Council of Europe condemned Moldova for setbacks regarding judicial independence and deporting a group of Turkish teachers in Moldova in September, a move that reminds like-minded countries about the pitfalls and potential backlash for submission to Ankara’s norm-defying and legally controversial demands.
A month after the diplomatically-charged and politically-tinged saga that generated a great deal of controversy in Moldova’s domestic political domain, diplomatic repercussions once again came to the fore. Council of Europe, Europe’s one of the founding institutions, alarmed by the disheartening trend of cross-border operations of autocratic countries against dissident citizens abroad, stepped onto the stage to take a decisive moral stance in condemnation and warning of such thuggish acts.
In early September, Moldova devolved into a political abyss and became an object of vehement international criticism after it allowed the Turkish agents, in cooperation with its local security agency, to snatch six teachers affiliated with Gulen Movement.
The episode once again revealed that the Turkish government has no moral qualms over blatantly meddling in another country’s domestic affairs. Equally disturbing was the factor that countries with weak rule of law appear increasingly cooperative and submissive in Ankara’s bullish demands to capture dissident citizens.
“The members of the Parliamentary Assembly are deeply concerned by the lack of justice independence and subordination of justice to particular political interests which are worsening in the light of the latest events in the Republic of Moldova,” the council said in a statement.
It added: “The risk to be subject of revenge for delivering justice not supporting interests of the current power holding structures and fear of being prosecuted for ruling against oligarchic interests is perceived by the entire justice system as real and imminent, especially due to complete ignorance of international calls expressed in the written declarations Nos. 644, 637 and 614.”
Moldova has found itself torn between Russia and the E.U. amid an unfolding geopolitical tug of war in the face of the expansion of Russia’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea. The recent course of political events in the tiny country where widening Russia’s influence is not so subtle has given a pause for those within E.U. who harbor optimistic expectations for a quick integration of Moldova into the orbit of E.U. as smoothly as possible. The recent setbacks have, however, manifestly become a source of growing disillusionment with the country as overriding challenges become more apparent and compelling.
Writing for Chatham House last month, Cristina Gherasimov documented how the once promising and expanding relationship between the E.U. and Moldova has taken more and more hits by the country’s political backsliding.
Pressed by the need of taking a more assertive stance, “the European Parliament approved a resolution to suspend €100 million of European financial assistance to the country,” she noted.
“Moreover, the lack of guarantees against such abuses is aggravated by illegal interference of secret services which are guided by political forces,” the Council of Europe contended in its official condemnation of the political interference in judicial independence.
“One example,” the council stated in demonstrating and clarifying the point conspicuously clear, “is the the latest abduction of seven Turkish teachers, asylum seekers in the Republic of Moldova, taken by force by the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service and delivered to Turkey for imprisonment.”
That was the last straw that solidified the hardening view of the council, which culminated in the condemnation letter.
Countries like Moldova might have been tempted by the offer of financial aid by Ankara or simply the promise to rejuvenate presidential palace of President Igor Dodon. Quite understandably, Turkey’s investment is indispensable and crucial for Moldova’s economy. But indulging in tradeoffs such as deportation of teachers in disregard of international norms and laws for luring further Turkish investments is certainly bound to taint Moldova’s hard-won ties with the West. Certainly, a restoration project does not worth losing the West’s much more lasting and critical financial and diplomatic backing at a time when its giant neighbor, Russia, explores and exploits every opportunity to sow seeds of discord in that country.