Moldova, important landmark on Washington-Brussels-Moscow axis
18 November 2014 Europolitics
In the coming years, during its integration process into the European Union, Moldova will have to consider the effects of the global economic crisis. We should be able to avoid the pitfalls and make the best use of the available opportunities. Without exaggeration, Moldova has the potential to act as a major interface between two markedly different worlds. It will no doubt be able to play a key role in how relationships develop between Washington, Brussels and Moscow in the coming years.
But first and foremost Moldova should remain a country that is stable politically, socially and macroeconomically. The parliamentary elections of 30 November will be decisive in this respect. The battle will be fought between the forces of order and stability and those who spread disorder and sow discord. The Democratic Party of Moldova is committed to the promotion of stability and opposes all forms of extremism, whether right-wing or left-wing.
How can Moldova be characterised today? First of all, Moldova has a real chance to join the EU. It is unique in this regard, since it is the only country that will join the EU with the potential to effectively adapt the values of two different worlds: the Slavic world, with its predominantly post-Soviet specificities, and the Western world, with its deep-rooted values of participatory democracy. Moldova should be able to identify, relate with and advance the common interests of Russia and the EU.
At 8.9%, Moldova's rate of economic growth was the highest in the whole of Europe - from the Atlantic to the Urals - in 2013. Under a democratic government, we can maintain a similarly high growth rate in the coming years. It is perfectly feasible for our country to double its GDP within a decade.
What is Moldova's growth potential? In order to determine this, we must first answer some fundamental questions: Which are the pillars of economic development? How are we going to make the most of Moldova’s geopolitical advantage and Moldovans’ strong mentality? What economic model should we, Moldovans, adopt in order to succeed?
To answer this question, I begin by identifying Moldova’s opportunities: our geopolitics, our valuable human resources, our ability to negotiate, a multicultural society. My answers are based on the prior experiences of the countries that have already joined the EU and also on what these states must do today to jumpstart their economies. I base my vision on my years of experience as a manager and as a member of a pro-European coalition. I have also adapted to the reality of my country certain relevant elements that other countries had already successfully adopted.
Let me give a clear example. Between 2002 and 2006, Slovakia climbed to the 32nd position in the World Bank’s 'Doing business' report, which measures the ease of doing business in 189 economies. That country's economic growth has to a great extent been fuelled by its preparations for an eventual accession to the EU. Moldova is expected to follow a similar course. We have signed an association agreement with the EU, which the European Parliament ratified on 13 November. Similar economic successes are expected, provided that the country continues to be led by pro-European parties after 30 November.
The World Bank's latest, 2015, 'Doing business' report shows that Moldova has advanced by 19 positions compared to the previous year. These are solid and verifiable figures. We are now ahead of EU members Croatia and Cyprus. This will certainly convince investors to include Moldova in their business plans.
My personal objective is for Moldova to become the 'economic tiger' in the EU's neighborhood, just like Slovakia has been referred to as the 'Tatra tiger'.
What steps should Moldova take? The list is long, but all the goals are achievable: strengthening the rule of law, independent judiciary (national pact), rooting out corruption, agricultural development (a must), export-driven economic growth (not based on remittances as today), a friendly business environment (entailing massive foreign investments, stable jobs, infrastructure development), simplifying the tax system, quality services to the population, reforming the political class (which cannot be postponed any further), tackling tax evasion and reducing bureaucracy.
How should we improve our relationship with the EU? The entry into force of the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement between Moldova and the EU can spark renewed interest among prospective foreign investors. The lifting of trade barriers between Moldova and the EU, along with the availability of a skilled labour force at a cost significantly lower than that in the other EU countries, and a friendly business environment will no doubt give Moldova a chance to accelerate its economic and social development. These prospective new investments will improve Moldova's balance of trade and support its national currency, and will increase agricultural and industrial production. And - perhaps most importantly - they will give a chance to Moldova's next 'European generation' to live in a truly democratic country worthy of a state of the 21st century.
Neither I nor the Democratic Party think that Moldova should join the EU at a particular date, but we firmly believe that we should develop the country as quickly and efficiently as possible, and membership of the EU will become an attainable goal. Or, as we, Moldovans say: let's feed the cow first, while the calf to come will be taken care of later.