BRUSSELS, Belgium – Concern has been voiced about EU funding to Moldova after the former Soviet state was recently branded “one of the most corrupt” countries in Europe.
It comes as the EU develops an increasingly close relationship with Moldova, going beyond cooperation, to gradual economic integration and a deepening of political cooperation.
According to EU sources, Moldova, along with Georgia and Armenia are supposed to receive up to €1.9bn as ‘assistance allocations’ in 2010-2013.
However, members of Moldovan public organisations, journalists and independent analysts claim the majority of EU foreign assistance to the state is being misused by local officials.
The EU and Moldova are currently negotiating an association agreement which will significantly deepen Moldova’s political association and economic integration with the EU.
The objective is to start negotiations on a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA), a core element of the association agreement, as soon as Moldova is deemed to be ready to sustain the impact of far-reaching liberalisation of its trade with the EU.
However, the eastern partnership community (EaP), a leading independent think tank which specialises in the region, has raised concerns about the possible misuse of EU funds.
A spokesperson for Warsaw-based EaP said, “The EU is devoting considerable sums to Moldova for very little return in terms of progress in the country’s reform process.
“It begs the question: Why is the EU throwing money like this at a black hole of corruption, when there is so much to do in the EU’s own member states?”
In 2009, the EU assigned €600m to the eastern partnership. During 2010-2013 the amount increased to €1.9bn.
The biggest beneficiary of the funds in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood is Ukraine with Moldova next, receiving some €482m.
Recent opinion polls say that the majority of citizens of Moldova consider the current coalition government as “totally corrupted”.
According to Transparency International reports, in 2012 Moldova occupied fifth place in Europe among the most corrupted countries.
One of the examples cited by Transparency International is the situation with the largest state bank of Moldova Banca de Economii that at present faces a collapse due to what TI says is “irresponsible” credit policy of the government.
EU experts say that Moldova is still unable to fulfil its obligations in fighting widespread corruption in most state institutions and carrying out economic reforms.
Some experts express fears that after further liberalisation of visa regimes between the EU and Moldova there will be a risk of illegal labour migrants moving from Moldova to the EU, as well as a possible influx of criminal elements, prostitutes and drug traffickers.
Concern has also been raised by another group, the association for participatory democracy, a public, nongovernmental organisation based in Moldova.
It says Moldova also has a “troubling” human rights record, especially in the field of fighting organised crime and human trafficking.
Moldova has one of the highest rates of children living in institutionalised care in central Europe, it says, and these children often lack necessary life skills and are totally dependent on adult assistance.
With a low level of education combined with a lack of proper insight from adults, such children easily become victims of trafficking crimes, it has been claimed.
A recent OSCE report stressed the urgent need for Moldova to enhance prevention of child trafficking through child protection measures and to pursue its efforts in the deinstitutionalisation of people with special needs.