Input Paper “Overview of the current sit­u­a­tion and chal­lenges of the Euro­pean Green Deal in the Repub­lic of Moldova”

Foto: Shutterstock, Alexey Struyskiy
Foto: Shut­ter­stock, Alexey Struyskiy

As part of our project “Eastern Part­ner­ship Plus”, we are pub­lish­ing a second series of input papers on the topic of Per­spec­tives and Pri­or­i­ties Euro­pean Green Deal (EGD) in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. The authors from the region (Nataliya Andru­sevych, Manana Kochladze, Iuliana Can­taragiu) analyse the role of the Euro­pean Union in sup­port­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of the EGD and for­mu­late their polit­i­cal rec­om­men­da­tions for deci­­sion-makers in Berlin and Brussels.

 

By Iuliana Can­taragiu, cir­cu­lar economy expert

Overview of the current sit­u­a­tion and chal­lenges in envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and climate sectors

Envi­ron­men­tal quality in the Repub­lic of Moldova falls below expec­ta­tions, and the country will have to over­come great chal­lenges in order to improve it. Air, water, soil quality and bio­di­ver­sity indi­ca­tors have shown neg­a­tive trends for the past 10 years. The main sources of water and soil pol­lu­tion are waste­water, solid waste and fer­til­iz­ers used in agri­cul­ture. Trans­port is the prin­ci­pal source of air pol­lu­tion. Given the envi­ron­men­tal and climate pres­sure, forest cov­er­age in the country, at 11.4%, is too low. Agri­cul­tural land accounts for 72% of Moldovan ter­ri­tory; most of it used for inten­sive agri­cul­ture, which has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on soil and surface water quality.

The poor quality of the envi­ron­ment and fre­quent and inten­sive climate events affect the country’s economy and the health and quality of life of its population.

One reason for this unhappy state of affairs is that no gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Moldova has ever attached pri­or­ity to envi­ron­men­tal or climate pro­tec­tion. That these issues have figured at all on the agendas of Moldovan gov­ern­ments has largely been due to pres­sure from devel­op­ment part­ners rather than to a recog­ni­tion on the part of the Moldovan gov­ern­ment that envi­ron­men­tal quality and quality of life are related or an aware­ness of the urgent need to change its approach to improve the situation.

Under the gov­ern­ment led by Maia Sandu (June–November 2019), there were indi­ca­tions of an intent to place envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and climate higher on the agenda, but such good inten­tions became irrel­e­vant upon the dis­missal of that government.

The sit­u­a­tion in the field dete­ri­o­rated after the reform of the public central author­i­ties, which began in 2017, when the envi­ron­men­tal, agri­cul­tural and regional devel­op­ment min­istries were com­bined into one min­istry. In a country in which little impor­tance is attached to envi­ron­men­tal issues, placing the pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment in the hands of a major pol­luter means that any effort to protect the envi­ron­ment will be blocked or at least weak­ened. The merging of the min­istries took place despite con­sid­er­able efforts to prevent it on the part of civil society.

The gov­ern­men­tal restruc­tur­ing and reform that begun in 2017 was sup­posed to con­tinue with reforms in sub-min­is­te­r­ial agen­cies. Unfor­tu­nately, the reforms of several such agen­cies, such as the forest agency, “Mold­silva”, and the agency “Apele Moldovei” (Moldovan Waters), still have not been fully imple­mented and several are faced with dis­crep­an­cies in activ­ity and/​or accu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion. As part of the same reform pro­gramme, an envi­ron­men­tal agency was created to imple­ment envi­ron­men­tal policy, but it has not been equipped with suf­fi­cient staff or funding to enable it to fulfil its obligations.

Envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion efforts in the Repub­lic of Moldova are hin­dered by a short­age in funding in addi­tion to the chal­lenges in insti­tu­tional man­age­ment and capac­i­ties. Annual national budgets have not allo­cated suf­fi­cient resources to envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion to enable the exist­ing chal­lenges to be addressed; sec­toral strate­gies and pro­grammes esti­mate that hun­dreds of mil­lions of euros would be nec­es­sary. It is there­fore quite impor­tant to re-eval­u­ate funding in this area and stream­line bud­getary allo­ca­tions in such a way as to ensure that finan­cial resources are used trans­par­ently and in accor­dance with the pri­or­i­ties set out in policy doc­u­ments for envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the green economy.

The focus of efforts to improve the current state of the envi­ron­ment should be on pol­lu­tion reduc­tion mea­sures, a refor­esta­tion program and the con­ser­va­tion of bio­di­ver­sity. This will require a complex approach involv­ing reform in several areas: leg­isla­tive reforms, improve­ment of the control and enforce­ment of leg­is­la­tion, the devel­op­ment and improve­ment of a variety of finan­cial mech­a­nisms and incen­tives for envi­ron­men­tal projects, the improve­ment of the network mon­i­tor­ing envi­ron­men­tal indi­ca­tors, increased invest­ment in envi­ron­men­tal and climate projects and infra­struc­ture, and last but not least, strength­en­ing the envi­ron­men­tal agen­cies to enable them to imple­ment the reforms. The first step should be to re-estab­lish the Min­istry of the Envi­ron­ment, com­plete the reforms of the sub-min­is­te­r­ial agen­cies and strengthen the capac­i­ties of the envi­ron­men­tal insti­tu­tions to enable them to advo­cate for better climate and envi­ron­ment poli­cies and enforce such poli­cies without polit­i­cal inter­fer­ence or corruption.

 

The EU’s role in sup­port­ing the envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and climate programs 

The Repub­lic of Moldova does not have an umbrella strat­egy cov­er­ing sus­tain­able devel­op­ment in place. The sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal insta­bil­ity in the country for the past few years has hin­dered the devel­op­ment of a national strat­egy for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment by the rel­e­vant agen­cies. There was a national devel­op­ment strat­egy enti­tled “Moldova 2030” was devel­oped 2017–2018. This strat­egy built around ten pillars, that took into con­sid­er­a­tion the SDGs and targets set in Agenda 2030. However, the fre­quent changes of gov­ern­ment in the past years and snap par­lia­men­tar­ian elec­tions pre­vented its formal adop­tion, thus the strat­egy never entered into force.

Nonethe­less, the pro­vi­sions of “Moldova 2030” have served as the basis for the strate­gies pursued by the member states of the Euro­pean Union in their coop­er­a­tion with the Repub­lic of Moldova.

The EU’s coop­er­a­tion with the Repub­lic of Moldova takes place within the frame­work of the Eastern Part­ner­ship policy ini­tia­tive. The legal instru­ment under­pin­ning this coop­er­a­tion is the Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment (AA) between the Euro­pean Union and the Repub­lic of Moldova, which was signed in 2014. The AA’s purpose is to increase the sta­bil­i­sa­tion and resilience of the Repub­lic of Moldova as a neigh­bour­ing country of the Euro­pean Union and to deepen coop­er­a­tion in various areas. Its pro­vi­sions focus on har­mon­is­ing the national leg­is­la­tion of the Repub­lic of Moldova with the Euro­pean Union acquis. The Asso­ci­a­tion Agenda, devel­oped on the basis of these pro­vi­sions and the sit­u­a­tion in the country, sets out short and long-term pri­or­i­ties and a roadmap for imple­men­ta­tion of selected pri­or­i­ties. Chap­ters 16 and 17 of the AA are devoted to envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and climate change mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion mea­sures, respectively.

Mon­i­tor­ing of AA imple­men­ta­tion is per­formed annu­ally on the Par­lia­men­tary, Gov­ern­ment and civil society plat­forms. Con­di­tion­al­i­ties built into agree­ments for finan­cial support are based on the results of the mon­i­tor­ing of the Asso­ci­a­tion Agenda and on the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the country.

It should be men­tioned that there is no strate­gic doc­u­ment focus­ing on coop­er­a­tion regard­ing the Euro­pean Green Deal in place between Euro­pean Union and the Repub­lic of Moldova.

However, the Repub­lic of Moldova does have in place several topic-spe­cific strate­gies that include pro­vi­sions on emis­sions reduc­tions, envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, waste man­age­ment and/​or renew­able energy. There is also an Inter-min­is­te­r­ial Working Group on Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment and Green Economy that was estab­lished in 2015 within the frame­work of the EU4Environment program for EaP coun­tries. This working group devel­oped the Road Map on Green Economy, which out­lined short- and medium-term actions for 2018–2020 and for the imple­men­ta­tion of the 2014–2023 envi­ron­men­tal strategy.

There is no spe­cific roadmap detail­ing how the Repub­lic of Moldova should engage in the Euro­pean Green Deal, but there is an action plan/​roadmap for green­ing the economy, which was devel­oped under EU4Environment program. The action plan mainly includes soft mea­sures, such as the support of research, train­ing pro­grams, support in leg­is­la­tion development.

Whether there is suf­fi­cient polit­i­cal will for reform and to ini­ti­ate the eco­log­i­cal mod­erni­sa­tion of the country will depend on the results of the upcom­ing elec­tions (11 July 2021). If pro-Euro­pean parties gain a major­ity in the newly formed Par­lia­ment and form the new gov­ern­ment, the chances that the reforms needed will be devel­oped and imple­mented are higher. Oth­er­wise, there is no reason to expect any major change in the status quo.

The con­di­tion­al­ity mech­a­nism incor­po­rated into the micro­fi­nanc­ing agree­ments between Euro­pean Union and the Repub­lic of Moldova has suc­ceeded, to some extent, in pushing anti­cor­rup­tion forward in the Gov­ern­ment agenda. It seems likely that the use of the same mech­a­nism of con­di­tion­al­ity within the frame­work of finan­cial agree­ments and the open­ness of the Euro­pean market for Moldovan prod­ucts that comply with EU envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards will increase the Moldovan Government’s inter­est in incor­po­rat­ing the green agenda into its pri­or­ity areas.

In view of the current state of the envi­ron­ment in the Repub­lic of Moldova, the first reforms should focus on the reduc­tion and pre­ven­tion of pol­lu­tion and on the con­ser­va­tion of bio­di­ver­sity, includ­ing the refor­esta­tion program. Thus, waste­water man­age­ment, waste man­age­ment and forest man­age­ment should be pri­or­ity areas.

 

Con­crete recommendations:

Short and medium term pri­or­i­ties in the Repub­lic of Moldova should be on improv­ing and enforc­ing leg­is­la­tion, invest­ments in infra­struc­ture, the devel­op­ment of finan­cial mech­a­nisms and incen­tives, capac­ity build­ing in the rel­e­vant insti­tu­tions and improve­ment and exten­sion of the network mon­i­tor­ing envi­ron­men­tal indicators.

Rec­om­men­da­tions:

  • With respect to the Eastern Part­ner­ship frame­work (Asso­ci­a­tion countries):
  • Intro­duce the ful­fil­ment of good envi­ron­men­tal gov­er­nance require­ments as a con­di­tion for the pro­vi­sion of finan­cial, eco­nomic and sec­toral support to the EaP coun­tries and promote good envi­ron­men­tal gov­er­nance, based on a trans­par­ent and inclu­sive deci­sion-making process and involv­ing dif­fer­ent stakeholders;
  • Insist that EaP gov­ern­ments work towards estab­lish­ing strong envi­ron­men­tal insti­tu­tions that are able to adopt and imple­ment new poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions in line with the envi­ron­men­tal acquis of the EU;
  • Estab­lish a mech­a­nism for mon­i­tor­ing the imple­men­ta­tion – not only the adop­tion – of envi­ron­men­tal laws adopted pur­suant to AAs in EaP coun­tries within the EaP Envi­ron­ment and Climate Change Panel, includ­ing regular reporting;
  • Increase support for mea­sures aimed at increas­ing envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness and knowl­edge about envi­ron­men­tal reforms within EaP coun­tries gov­ern­ments and societies;
  • Allo­cate a portion of the funding for the 2021–2027 period to support projects aimed at pro­mot­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of the rel­e­vant envi­ron­men­tal leg­is­la­tion, as this helps to strengthen the insti­tu­tional framework.
  • With respect to EU Green Deal within the frame­work of the Eastern Partnership:
  • Pay greater atten­tion to pro­mot­ing the EU Green Deal in the entire Eastern Part­ner­ship region, stress­ing that it entails a change in the eco­nomic course of the bloc and will directly affect the economies of the EaP coun­tries. It is highly impor­tant to change the per­cep­tion of the climate crisis as an “envi­ron­men­tal problem” and create a greater under­stand­ing of the scale of the risks that climate change poses for the economies and finan­cial sta­bil­ity of EaP coun­tries. It is also impor­tant to create con­di­tions con­ducive to learn­ing about the poten­tial for the devel­op­ment of a green, climate-neutral economy in the EaP region

 

Ref­er­ences

  1. The envi­ron­men­tal state of the Repub­lic of Moldova. National report based on envi­ron­men­tal indi­ca­tors for 2015–2018, Envi­ron­men­tal Agency, 2020, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YD6esULO-JNJGhTmN1P8U2Ft228B8hGH/view
  2. Repub­lic of Moldova. Vol­un­tary national review. Progress report 2020, Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Moldova, 2020, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/26346VNR_2020_Moldova_Report_English.pdf
  3. Apply­ing Fiscal-bud­getary instru­ments to solve envi­ron­men­tal issues, Inde­pen­dent Think-Tank Expert Group, National Envi­ron­men­tal Center, Alexan­dru Fala, Dumitru Pintea, Iuliana Can­taragiu, Ina Coseru, 2020, https://www.expert-grup.org/media/k2/attachments/Eng_-_Studiu_Instrumentele_fiscal-bugetare_aplicate_yn_domeniul_mediului_compressed.pdf
  4. State­ment of the envi­ron­men­tal civil society orga­ni­za­tions on includ­ing the envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and adap­ta­tion to climate change as a pri­or­ity area in gov­ern­ment activ­ity program, 21.11.2019, https://environment.md/public/files/88fb6a189cf888d5437063a928fdd304.pdf

 

 


Iuliana Can­taragiu, cir­cu­lar economy expert

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