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Where corruption ends and sovereignty starts: Lithuanian Komsomol members “reform” Ukraine and Moldova

Linas Linkevicius. Photo: lenta.ru

EUObserver has published an article by former Secretary of the Kaunas District Komsomol Committee of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and presently Foreign Minister of Lithuania Linas Linkevicius. The title is “How to fix Moldova.” After the Maidan, Lithuanians have become the EU’s key experts on Eastern Partnership policy. It is due to their Soviet-time experience and knowledge of Russian that Lithuanians like Linkevicius and Ukraine’s Economy and Trade Minister Aivaras Abromavicius feel easy in the post-Soviet area. They have lots of strategic solutions for Eastern Partners and associated EU members. They believe that they know how to help Moldova or Ukraine to associate with the EU.

Their solution is simple – reforms. But what kind of reforms? In the very first sentence of his article, Linkevicius says that “major political and economic reforms require determined action, consolidation of the main political forces, and close involvement of civil society.” Today reforms are Europe’s formula for expansion. According to Linkevicius, “this is the lesson that Lithuania learned in the course of its successful reform process in the 1990s,” but was that process actually successful if today Lithuania’s population has shrunk to the level of 1963.

According to the European Commission, in some 50 years, Lithuania will lose almost a quarter of its present population. This process started in 1992. Moldova’s population is also decreasing but more slowly than in the reformed Lithuania. In his article, Linkevicius says that “today, Moldovan citizens can also travel visa-free to the EU’s Schengen area because Chisinau met strict EU benchmarks.” But in reality this may end in an even bigger outflow of people from the country.

According to Linkevicius, “today, Moldova urgently needs both a consensus on main reform priorities at home and strong, but conditional support from the EU.” But this support will not be free. The Lithuanian foreign minister admits that “European forces (even the European idea itself) have been compromised by so-called pro-European politicians, who seem unable or unwilling to fight corruption.” He calls the Moldovan leaders both “so-called” and “self-proclaimed” and also corrupt. So, the EU will support them only if they obey it unconditionally.

“Deeply rooted impunity and a lack of accountability have prompted the public to search for saviors. Some of these saviors portray themselves as being ‘pro-Moldovan’ but, sadly, align themselves with Russia, a country that continues to occupy a part of Moldova’s territory and recently attacked Ukraine. Russia’s troops in Transnistria are there in breach of international law. An intense information campaign, aimed at undermining Moldova’s pro-European choice, also makes the current government’s task harder,” says Linkevicius. So, his main concern is Moldova’s geopolitical choice.

And his advice is as follows:

1. To hold no early elections as “a temporary government would basically have no opportunity to negotiate new loans, which the country urgently requires”;

2. “To start a dialogue with protest leaders”;

3. To carry out “vigorous reforms leading to tangible results.”

Linkevicius urges the EU to save Moldova from deeper economic and political crisis but on condition if the Moldovans root out corruption. They in Europe believe that today the Moldovans are protesting against corruption rather than European integration.

But how can one fight corruption in a post-Soviet republic suffering from chaotic privatization, deindustrialization, criminalization and foreign offshore activities? The corruption scandal of 2014, when as much as $1bn was lost from the banks of Moldova, one of the poorest nations in Europe, has exposed all vices thriving there and was one of the causes of the current protests. The protesters demand early parliamentary elections and a number of dismissals. Current polls show that in case of early elections, three of the five parliamentary parties would lose their seats. Linkevicius suggests not holding early elections and starting a dialogue.

He recommends Moldova to ask the IMF for more money just to delay its collapse. But the new memorandum can be signed in no earlier than half a year. New Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip has asked the MPs to impose a three-month moratorium on commercial inspections, while the protesters say that he is illegitimate and has been put in this office by one of the local oligarchs.

In his article, Linkevicius advises civil society – something Moldova does not have – to be more active in their dialogue with the authorities. They in Europe want Moldova to fight corruption, to reform its judiciary – all the things they want from Ukraine.

In the meantime, Linkevicius’s compatriot, Aivaras Abromavicius has suggested a way to save Ukraine – to create a government consisting of technocrats only. After the letter of nine foreign ambassadors against Abromavicius’s resignation, some experts in the West suggested that the Lithuanian might become the core of the new technocratic Ukrainian cabinet, while the leader could be Ukraine’s Finance Minister, US citizen Natalie Jaresko. So, we see that they in the West have no more hopes that the Ukrainians can reform their country.

Abromavicius’s key motive to resign was that President Petro Poroshenko limited his freedom to appoint in his ministry and state companies whomever he likes and imposed his own men. Abromavicius has openly accused Poroshenko of being corrupt. Earlier similar charges were laid against Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov by Governor of Odessa Oblast Mikheil Saakashvili. As soon as Abromavicius resigned, western mass media reported total corruption in the Ukrainian authorities. They say that as much as $12bn is lost from Ukraine’s budget each year and that last year “one oligarch” stole $1.8bn lent by the IMF.

Now the key problem of the EU associated Eastern partners – both Moldova and Ukraine – is system corruption. And Europe’s recommendations for fighting it are the same for both – judiciary and prosecutorial reforms, control of state-owned companies, fair competition in the tender system. But it is not clear how Moldova and Ukraine can do this with the human resources and the political contradictions they both have. Once former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko dismissed all of the country’s customs staff but that measure did not help. And now in his article in New York Times Josh Cohen suggests forming a special UN-controlled international commission for fighting corruption in Ukraine.

The recently established National Anti-Corruption Bureau might become part of it. The commission might headquarter in Ukraine and would have to comply with local laws but it would also enjoy an extraterritorial status and the Ukrainian authorities would have to cooperate with it. Cohen suggests giving the commission some $200mn for five years, which is a very small sum compared with the multi-billion loans the US and the EU are giving Ukraine on a regular basis. Cohen expects the Ukrainian authorities to resist but he is sure that Ukraine’s allies have enough levers to force them to obey.

In an interview given before his resignation Abromavicius said that Ukraine was very close to either a rise or a fall. So, we see that they in the West are steadily moving to full control over Ukraine and its “democratic” regime and Lithuanian ministers just help them in the matter. In fact, for their “reforms” in mandate territories, the Europeans need some supra-national forces.

EADaily Analysis

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