‘Last chance’ for Moldova’s pro-EU government after mass protests

Anti-government protests in Chisinau. [Moldova.org]

Moldova’s new Prime Minister, Pavel Filip, said yesterday (26 January) that his government faces a “last chance” to regain public trust as the country a battles deep political crisis, calling for calm from protesters demanding his resignation.

“The political class now has its last chance to restore Moldovans’ and our international partners’ trust,” Filip said in an interview with BBC television.

On a visit to neighbouring Romania, Filip said the elite was responsible for a political crisis that has seen Moldova rocked by mass protests in recent weeks.

>>Read: Protestors break into Parliament, as Moldova’s new pro-EU government is approved

Some 40,000 people took to the streets last weekend to demand early elections just days after a new government was sworn in — the third such administration to take office within a year.

Filip said he had no intention of resigning, telling the BBC that Moldova desperately needs stable government to avoid a “deep economic and social crisis”.

He added that action would be taken against protesters who “cross a red line and become violent”.

Moldova has been mired in crisis since April when the exposure of a $1-billion (€910-million) corruption scandal triggered huge protests and the arrest of former premier Vlad Filat.

>>Read: Moldova banking scandal fuels biggest protest ever

>>Read: Wiretaps incriminate Moldovan pro-EU leader

The previous pro-EU government lost a vote of confidence in October and was dismissed, but since then, the parliament has been deadlocked over its replacement.

The country is torn between those who want it to join neighbouring Romania in the European Union and those who want closer relations with Moscow, its Soviet-era master.

The nomination on 20 January of a new government did little to calm the protests, with demonstrators trying to storm the parliament as the new administration was sworn in, prompting calls for calm from the EU.

Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolo? said during Filip’s visit Tuesday that Bucharest would loan its neighbour €150 million on the condition that the government pushes through “real reforms”.

“Romania is ready to support Moldova on its European track provided it makes a clear commitment to carry out real reform, and not just on paper,” Ciolo? said.

Bucharest had pledged the loan in October, but froze it in the midst of the political crisis.

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania and with a population of just 3.5 million, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Although Romania expects to release a first €60-million tranche of the loan, this will depend on the outcome of an upcoming visit by IMF officials, Ciolo? said.

Moldova is a former Soviet republic, and was part of Romania before being annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II. It is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. Moldovans speak Romanian, although the country's constitution calls it the 'Moldovan language'. Russian is also widely spoken.

Moldova signed its EU Association Agreement on 27 June, 2014 and ratified it only five days later. Russia doesn't approve the pro-EU move, and tries to keep Moldova in its orbit.

>>Read: Moldova sets record in ratifying EU association agreement

Transnistria, a Moldovan region east of the Dniester River, has been considered a 'frozen conflict' area since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has ethnic Russian and Ukrainian populations. Although Transnistria is part of Moldova, its authorities do not exercise any power there.

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