NED Panel Commemorates Moldovan Independence
To commemorate Moldova’s twenty years of independence, NED hosted a panel discussion, co-organized with Freedom House and the Moldova Foundation (a NED grantee), on “Moldova’s Transition: 20 Years of Challenges and Successes.” Almost 100 people, many from the Moldovan diaspora, gathered on August 31st to hear U.S. Ambassador Mary Pendleton, Freedom House President David Kramer, and Moldova Foundation President Vlad Spanu present their opinions and analysis on the past 20 years, the present situation, and the remaining challenges facing the country.
Pendleton, the first U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, shared anecdotes from her work setting up diplomatic relations in the newly-independent state, as well as insights into Moldova’s future. Pendleton said the country’s current problems with corruption and human trafficking were “never expected,” given how much effort went into establishing its legal system.
However, she argued this was because expectations were “too high” in the first place, and she remains optimistic about further democratic reforms to strengthen the rule of law. David Kramer, on the other hand, declared the country a “success story” in the region, and argued it was time to lift the Jackson-Vanik restrictions, which block trade with countries that lack freedom of emigration and other human rights. Of all the countries analyzed in Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2011, Moldova had earned the greatest net improvement in its democracy score, with upgrades on electoral process, civil society, independent media, national democratic governance, and judicial framework.
Vlad Spanu, President of the Moldova Foundation, concluded by examining persistent challenges, including the political stalemate in the parliament, the complications with electing a president, and the ongoing frozen conflict in the breakaway territory of Transnistria. His recommendations to address these challenges included changing the voting procedures from party lists to a uninominal system, amending the constitution to allow for a direct popular vote for the president, and reforming the judicial system to make it more independent from the other branches of government.
Moldova has been a priority for the Endowment since it became an independent state in 1991. The past two decades have been a test for the country to maintain its sovereignty, further its democratic transition, and move towards Europe. NED grantees have focused their efforts on promoting much-needed reforms, defending human rights in Transnistria, developing the independent media sector, and strengthening accountability in the government.
A vibrant third sector has emerged over the past 20 years, and civic activists have become key leaders, advisors, and policymakers in the government. With elected officials committed to democratic reforms and a strong civil society, there is every reason to expect that this success story will continue to unfold and the next 20 years will bring greater stability and prosperity to Moldova.