Just weeks before presidential vote, GRECO raps Moldova over failure to tackle corruption

Moldova has made little progress in implementing reforms to improve the prevention of corruption in respect of parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors, according to a new report from the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO.

The report assesses the progress made by Moldova in implementing GRECO’s recommendations since 2018, when, evaluating 18 recommendations made in 2016, GRECO concluded that only four recommendations had been fully implemented.

The latest report finds that the level of compliance has barely changed since 2018. Of the 14 pending recommendations, only one which was considered not implemented in 2018’s compliance report is now considered partially implemented. Nine recommendations remain now only partially implemented and another four, not yet implemented.

GRECO states that “the progress is clearly insufficient” in the implementation of measures concerning members of parliament. It regrets that emergency procedures have increasingly been used for the adoption of laws, and that a considerable number of laws have been adopted through the accelerated legislative procedure. GRECO expresses concern about “repeated failure to systematically ensure adequate timeframes for meaningful public consultation and parliamentary debate.”

In addition, a code of conduct for parliamentarians has not yet been adopted, rules to deal with conflicts of interest and contacts with lobbyists and third parties continue to be lacking, and clear and objective criteria on lifting parliamentary immunity are not yet in place.

As regards the judiciary, while GRECO welcomes that a previous draft law providing for a general vetting of judges has been abandoned, it recalls that there is still a lack of clear, predictable and comprehensive rules on the appointment and promotion of judges in order to avoid candidates presenting integrity risks. Moreover, the five-year probation period for judges remains to be abolished.

Improvements are also needed to enhance the transparency in practice of judicial activity, judgments and decisions – including for the Superior Council of the Magistracy (SCM) – and to strengthen the objectivity of the disciplinary procedures and measures against judges.

GRECO also notes that the composition of the SCM remains to be revised to abolish the ex-officio membership of the minister of justice and the prosecutor general. In addition, according to GRECO, it is necessary to ensure that both judicial and lay members of the Council are elected following a fair and transparent procedure.

The report welcomes that it has been made clear that verbal instructions to prosecutors by their hierarchy are to be confirmed in writing for their validity. However, no progress has been made to ensure that all hierarchical interventions regarding a case are properly documented.

Other shortcomings are that no progress has been made either to review the framework for disciplinary liability of prosecutors, and that a written guidance to the Code of Ethics of prosecutors remains to developed. Contrary to GRECO’s recommendation, the minister of justice and the president of the Superior Council of Magistracy remain ex officio members of the Superior Council of Prosecutors.

GRECO concludes that Moldova’s level of compliance remains “globally unsatisfactory”.

The report is likely to increase pressure of Moldova’s shaky government, and its president, Igor Dodon. The country votes in a presidential election on November 1, with Mr Dodon facing the challenge of Maia Sandu, a former World Bank advisor who was briefly prime minister of the country in 2019.

Ms Sandu recently warned that events in Belarus had become “extremely relevant” for Moldova.

“The message coming from Belarus is that there is ‘zero tolerance’ for the fraud of the popular will,” she said earlier this month, pointing out that Mr Dodon was one of few international leaders to congratulate the Belarusian dictator for his self-proclaimed success in recent elections, widely believed to be rigged.

Moldova is currently ruled by a coalition of two centre-left parties, Mr Dodon’s openly pro-Russian Socialist Party (PSRM) and the Democratic Party (PDM), formerly led by the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, who is currently fighting extradition to Moldova from the US on corruption charges.

The ruling coalition has just 51 deputies out of 101, making a change of government likely: Ms Sandu has openly stated that she would like fresh parliamentary elections as soon as possible should she win the presidential vote.

“The current parliament no longer represents the will of the people and has lost its legitimacy, because the actions of the deputies are dictated by interest groups, and not by the national interest,” she said in September.

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