Info-Prim Neo interview with Sergiu Ostaf, head of Resource Center for Human Rights (CReDO), president of National Participation Council (NPC)
Several days ago, the European Union decided to advance Moldova to the second stage in liberalizing the visa regime. In this sense, an agreement was signed to amend the Moldova-EU Agreement on facilitating visa issuance. What does this second stage suppose? How is it different from the first stage? How many more stages will there be until Moldovans will have the right to free(er) circulation within the European Union?
The second phase of the Agreement, mainly, deals with the assurance and implementation of the Laws approved in the first phase; in other words, the enforcement of the adopted policies. The second phase is the last one, another set of Laws and policies (just a mention here to the police reform). Meanwhile, Moldova must prove in the second phase that the adopted Laws and the practice of enforcement form an irreversible administrative and judicial practice. Evidently, after the finalization of the second phase will come the monitoring by European Commission phase; this stage is necessary for assuring that the Republic of Moldova does not amend in an unwanted way the adopted Laws and to assure that the Law enforcement practice serves the purpose of the Laws.
How would you grade our Government’s performance in negotiating the liberalization of the visa regime with the EU? There have been many comments of different nature up until now, from promises to have visa-free circulation by the end of the year to accusations of populism and national treason…
We can divide the answer into several aspects: the performance of the negotiation team, the performance of the Cabinet Ministers and of public authorities, the performance of the Parliament, and of the political class as well. Generally, my opinion is that, despite certain delays and unresolved expectancies of the civil society, Moldova has shown a performance similar to the countries that present strong desire for European integration.
I think the negotiation team was a very good one, but we need to learn to negotiate in favor of taking Moldova to the European level, and to involve our civil society in this process. Overall, the Cabinet Ministers and public authorities have respected the deadlines and have shown good capacity for receiving and implementing European practices. Nevertheless, their processing capacity seems insufficient for greater changes. The main problem lies within the adequate capacity of implementation, which will stand out in the second phase.
The Parliament and the political class were very swift in reaction to the Cabinet Ministers and public authorities’ solution proposals. The Parliament processed the bills proposed by the aforementioned rather quickly, yet the discussions on draft Laws may have been better. In the future, the Parliament should supervise the enforcement of adopted Laws. Overall, the political class kept pace, yet was timid in repeating and promoting pro-European messages, as well as in assimilating European values. We have often witnessed the lack of political class’ leadership in promoting the European agenda.
How much of this evolution towards a liberalized visa regime can be attributed to the civil society, particularly the National Participation Council that you represent?
The NPC has, and will have, the role of an active and constructive partner in facilitating the elaboration and implementation of the European agenda in Moldova. The NPC bases its activity on the interests of the civil society and European values, not the interests of the political class; consequently, it will plead and pronounce itself in accordance with this reference point.
A part of the society massively protested against the adoption of a certain Law, the one on equality of chances, which we are told was a condition for the advancement towards free European circulation. The promoters of this position motivate their actions through the concern on our nation’s morality, but there were also opinions that these protests aim at stopping Moldova’s European integration. Where do you think the truth lies?
The Law on equality of chances is, in its rational interpretation, the cornerstone in equal conditions and opportunities for everyone. It is in no way a policy for promoting a certain choice or lifestyle. This Law will benefit women (over 50% of the society) in the assurance of equal pay for the services provided, the youth in the employment field in which they are suffering from unequal treatment (over 250,000 people), national and linguistic minorities who are not given adequate integration conditions (over 20% of the population). Furthermore, it will benefit handicapped people in regards to integration within society, public life and labor market (over 200,000 people), as well as the elderly and people who live below the poverty line. Leaving out the speculations of some, and the ignorance of others, this Law is for the entire society.
Besides for work (often unskilled labor) and tourism purposes, why would Moldovans need a liberalized visa regime? How important it is that they be able to travel freely around Europe?
The agreement on deep and comprehensive free trade creates a significant quota for providing services on the European market, i.e. Moldovans will be able to work legally in the service sector of the European market. Consequently, the agreement we are referring to, will create further agreements and facilities for the free circulation of both people and trade goods. Gradually, Moldovan residents within the EU will have better approval from the EU members, which will facilitate additional guarantees for the former. Therefore, the Agreement is for citizens of Moldova residing both inside the country and within the EU.