by Miceál O’Hurley
CHIȘINĂU — This afternoon Moldova’s parliament ratified a new Government to be led by Dorin Recean serving as Prime Minister. The decidedly pro-European Government was nominated by President Maia Sandu. Sandu accepted the resignation of the former Prime Minister, Natalia Gavrilita, who resigned late last week, after a turbulent 18-months.
Recean, aged 48, formerly served as a Presidential aide and Minister of the Interior. Early in his government service he spearheaded the Moldova Governmental Task Force on Visa-liberalisation with the EU. A seasoned politician, Recean is well versed in security matters having served as Secretary of the Supreme Security Council which advises the Moldova Government on military and national security matters.
Speaking before the Parliament, a body of 101-elected Moldovans, Recean announced his plan for Government which he entitled, “Prosperous, Secure, European Moldova”. Recean secured the support of 62-Parliamentarians to confirm his nomination as Prime Minister. Speaking to the Parliament Recean stated, “The new government will have three priorities: Order and discipline, a new life and economy, and peace and stability. The new government will continue the implementation of Moldova’s strategic course – integration into the European Union.” The programme for Government further articulated Recean’s pro-Western outlook, “We want to live in a safe world where international treaties are respected, where problems between countries are resolved through dialogue, where there is respect for small states. We want to be full members of the European Union,” it added.
Moldova applied for EU Membership in March 2022 in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the Ukrainian interior. The EU awarded Moldova “Candidate” status in June 2022.
The programme announced by Recean stood pointedly opposed to Moscow’s testable actions to destablise Moldova which intensified over the past 18-months. Russian meddline in Moldovan affairs in no small part induced the collapse of the previous Government. On Monday, President Sandu pointedly accused Moscow of trying to topple the Government and its leaders. According to Moldova, Russia has been sewing domestic instability and weaponising Russian-friendly parties within Moldova as well as individuals from neighbouring Montenegro and Serbia targeting Moldova’s security. Russia stands accused of some of the same activities used in the attempt to de-stablise neighbouring Ukraine prior to its 2014 and 2022 invasions. These activities are widely known as the “Russian playbook”. Not unexpectedly, Moscow declared accusations of interfering in Moldovan domestic affairs as “unfounded” and “Russophobic”.
Moldova has emerged as particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. A former Soviet Republic of 2.5 million people, Moldova has remained significantly dependent on Russian gas. EU energy sanctions against Moscow have had a particularly hard impact on Moldova’s economy in addition to the general downturn caused by Russia’s war in neighbouring Ukraine. Throughout 2022, high energy costs, elevated food prices and trade problems following-on from the Covid-19 pandemic have combined with the global tilt to drive inflation markedly upwards. The burden on the small Moldova Government to deal with the enormous burden of displaced persons, refugees and evacuees from neighbouring Ukraine have added to its economic woes.
Further adding to its difficulties has been the ongoing discovery of Russian missile debris on Moldovan territory. The last few weeks have seen increasing incidents of Russia violating Moldova’s sovereign airspace to attack Ukraine with questions arising as to Russian forces having launched attacks on Ukraine from the Moldovan territory they occupy in Transnistria. Earlier this week Moldova closed its airspace temporarily for security reasons. In a bellicose threat to Moldova last week Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, set-off security alerts across Europe when he quipped that “Moldova could become the next Ukraine”.