Can the Experience of Visegrad Countries be useful to Moldova’s European Integration?

A direct contact among the University students from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Moldova inspired students to thought-sharing. Short essay bellow shows what the students have to say on the topic of European Integration and Reform Experience of the Visegrad countries and how it relates to Moldova’s European path.

Title: “Can the Experience of Visegrad Countries be useful to Moldova’s European Integration?”
Author: Vladislav Strnad
University: Central European University, Political Science, 2Y MA

Moldova (MD) can rely on the experience and the support of the Visegrad Group. It has a real chance for similar development as V4, but only if it decides to follow the same route and to carry out the necessary reforms. Therefore, the essay question has two equivalent sub-questions: ‘What is the experience of V4?’ and ‘What is the long-term interest of Moldova?’

After the collapse of the socialist bloc and the Warsaw Pact, the internal consolidation and the economic integration became the logical solution to the development of V4. The uniting factor for V4 was the pursuit of membership in the EU and NATO. This transformation took place relatively quickly and efficiently. Visegrad countries became democratic and integrated themselves into the European economic system. The entry of V4 into the EU became a powerful stimulus for their economic growth, however to reach the level of developed European countries remains a concern for the future. V4 is politically stable and its internal political conflicts are not antagonistic, subsequently differences in political views within the Group are resolved in a politically correct way. Formerly a regional grouping, V4 became an actor on the European and international level which supports the enlargement of the EU and NATO. It is an active participant in the program of the European Neighbourhood Policy, and the Eastern Partnership. Additionally, the V4 Group also works in the V4+ format with the participation of visiting partners which include MD.

Partial problems and minor failures are not an obstacle in consideration of V4 as the perfect example of mutually beneficial co-existence between countries. The states together have shown that successful development is realistically achievable through necessary reforms. Visegrad states are willing to share their experience and help to support the European aspirations and democracy in post-Soviet republics. In addition, as former communist states, V4 members are able to better understand the concerns, therefore to offer the most effective support to other post-Soviet states. V4 supports the development of personal contacts which are the most convincing demonstrations of the social benefits coming from European integration and are beneficial for the development of civil society.

The long-term interest of MD relates to the legitimacy of the Moldovan integration choice and its real interest in V4 European integration experience, in other words, if MD wants to be ‘in Europe’ or ‘next to Europe’?Moldova has concluded an association agreement with the EU. However, the euro-integration is losing public support. Due to the situation in Ukraine, the society correlates European integration with the danger of potential conflict which they naturally want to avoid. The opposition in MD believes that they will win the parliamentary elections and promises denunciation of agreements with the EU and MD’s accession to the Customs Union. According to the opposition, the ‘Russian way’ guarantees the quality of life, at least the one resembling the Soviet times which was still higher than today’s one. ‘Western path’ towards a European welfare is distant andunattainablein the long term. Furthermore, European integration does not correspond to Russian interests. It could lead to a struggle and/or to an armed conflict.

Moldovais a smallagricultural statethatlags far behindthe democraticandeconomic developmentof V4. The country isstill dependentandmanipulatedby Russia, who considers MD asits sphere ofinterest.MD’spolitical elitecould noteffectivelyutilizeEuropean supportto boostits economyand to implementreforms.Demonstrableresultsdid not appearafter theinitialwave ofenthusiasm,and thus, supportwas replaced byfear, doubt andreluctance tochange.MDfell intoeconomic decline, political crisesandsocial conflicts.

Upcoming elections in Moldova will be the referendum on MD’s relations with the EU and Russia. It is appropriate to use the V4 experience from various information campaigns and explain to Moldovan voters that they are choosing their future with a strategic choice between the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian civilizations. On the example of existing European integration path of V4 countries, it is possible to show that the new way leads to a qualitatively improved life. At the same time to highlight that the European integration will be a significant change for MD, and is unachievable without complex of deep structural reforms which may be made only by the political leadership with a strong political mandate.

Moldova has not exceeded the non-recovery point of its development and is still neutrally balancing between capitalism and socialism. In regard to the Eurasian integration project, there is a danger that MD will eventually ruin its prospect of joining the EU. The country will abandon the possibility to repeat the path of V4, similarly as the project GUAM did not succeed in reiterating the success of V4. In this case, MD would continue as a dependent Eurasian hegemon of Russia. The experience of V4 would become useless, because the Russian authoritarian system does not apply liberal-democratic rules. Consequently, the experience of Visegrad Countries can be useful to MD’s European integration, but only if MD preserves its EU preference and carries out necessary political and economic reforms.