IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Assessment of Moldovan National Platform before Vilnius Summit: Transparency in decision making in the agenda
The perspective of signing the Association Agreement with the European Union is a great motivation for the Moldovan Government to implement actions in the field of democracy, transparency and accountability – the main ways to prevent corruption. Proving concrete results in combating corruption, reforming the judiciary system and ensuring transparency in the decision making are the main conditions given by EU to the governance of Moldova before signing the Association Agreement.
Some recent developments in Moldova made the issue of transparency of decision making high in the agenda of EU – Moldova discussions. Two decisions made recently by the Moldovan governance – concession of Chisinau Airport in a total absence of transparency and an obscure reduction of the state share in Banca de Economii (Savings Bank) – raised a lot of concerns among civil society organisations and mass-media. Later the international community and EU representatives strongly recommended Moldovan Government to conduct transaction with the public funds and state property in maximal transparency.
Participation in the Moldovan National Platform of Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum gave TI-Moldova possibility to exercise pressure on Moldovan governance to combat corruption. Thus on June 23rd 2013 the Moldovan National Platform passed to the EU Commissioner, H.E. Stefan Fule its’ view on the state priorities for the Republic of Moldova. Among them are:
Consolidation of Moldova’s state of law by depoliticizing the fight against corruption, curbing the captured law enforcement institutions phenomenon, accelerating the reform of the Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary system, the National Anti-corruption Centre, the National Integrity Commission, applying the procedure of confiscation of illegal property and improving the conflict of interest policy;
Supporting the democratic development of the country by ensuring transparency in political party funding and mass-media ownership, and limiting the concentration of mass-media in a “single portfolio”;
Accelerating the economic development of the country by sharing the best EU practices of supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), creating the institution of the Ombudsperson for SME, ensuring transparency and involving businesses in negotiations on DCFTA .
The reaction of Mr. Fule was prompt. On 25th of June 2013, in his remarks following the 15th EU-Moldova Cooperatiion Council, he stressed as crucial for Moldova the following issues (quote):
“first, that the state institutions re-focus their attention on internal reforms and enhance transparency in their functioning; second, that systemic checks and balances aiming to preventing the misuse of the institutions for political purposes are designed with relevant international assistance; third, that Moldova's political life is made more transparent, including through setting up clear rules for political party financing in line with best European practice; …and fourth, that more transparency, again, is achieved in media ownership and in the handling of broadcasting licenses – this to ensure a pluralistic, diversified and high-quality media landscape.” The EU Commissioner also discussed with the Moldovan Government the issue of human rights, the reform of the judiciary; the reform of the Ministry of Interior; and the pressing need to fight against corruption at all levels.
The issue of transparency and accountability has been extensively discussed at the anti-corruption panel of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in Chisinau on 5th of October 2013. The Statement of the Anti-corruption panel adopted at the Forum says that “all EaP governments need to take the cry against corruption from their citizens seriously and respond with concrete actions to elevate transparency and accountability. Politicians need to regain trust by proving the legality of their incomes and assets and reveal potential conflict of interest.
The EU should in turn serve as a model for transparent and accountable governance, both at member state and EU institution level. A first step would be applying a principled approach in EU relations with EaP countries, during their involvement in election monitoring and other democratic processes. The EU should also ensure that support to civil society goes to independent watchdogs and support them in the exercise of their political rights. Given the importance of Association Agreements with EaP countries, the EU should make the negotiations around these agreements open to the public and actively communicated to allow for informed debates and discussions at country level. Finally, the EU should establish a ban for corrupt officials, similar to the Magnisky list introduced in the US”.
The anti-corruption panel recommended the following key thematic areas for joint actions of EU and EaP stakeholders in 2014-2015:
· Budget transparency: monitoring of EU funding spent by EaP governments;
· Immunity - not Impunity: clear define the notion of immunity for MPs’ and other high level officials’ that does not lead to impunity;
· Whistle-blowers’ protection: develop, adopt and implement the legislation on whistle-blowing and whistle-blowers' protection;
· Income and asset declarations of MPs, judges, public officials:ensure access to information, cross-check by civil society and independent authorities, apply sanctions to law breakers;
· Off-shore companies: Greater EaP and EU member states efforts should be directed towards tackling the issue of off-shore companies used for corrupt activities;
· Political corruption: Ensure transparency of political and election campaign funding, build the capacity of civil society to hold their elected politicians to account and demand integrity and transparency of the political process.