In the article headlined ‘Bring Moldova back from the brink,’ the Secretary General writes: “The Republic of Moldova — a tiny country of just 3.5 million people — is at risk of becoming Europe’s next security crisis, with potential consequences far beyond its borders.
“Over the last six years little has been done to open up the country’s economy and its institutions. Corruption remains endemic and the state is still in the hands of oligarchs, while punishingly low incomes have propelled hundreds of thousands of Moldovans to go abroad in search of a better life.
“Widespread public frustration now has a lightning rod. At the end of last year, $1 billion disappeared from three of the country’s banks. The scandal has come to epitomize the state’s failure to protect citizens’ interests.
“The regional picture is also bleak. In recent months, there has been a serious deterioration in relations with Transnistria — the breakaway, Russian-speaking province along Moldova’s eastern side.
“Many in Moldova worry that Transnistria could become the next Crimea, an anxiety that has been further fueled by appeals for Russian protection from some of the province’s civic groups.
Transnistria’s leaders complain that Moldova is conspiring with Ukraine to keep them under economic blockade and have now ordered Transnistrian army reservists between 18 and 27 to mobilize. At this stage, a full-blown military conflict is unlikely but, in such a tense environment, even skirmishes could spiral out of control.”
Jagland believes that “Moldova’s newly formed government must act quickly” and introduce a raft of reforms if the country’s situation is to improve.
“The clear lesson from Ukraine has been that, in today’s Europe, a state’s strength and stability depends on its commitment to democracy and the rule of law,” writes the Secretary General.
“Moldova, too, must now think of its democratic security. Alongside the urgent measures needed to fix the banks, the government must immediately begin purging corrupt officials from public bodies.
“More fundamentally, Moldova will need to implement the basic checks on power that should exist in any democracy. The key anti-corruption agencies — the Anti-Corruption Center, the National Integrity Commission and the General Prosecutor’s Office — must be set on an independent footing, with clear powers and genuine muscle.
“Despite years of disappointment, many Moldovans still hold great ambition for their country. They maintain that, freed from corruption, it can be transformed. But first, this captured state must be returned to its citizens.”