Moldova Weekly #28: the rose in our stars, investigation into nowhere, no money for bad men
The rose in our stars
The Democrats and the Socialists seem on the verge of finally making their relationship official. The two sides reportedly met for negotiations at the Parliament, under the watch of President Dodon. PDM had long been considered too toxic for a formal alliance because of its association with fugitive oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. That might not be a problem anymore as a group of six PDM MPs, most notably Andrian Candu, Sergiu Sîrbu and Vladimir Cebotari, quit the party, claiming the Democrats were too submissive to Igor Dodon’s Socialists. They call themselves “Pro-Moldova” and promise to take with them more chunks of PDM. One of the party district organizations has already followed them.
PDM and PSRM affiliated media quickly labeled them the “Plahotniuc group”. Their departure might very well serve to prove that Democrats have “cleansed” themselves of all things Plahotniuc. It just so happens the president wants to change a couple of ministers this spring, thus opening a few spots for their new allies. PDM leader Pavel Filip however denies his party is about to formally join the government.
Although former ACUM allies PDA and PAS can barely work with each other, their MPs had started making some thinly veiled overtures to the Democrats. They declared themselves open to working with PDM in order to adopt a parliamentary declaration on Moldova’s European integration. PAS and PDA also asked the Democrats’ help to fire Foreign Minister Aureliu Ciocoi, who said Russia had intervened in the Transnistrian conflict to prevent bloodshed. However, the Democrats announced they would not support the no-confidence vote against the minister because he apologized in a meeting with the PDM group.
100 days, make it two
When Prime Minister Ion Chicu came to the Parliament to present a report on his 100 days in charge, the opposition blocked the tribune and forced him to go and make his presentation to the journalists in the press room. The MPs were unhappy that they had not been sent the report in advance so that they could inform themselves and ask Chicu more difficult questions. They also called Foreign Minister Ciocoi a coward for his refusal to come and apologize or defend his statements in front of the Parliament.
PM Chicu then published the report online. It says, in short, that everything is great. Even better than expected: the national budget income has grown, the deficit is smaller than expected, the justice reform is in the works and will meet all expectations, social measures have been taken to protect the needy, and so on. One of listed achievements is the re-hiring of secretaries and experts that were part of the previous PDM government and had been dismissed by the Sandu Cabinet.
Ziarul de Gardă instead published a list of the prime minister’s still unfulfilled promises, such as the much talked about Russian loan or the double increase of pensions.
Another 100 days report was presented by Mayor of Chișinău Ion Ceban. As was to be expected, a lot of blame was put on the shoulders of previous administrations. Ceban says he has put an end to the chaos of corruption and bureaucracy that he found in the City Hall and has started numerous modernization and reform processes. Meanwhile, the Socialist says he has also been busy removing illegal kiosks and freezing unauthorized constructions in the city. In response, former interim mayor Ruslan Codreanu commented that in fact he was the one who had started most of the things Ceban boasted about.
No money for bad men
Moldova once again lost a case at the European Court of Human Rights, being ordered to pay 3.6 million euros to the former shareholders of a shopping center in the heart of Chișinău because of a judicial error. Prime Minister Chicu was outraged and swore no money would be paid from the public budget. He wants the prosecutors to investigate the judges responsible for the decisions that got Moldova in trouble at the ECHR. He even threatened he would take the money out of the annual budget of the judiciary. Former justice minister Alexandru Tănase warned him that such a measure would not affect the corrupt judges, but only the auxiliary staff that actually depend on their wages.
A similar proposal was made in relation to the case of the seven Turkish teachers, who were kidnapped by Moldovan special forces and handed over to Turkish authorities without any due process. This obviously led to another lost case at the ECHR, which ruled Moldova should pay reparations of 25,000 euros to each of the victims. Justice Minister Fadei Nagacevschi says former intelligence chief Vasile Botnari, if found guilty, could be the one to pay the money. To read more about this scandalous case, read our piece: A few further questions for the prosecutors in the shameful affair of the Turkish teachers
Investigation into nowhere
The Prosecutor General’s Office presented an intermediary report about the investigation into the bank fraud to the Parliament’s security committee. The paper basically admits things haven’t really moved over the last five years and blames previous leading prosecutors, especially Viorel Morari. At the moment, prosecutors have about 200 files connected to the fraud. They are investigating five different groups: Gacichevici, Plahotniuc, Platon, Șor și Filat. To the dismay of the opposition, former officials like prime minister Iurie Leancă, finance minister Anatol Arapu and speaker Andrian Candu are not under investigation, although it is they who decided to prop the defrauded banks with emergency government loans while the fraud was still going on. At the very least, the opposition wants them called to account for negligence if not as accomplices.
While the investigations stagnates, former prime minister Vlad Filat has already managed to get out of jail and the only other major player who went to prison, Veaceslav Platon, might benefit from an investigation into suspended chief anti-corruption prosecutor Viorel Morari. The latter is accused of tampering with the investigation to protect Plahotniuc and frame Platon. Should the judges agree, Platon might breathe the air of freedom again. Morari himself claims he is being punished for looking into the Socialists’ accounts. He says he met with President Dodon twice and was informed that Alexandr Stoianoglo would be made Prosecutor General. The head of the state also “jokingly” asked why he wasn’t investigating some allegations into opposition leader Andrei Năstase.
PDA deputy chief Alexandru Slusari was not amused and formally asked prosecutors to investigate Igor Dodon for abuse of office and interference into prosecutorial affairs..
Alexandr Stoianoglo meanwhile published a list of previous investigations that might have been opened on political grounds, which includes the wiretapping of Năstase and other opposition and civil society leaders. According to Stoianoglo, a special group of prosecutors will evaluate each of the 38 files.
Another one bites the clouds
After Ilan Șor passed on the lease on the Chișinău Airport to Nat Rothschild and the latter sold it to Russian businessman Andrey Goncharenko, the company might change owners again. Goncharenko announced that in the light of the government’s new plans he is no longer interested in the Chișinău Airport.
The government wants to merge several state-owned enterprises into a big company called “Aeroporturile Moldovei” (The Airports of Moldova). The consolidated entity should facilitate Igor Dodon and Ion Chicu’s plans to open two new airports in Moldova - one with public money, in the north, and another with private investments, in the south. At the moment, first on the authorities’ list of options seems to be the northern airport of Mărculești, formerly a military base and currently an unsuccessful free economic zone. Earlier this winter, President Dodon was very optimistic and said international flights from Mărculești might start as soon as this summer.
The fate of the Chișinău Airport remains uncertain. While the state enterprise will be merged into the new consolidated entity, the company owning the lease is in turn owned by a Cyprus offshore and is beyond the government’s control. Both the Sandu Cabinet and the Chicu government promised to get the airport back under state control, but there has been little success in either case.