Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, bordered to the west by Romania and to the north, east and south by Ukraine. It is one of the most densely populated European countries, with a population of 3.5 million, including the breakaway Transnistrian region. The country is divided into thirty-two districts and five municipalities.
The Republic of Moldova declared its independence in 1991. A new Constitution was adopted on 29 July 1994. On March 2, 1992, Moldova joined the United Nations. There have been many positive changes in recent years, in particular in relation to poverty reduction and democratic governance. Key reforms in justice sector and decentralization underpinned progress on the path of the country’s European integration. However, further progress is needed to ensure sustainability of economic growth and implementation of major reforms.
Since its independence, the Republic of Moldova passed through a complex stage of transition to democracy and market economy. The country has witnessed political instability and de facto territorial disintegration, whereby the breakaway region of Transnistria succeeded in establishing de facto independence from Moldova in 1992, but it is not recognized by the international community. The still unresolved status of the Transnistrian region has posed significant development challenge to the Republic of Moldova and can be seen as major obstacle for better human wellbeing for population on both banks of the Nistru River.
Despite over a decade of relatively strong economic growth and successes in poverty reduction, the Republic of Moldova remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. Being a small and open, consumption-based economy, the country highly depends on developments in the neighboring markets, such as the EU and former Soviet Union. The security crisis in Ukraine and the deep recession in key eastern partners, such as the Russian Federation and Ukraine, has adversely affected Moldova’s economic outlook, generating a mild recession with possible on modest recovery in 2016.
Other vulnerabilities are of domestic making, with a weak business climate and a feeble banking system, both undermined by corruption, non-transparent governance structures and an unreformed justice sector. Further important domestic challenges include an economy highly dependent on internal consumption, fueled to a considerable extent by remittances, and big regional disparities with rural areas showing a much lower level of development than the main cities. The recent political instability and the widening gap in public trust have further undermined Moldova’s reform agenda.
In the mid-term, the lingering demographic crisis and the continued geopolitical instability will make the government’s tasks of conducting structural reforms, regaining people’s trust and building a modern European country even more challenging.
Moldova has been considered a frontrunner among Eastern Partnership countries for its swift negotiations with the EU on the Association Agreement. A visa-free regime to the Schengen area was granted to Moldovan citizens with biometric passports in April 2014 – making Moldova the first Eastern Partnership country to meet all the requirements for visa-free travel. Two months later, the EU-Republic of Moldova Association Agreement was signed. It was swiftly ratified by the Parliament of Moldova, and then endorsed by the European Parliament in November 2014. The European Parliament’s Resolution saw the Association Agreement as “… a strong sign of recognition of the reform efforts and ambitions of the Moldovan people and authorities and of the substantial progress achieved in the latest period”. To achieve steady progress, the Government of Moldova adopted in 2014 the National Action Plan for the Implementation of the Association Agreement, which transposed the provisions of the Association Agreement into concrete actions for the years 2014-2016. Since then, Moldova submits regular reports on the implementation of the EU-Moldova Association Agenda to the EU.
The National Decentralization Strategy is a key result, developed with the substantial support of UNDP, UN Women and the Governments of Denmark and Sweden, who partnered to assist the State Chancellery in conceptualizing, developing and implementing the reform. A significant shift in the management of local finances was achieved with the nationwide implementation of the decentralized fiscal system until 2015. The system increased autonomy and accountability of local public authorities in managing public budgets. However, further efforts need to be undertaken towards an even more inclusive political process, to continue making people’s voices heard and reflected in policy decisions. The Territorial Administrative reform, the most critical element of the decentralization strategy, is lagging behind, mainly due to the protracted political crisis.
In the area of human rights, the Government continued its efforts on the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and other international human rights recommendations, through the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan 2011-2014. In advance of Moldova’s second Universal Periodic Review, a number of unimplemented commitments were addressed within the Intermediary Human Rights Action Plan. The adoption of the Law on Ensuring Equality in May 2012 was followed by the establishment of the Equality Council in 2013, acting as the national antidiscrimination enforcement body. In April 2015, the Parliament appointed the long-awaited new Ombudsperson, who is reforming the institution on the basis of the new Law on Public Advocate voted in April 2014. UNDP’s continued engagement on the issue of torture, in cooperation with key public institutions and civil society, also brought visible and tangible results. A 35% decrease was registered in the number of complaints on torture and other ill-treatment received by prosecutors since 2012 - from 970 in 2012, to 633 in 2015. And while only two police officers were convicted on grounds of torture and sentenced to real prison terms in 2013, this figure raised to 14 officers in 2014. In 2014 the Ministry of Health established a Patients Advocate in Psychiatry Institutions, to assist patients in the protection of their rights; and at end 2015 the General Prosecutors Office adopted the first ever Guidelines on the investigation of torture against women and men with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities.