pro-European win that “this victory creates the preconditions for a new wave of reforms, especially in the judiciary and the fight against corruption, reforms aimed at creating a favorable internal framework for foreign investment that will ultimately lead to an increase in living standards, the rule of law and a high degree of resilience in the face of foreign interference. Sunday’s result is a start, there have been other such beginnings, but in order to lead somewhere, the EU must also change its approach and offer a concrete perspective.”

Armand Gosu told EU Reporter that “Republic of Moldova is invited to reform itself, to enter into various cooperation mechanisms with the EU, to open its market for European products and to become more and more compatible with EU standards“ but becoming a potential EU member country may take many decades to happen.

Mentioning the Russian influence in the Republic of Moldova, Gosu said that we will see a clear detachment from Russian sphere of influence after the final results are in and after we will have new parliamentary majorities.

“When speaking about Russian influence, things are more complicated. The false pro-European governments that held power in Chisinau -referring to the ones controlled by the fugitive oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc- abused the geo-political discourse, the anti-Russian rhetoric in order to legitimize themselves in front of the West. Maia Sandu's party is pro-European in another way. She talks about the values ​​of the free world and not about the Russian threat as a pretext to limit civil liberties, to arrest people and to outlaw associations or even parties. I believe that Maia Sandu has a correct approach, making profound reforms that will fundamentally transform Moldovan society. In fact, the premises for Moldova's exit from Russian sphere influence were created 7 years ago, after the outbreak of the war between Ukraine and Russia, in the spring of 2014. The result of the vote indicates a social demand from society to move towards West, to support radical change, 30 years after independence.”

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