HAPPENING THIS WEEK
Greetings from Chişinău! Here’s what’s happening this week: Our feature story brings forward Moldova’s attempts to punish the injustice toward the seven Turkish high school workers who were extradited from Moldova in violation of international law last year. This week’s editorials examine Putin’s Moldovan agenda, the corruption surrounding the Chişinău Airport, as well as the way the Democratic Party took advantage of their supporters during this summer’s political turmoil. We also examine the Chişinău Court’s decision to reduce former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat’s prison sentence, the latest rulings regarding Moldova from the European Court of Human Rights, the new investigation into Vlad Plahotniuc’s 2011 transactions, and the business dealings President Dodon’s brother has in Russia. All of that and more in this week’s newsletter. Happy reading!
THIS WEEK’S FEATURE
TURKISH EXPULSIONS: One year has passed since seven Turkish citizens working at a prestigious high school chain were extradited from Moldova at the request of President Erdoğan’s government. The teachers were targeted for their alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, an international civil society group that the Turkish authorities have declared a terrorist organization. Since then, their case has appeared before the European Court of Human Rights and Moldova was forced to pay 125,000 euros in damages for rights violations. Back home, the Office of the Prosecutor General just initiated a criminal investigation into the abuse of power and overstepping of authority that took place during the forced deportations. ZdG has all you need to know on the case.
FROM THE EDITORS
PUTIN POSTPONED: During his trips to Moscow, Moldova’s President Igor Dodon claims to be seeking lower prices on Russian gas. But President Putin (whose plans to visit Chişinău in the near future appear to be on hold) has an ulterior motive. Russia is looking to finally implement a reformulated version of the Kozak Plan, aimed at resolving the conflict in the Transnistrian breakaway region (where Russian troops are stationed) on Moscow’s terms. And according to ZdG Politics Editor Petru Grozavu, that’s exactly what makes Dodon Putin’s preferred interlocutor when it comes to these types of negotiations. “Russian gas, like any other imported or exported goods from Russia, has a political price in addition to its commercial one,” he explains.
FAREWELL SUMMER: At the beginning of June, the former Democratic Party Government paid hundreds of Moldovan citizens to take to the streets and defend state institutions. Although many called them fools, ZdG’s Editor-in-Chief Aneta Grosu argues that they were lied to and taken advantage of to benefit obscure political interests. Looking back at the events of the summer, Aneta Grosu wonders if the Democratic Party’s voters and supporters understand what has taken place.
CHIŞINĂU AIRPORT: So much has changed in Moldova since the Chişinău Airport was privatized in 2013. But for those who benefited from the privatization, a lot has remained the same. After Russia’s Khabarovsk Airport became the only legal investor in the Chişinău Airport, they immediately introduced a nine euro modernization fee for Moldovan passengers – the revenues from which have since exceeded their investments. And according to ZdG’s Executive Director Alina Radu the corruption doesn’t end there.
THE FOREIGN BRIEF
PLUTOCRACY OP-ED: In developing democracies like Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, state institutions are vulnerable to capture by the super-rich. But this year, both Ukraine and Moldova have seen political breakthroughs using electoral methods, while Georgia saw street mobilization used as a successful means of resistance. So where do these countries go from here? In a ZdG first, we bring you a special commentary from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting: Ghia Nodia, professor of political science at Georgia’s Ilia State University, explains how to fight plutocracy.
DODON ABROAD: On September 2, Moldova’s President Igor Dodon made a one day working visit to Moscow, where he met with the Russian president’s Special Representative for the development of trade-economic relations with Moldova, Dmitri Kozak, as well as the Chairman of Gazprom’s Board of Directors, Alexei Miller. This was followed by his second ever presidential visit to Brussels on September 4. There, he met with officials from the European Union, NATO and the Belgian Senate to discuss their shared agenda of bilateral and multilateral relations, as well as the development of economic and commercial cooperation with European partners, the country’s energy agenda and regional security, among other topics.
FOREIGN VISITS: Moldova’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Nicu Popescu, goes on a working visit to Kyiv on September 9. There, he will meet with officials from Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers and the Parliament. Popescu is then set to to pay a working visit to Moscow on September 11, although the authorities have yet to disclose the details of his agenda. Popescu’s visit to Russia is meant to take place prior to Prime Minister Maia Sandu’s planned meeting with her Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in Moscow this month.
FILAT’S SENTENCE: The Chișinău District Court has decided to reduce the prison sentence of Moldova’s ex-Prime Minister Vladimir Filat by 682 Days. The court announced its conclusion on July 30, arguing that the difficulties Filat had faced so far during his three years and nine months of imprisonment in Chișinău’s Prison No. 13 had reached the established “severity threshold” and thereby violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, the Chișinău Court effectively commuted Filat’s original sentence of nine years in prison, which he received after being found guilty of passive corruption and influence-peddling in June 2016. Here’s the court’s motivation.
PLAHOTNIUC 2011: Moldova’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the legality of the transactions former Democratic Party leader Vlad Plahotniuc made in 2011. The declaration came after ACUM Bloc Deputy and Parliamentary Vice-President Alexandru Slusari accused the oligarch of tax evasion and filed a request for information on what he suspects could be illegal transactions. Slusari has also demanded that Moldovan law enforcement bodies initiate a criminal case in Plahotniuc’s name – a new addition to the existing cases against him in Romania and Russia.
HUMAN RIGHTS: On September 3, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published its decision on six cases concerning human rights violations in the Transnistrian region. All six cases were submitted to the ECtHR against the governments of Moldova and Russia, and the plaintiffs were represented by the Moldovan democracy NGO Promo Lex. The Court has ordered the two countries to pay a total of 130,550 euros in damages and fees. For more details, check out ZdG’s summary featuring each of the six cases brought before the ECtHR.
RUSSIA BUSINESS: In July 2019, President Igor Dodon’s younger brother, Alexandru Dodon, became business partners with Igor Chaika, the son of Russia’s Prosecutor General. Now, he appears to be deepening his ties to Chaika, as the two have become partners in another business venture – a new company founded just two days before President Dodon’s official visit to Moscow. ZDG investigates the developing business relationship between the two.
MOLDOVA IN WORLD NEWS
DODON INTERVIEW: Following a recent interview with Moldovan President Igor Dodon, the German news weekly Der Spiegel called him a “man of contradictions.” ZdG breaks down the most important points the President made in the interview. You can read the full text in German here.
DIASPORA POLITICS: Including emigres and seasonal workers, the Moldovan diaspora represents about a million people – or a third of the country’s population, placing it proportionally among the biggest diasporas in the world. And although Moldova’s new government is relying on them as a source of resources and human capital, whether or not their policies will be able to overcome the existential fears of the country’s citizens abroad remains to be seen. “The domination of the feeling of distrust continues to boost the survival instincts of Moldovans not only within national borders, but also beyond them. For these reasons, the role of the Moldovan diaspora is only increasing,” says Dionis Cenusa in his op-ed for IPN news agency.
MEDIA FORWARD: As part of their Media Forward policy brief series, Freedom House has released a new report with recommendations for implementing a human-rights based approach to media in Moldova. According to this report, media freedom in Moldova is being undermined by the limited understanding of key democratic and human rights concepts among media providers. But this could be remedied through a human-rights based approach to media, which would provide a sense of solidarity for the media community and strengthen the relationship between the media and Moldovan society.
JUSTICE REFORMS: Reforming Moldova’s justice system is a key priority of the new coalition government, but according to Mariana Rata, critics are saying that the Socialist–ACUM Bloc partnership is continuing past practices of bringing allegedly independent institutions under political control. Read more in her report for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
DRINKING PROBLEM: “Moldova has the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world and the highest death rate linked to drinking,” writes Madeline Roache. In her feature for Time magazine, she takes us to the village of Puhoi, to investigate how Moldova developed the world’s worst drinking problem.
SPOTTED THIS WEEK
AMERICA DAY: From September 6 to 15, the U.S. Embassy in Moldova will be hitting the road, hosting the America Day fair in cities across the country. During the opening event in Chișinău’s central park on September 6, the U.S. Ambassador gave a speech stressing the importance of the bilateral partnership between Moldova and North Carolina, and marking 20 years of collaboration between the two states. Prime Minister Maia Sandu attended the opening celebrations, as did ZDG.
NEW U.K. AMBASSADOR: The United Kingdom’s new Ambassador to Moldova, Steven Fisher, presented his credentials during a meeting with State Secretary Tatiana Molcean on September 6. The two officials also discussed ways to deepen bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as the importance of signing the new Political Partnership and Trade Agreement.
OSCE-MOLDOVA: On September 4, the Head of the OSCE in Moldova, Claus Neukirch, met with the Bashkan of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, Irina Vlah. They discussed the OSCE’s support for ensuring the proper functioning of Gagauzia’s autonomy, which Neukirch described as a positive signal for the Transnistrian Settlement Process. Neukirch continued to discuss issues related to confidence-building measures on September 5, when he met with Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Vasilii Șova, in preparation for the next round of Transnistrian negotiations. These are set to take place in the 5+2 format in Bratislava from October 7-8.
Thank you for your continued interest! To keep up with our Moldova coverage throughout the week, you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @ZiarulDe or check in at zdg.md/eng for our latest stories in English. More subscription options coming soon. Until next time!
– Daniela Bechet, Cristina Carmanu, Maksym Eristavi, Eilish Hart and others from the ZdG Newsroom. Created with support from the Russian Language News Exchange.