In the last few years, EU-Moldova relations have grown closer and tighter, with Moldova benefiting from an increasing number of agreements and the EU eager to consolidate its influence in the country. However, there are still several impediments preventing this relation to achieve a quality leap. The compliance with international democratic standards in Moldova has been recently identified by the European Parliament as the underlying condition for the continuation of current projects. Yet, the challenges for Moldova’s human rights situation are not limited democratic standards, but also include gender equality and prevention of human trafficking.
The EP’s resolution. In a recently issued resolution, the European Parliament defined Moldova as “a state captured by oligarchic interests” and raised concerns over eroding democratic standards in the country. Over the last few years, the European Union has developed an increasingly close relationship with Moldova through the European Neighbourhood Policy, the 2010 Association Agreement and the 2013 Visa Free agreement for short stays. Yet, there are several impediments for EU-Moldova relations to improve further, ranging from the de facto status of Transnistria to longstanding weaknesses in the Moldovan economy and human rights violations of various kinds. Earlier this year, the European Commission froze a 100 million euro macro-financial aid package for Moldova at its first tranche. In the resolution, the European Parliament voiced that the package should not be resumed before the February 2019 elections, which should conform to international standards.
Eroding democratic standards. The European Union is not alone in its concerns over Moldova’s democracy. In Amnesty’s 2017-2018 report on Moldova, the republic is found guilty of a number of human rights violations, ranging from restricted freedom of association to torture and ill-treatment. In July, the Moldovan Parliament adopted changes to the electoral law despite a rash of protests and international condemnation. The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) issued a highly critical report on this regards, identifying several flaws and weaknesses in the amendments. Consistently with the EP’s resolution, the Commission voiced concern that under the proposed reform «independent majoritarian candidates may develop links with or be influenced by businesspeople or other actors who follow their own separate interests». Along with this, the Council found the amendments to be undermining Moldova’s gender mainstreaming system. A decrease in the institutional representation of women may be detrimental for Moldova’s longstanding efforts in fighting gender based discrimination and domestic violence, another key issue on Moldova’s human rights agenda.
Domestic violence and gender equality. Improvements in women rights protection and gender equality are amongst the biggest challenges for Moldova’s future. The country is sadly known as one of the major pools of human trafficking in Europe, with 79% of the victims being trafficked for sexual exploitation purposes. According to the United Nations Drug and Crimes office, a vast majority of the victims had suffered from some forms of domestic violence before entering trafficking, including incest and sexual abuse. Indeed, domestic violence is alarmingly widespread in the country, with an astonishing 63.4% of Moldovan women aged 15 or older having experienced physical, psychological, or sexual violence from an intimate partner. LGBT rights also appear endangered in the country. Earlier this year, the police shortcut the 21 May pride stating that they would not be able to guarantee the security of the participants. Meanwhile, the President described the march as contrary to the country’s traditional values and participated to the parallel “traditional family festival”.
Perspectives. Despite these alarming trends, in the last few years Moldova has implemented several projects aimed at overcoming gender based discrimination, many of which have yielded positive results. Adopted in 2013, the Moldovan Law on Enforcement on Ensuring Equality ensures equality in all spheres of life for all citizens of Moldova as well as other persons under Moldovan jurisdiction regardless of their race, ethnicity, language, religion, sex, age, limited abilities, or any other ground. While Moldova’s effort in this field are being proven effective, the societal changes that the country is pursuing will be only appreciated in a long time horizon. For the efforts to be fruitful, continuity will be fundamental. With elections approximating, it will become clearer which path Moldova will take in the upcoming years, and concerns over the solidity of its democracy may be confirmed or attenuated.