Pirkka Tapiola, Head of EU Delegation to Moldova, commented in an interview for Anticoruptie portal the recent announcement according to which the EU has blocked the budget support to our country. The ambassador said that this is not a punishment and that the decision was taken in accordance with the procedural requirements. The head of the EU Delegation expressed the hope that a coalition government will be created soon and the new government will reach an agreement with the IMF, which would allow the budget support to arrive in Moldova. In this context, the diplomat said that he dosn’t see improvements in the justice sector. “A lot remains to be done to say that there is a satisfactory progress. There is no real political will to reform this strategic sector”, said Pirkka Tapiola.
Anticoruptie.md: What has determined the European Union to freeze the Budget Support payments for the Republic of Moldova?
Pirkka Tapiola: In this context, I would like to mention that the correct wording to be utilised is “putting on hold” budget support, and not “freezing”. Let us not be too dramatic about this. One of the conditions for the disbursement of Budget Support provided by the European Union is macro-economic stability. Taking into account the current lack of a Government which could approve the necessary budgetary modifications in order to pursue a stable macro-economic policy; that an agreement with the IMF is not signed; and the critical situation in the banking sector, this condition is currently not fulfilled by the Republic of Moldova.
How this decision could affect the citizens of the Republic of Moldova?
Budget Support is provided by the EU to assist and support reforms in key sectors of the country. The lack of these resources could slow down the progress of these reforms. However, fast negotiations by a new Government with the IMF can change the current situation in a timely manner.
In your opinion, to what extent this decision could make the political leaders more responsible in terms of forming a governing coalition capable of negotiating a financing agreement with the International Monetary Fund?
This measure is not intended as a “punishment”, it is a measure in conformity with the procedural requirements in the framework of Budget Support. At the same time, it gives a sense of urgency. I very much hope that a governing coalition will be formed without delay, so that a Government is in place to be able to reach an agreement with the IMF, which is so necessary for the macro-economic stability of the country. Hence, it is necessary, first and foremost, for Moldova’s citizens.
The money was foreseen for the Justice reform. Previously you have mentioned that you are not satisfied with the way in which this reform is progressing. To what extent did issues in this respect evolve in the recent months?
The 3rd tranche of the Justice Budget Support Programme of up to EUR 15 million was supposed to be transferred to the Republic of Moldova in the second quarter of 2015, subject to the fulfilment of concrete conditionalities, as for example the adoption of a new law on Prosecution Service. Unfortunately, we cannot yet talk about qualitative changes in the justice sector: the draft law on Prosecution service is still not adopted by the Parliament in final reading, the amendments meant to reform the National Integrity Commission were not approved by the Government in June, the procedure of appointment of judges is still ambiguous, corruption in the judiciary hasn’t been sufficiently tackled, although the salaries of judges have been considerably increased. I have to admit that we saw some improvements related to the functioning of the integrated Case Management System, but much remains to be done in the justice sector in order to say that there is a satisfactory progress. There is no real political will to reform this strategic sector.
A group of judges led by Mr. Mihai Poalelungi, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, has come with a package of legal framework initiatives, 17 in total, that, according to the opinion of the experts in this field, would challenge the progress of reforms and requires an enormous amount of money, which are not foreseen in the budget. How does the EU see these initiatives? Would the EU provide funding for the systemic changes?
Indeed, on the 13th of March this year, during the General Assembly of Judges, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice came up with a set of proposals meant, in his opinion, to accelerate the implementation of the justice sector reform in Moldova. On the 20th of May public debates were launched in order to discuss these proposals with civil society, international donors and other interested institutions. Civil society had a critical opinion towards these proposals; therefore we reached a formal agreement with Mr Poalelungi, that only the proposals supported by the majority of actors would be promoted. These proposals have been handed over to the Ministry of Justice during the public event held on the 19th of June. The Ministry of Justice will expertise these proposals, from an anti-corruption point of view, how they fit with the provisions of the Justice Sector Reform Strategy and will decide which ones should be further promoted. Let me remind you that currently the Justice sector reform Strategy (2011-2016) is under implementation, the EU Justice Budget Support Programme being based on it, all the justice sector actors, including the judiciary, have to join their efforts in order to implement the Strategy and fight against endemic corruption in the justice sector. It is the highest priority. There is sufficient EU assistance in the Justice sector and we do not intend to commit more funds. We are looking forward to see concrete results and real changes.
Some months ago, the development partners of the Republic of Moldova have submitted to the Government, at that moment led by Chiril Gaburici, a briefing book on policies. In those 80 pages, there were inserted chapters regarding the need for preventing corruption, as well as the reform of the justice and banking sector of the country. To what extend were these recommendations taken into account?
We don’t see concrete improvements in the justice sector, the final adoption of the draft law on Prosecution Service is pending, the National Integrity Commission was not reformed, the corruption in the judiciary is endemic. Also, in the banking sector, the recommendations still remain to be addressed. We are encouraging the Government to follow-up on the recommendations in the Briefing Book, which include the setting-up of monitoring mechanisms for all sectors.