Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Welcome to My New Blog!

Finally, some of my ideas have begun materializing. For now, in a new blog. As promised, I am inviting you to visit my new blog which is about corporate social responsibility entitled Corporate and Responsible Blog .

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

In Transition with Moldova

I haven’t done much blogging in the last months. There are several reasons for such an extreme case of procrastination. First, I’m not aware of any policy or initiative undertaken by prime-minister Greceanii and her government worth talking about. Secondly, I’ve been using Facebook to share my personal adventures and pictures during what is, most likely, my last summer in Moldova. Thirdly, I’ve been thinking about a couple new projects. As soon as I get to a more advanced stage, I’ll post links here so that you can check them out yourself.

Below are some of my favorite pictures taken since my previous post.

Park Sculpture, Cartaret, New Jersey

Rockefeller Center, New York City

Union Square, New York City

Mountainbiking, Countryside, Moldova

African Ostrich, Bardar, Moldova

Public Park, Chisinau, Moldova

Poplars, Countryside, Moldova

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Moldova's New Prime Minister: What to Expect?

After a seven-year-long disappointment with the leadership of Moldova's government - provided by the most-longevive Prime Minister, Mr. Tarlev - I can finally indulge in some optimism. The reason for such optimism is Moldova's new Prime Minister, Mrs. Zinaida Greceanii and her handpicked Cabinet of Ministers. Beside being a woman and bearing a physical resemblance to Margaret Thatcher , there are several important features that, in my view, distinguish her from the former PM and might make a difference in the way this country is governed.

- she is an experienced bureacrat;
- is politically-unaffiliated, at least officially;
- is a better speaker.

For now, that's about it. I am willing to give her and her team credit and even nurture a set of 'great expectations'. My expectations regard ANYBODY who becomes a Prime Minister in Moldova and since Mrs. Greceanii accepted this job, I will therefore make a (wish)list against which I will evaluate her performance until the end of her mandate. I expect my Prime Minister to:

- put public interest higher than her own and others' personal interests;
- take her job seriously (at least half as serious as Mrs. Thatcher);
- offer positive and demanding leadership;
- advocate for sustainable democratic institutions;
- communicate effectively with the public directly or via mass-media;
- be open to innovative ideas and proven best practices.

How difficult can it really be to fulfill these basic expections in a small country like Moldova?

P.S. Just noticed that Sandu Culiuc requested my opinion regarding Greceanii Government's priorities. I am not going to come up with anything new since a lot of analytical work has been already done for various other purposes (MCC Threshold Plan, National Development Strategy, various evaluations of EU-Moldova Action Plan, etc.) Greceanii Government's program reflects most of these priorities and is ambitious enough. So, all I will say now is that Greceanii's Government has a full plate and they better start working hard to prove there is political will for real reforms. The countdown against the 2009 parliamentary elections has begun :)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Corruption Haunts Romanian Politics

romanian politics haunted by corruptionFinancial Times makes an analysis of the serious political impasse faced by Romania. In its effort to fight wide-spread high-level corruption, the public decision making process has suffered the most and has come to a deadlock. Public servants are so afraid of being subject to allegations of corruption that they’ve been abstaining from making any type of spending decisions.

Civil servants are personally liable for any spending decision they approve. That may be a sound anti-corruption measure, but it means no one takes a decision.

Blogger Kosmopolit considers that the major cause of such extreme political malfunction is Romania's outdated constitution. He argues that:
Having clear majorities is indeed desirable for the Romanian political system, but it is questionable whether the proposed electoral reform is enough to change the political landscape. What Romania really needs is a far-reaching constitutional reform that transforms the bicameral system into a unicameral one. Even the semi-presidential system as such should be revisited because clear majorities would even work better with clearly divided powers and responsibilities.

I am not sure whether the constitution is really the main factor in the political crisis in Romania. After all, the Romanian constitution is based on the French model, and can't be too wrong. However, the consequences of fighting corruption described by the Financial Times are thoughtprovoking. How does a country manage to fight high-profile corruption without interfering and/or slowing down the public decision making processes?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

NATO Membership: Catch Me If You Can

The Moldovan President's recent interview to the Russian daily Kommersant made the headlines this week in local media. He announced that Moldova is soon to finally resolve the Transnistrian conflict with Russia's full support. Russia requires Moldova to do just one more thing: to prepare a declaration of neutrality and invite US, EU, OSCE, Russia and Ukraine to co-sign it. In other words, to officially abandon the possibility to join NATO in the future, thus remaining, for an indefinite time, in Russia's sphere of influence.

No problem. Moldova's Constitution already recognizes this status. However, public opinion has started questioning this status and hope of eventually changing it by moving closer to NATO was growing. To an international observer, Moldova's way of dealing with Russia over its Transnistrian conflict (and many other issues) might seem at least cowardly, particularly if compared to bold and defiant Georgia and assertive and colorful Ukraine. One would assume: different negotiation approaches - different outcomea and rewards. Not the case. How are Georgia and Ukraine being treated for openly defying Russia and aspiring to join the NATO and then EU? They get a cold shoulder from EU's and NATO's major player, Germany, in the face of Chancellor Angela Merkell who explicitely opposes the possibility that these two countries enter a new phase of their relationship with NATO - the Membership Action Plan(MAP).

"Countries that are involved in regional or internal conflicts can not become members [of the alliance]"

How should Moldova understand this statement? Pretty straightforward: Germany doesn't seem to care for the difficult and bumpy road from totalitarism to democracy in countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Indeed, why would Germany want to spoil its lucrative political and economic friendship with Russia? Perhaps these three countries are not worth such a sacrifice or maybe haven't yet earned the right to aspire to NATO membership. However, I was really hoping that at least the European Union with its polical philosophy and ideology would be worth it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kosovo: Who Wants to Be in Serbia's Shoes?

As someone interested in world politics, I find the Kosovo case extremely interesting from several points of view. It is unique. No other conflict in Europe attracted so much attention, involved so many interests and raised such controversy in the post-communist era. It is new. This example of contemporary history in making brings about unprecedented combinations of events, decisions and alliances. It is unpredictable. Nobody knows what the recent developments – the unilateral declaration of one province’s independence from an internationally-recognized sovereign state and its swift recognition by US and major EU states – will eventually lead to. Yet, almost all European states have concerns, fears and expectations stemming from the Kosovo case. Take Romania, for example. Therefore, the decision whether to recognize Kosovo’s independence or not is determined primarily by the self-interest of individual countries.

Moldova has not recognized Kosovo, and is not intending to. It has strong reasons for that. Moldova has a region that has unilaterally declared its independence long time ago - Transnistria. No other country has recognized it since then. Even Russia who has frequently threatened to recognize it if the West recognizes Kosovo, has abandoned this intention and is now trying to save face . Although the nature of the Transnistrian conflict is essentially different from the Kosovo case, the separatist leaders of Transnistria have rushed to urge the international community to apply the Kosovo resolution to their case.

Another observation is related to how a country is forced to take collective responsibility for the atrocity against human beings enacted by its past leadership and army. Perhaps the majority of democratic countries with respect for human life still perceive Kosovo as a victim and Serbia as an aggressor. This type of perception is very important in contemporary Europe, which values world and regional security higher than national and ethnic interests. This perception enables European countries to endorse an action contrary to the spirit and practice of international law in the area of state sovereignty and territorial integrity. I bet no country would want to be in Serbia’s shoes right now.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Are Moldovan VIPs Really Very Important?

Today I came across an article about something I, too, have been pondering lately, namely a relatively recent fashion of identifying and ranking Moldovan VIPs, practiced by local mass media outlets. In this article, Vadim Tataru of the Civic Action wonders whether such ratings, instead of acknowledging real achievements and performance, in fact manipulate public opinion by creating the illusion that the shortlisted individuals are indeed very important and influential people in the Moldovan society.

Vadim Tataru's article describes the methodology which must be employed if the intended result is a credible and reliable VIP rating. Instead of using a sociologically-sound methodology, Moldovan media outlets tend to use rummors, cliches and unverified information as basis for their ratings. As a result, VIP ratings feature individuals of questionable influence such as singers Cleopatra and Pavel Stratan, but fail to include truly influential people such as the trainer of the national football team, Igor Dobrovolski.

Although a number of media try out such ratings, the most assertive is the local VIP Magazin with a flattering motto: "The magazine of famous people". Every Sunday afternoon there is a VIP Magazin program on ProTV featuring various people from politics, business, media, culture, etc. I actually don't mind reading and watching these people talk about their lives and careers as most of them are interesting. What I do mind, however, is their random labeling as a VIP, which in my understanding should be a person of outstanding achievement and significant positive influence on the development of the society. Unless a mass-media outlet can afford to use a scientifically-sound methodology properly, any half-way attempt is bound to result in a dishonorable exercise of public manipulation.

P.S. After having posted this, I found another ongoing online rating. This time the online magazine wishes to identify the degree of sexiness of 18 Moldovan politicians. By the way, many of these people are among Moldovan VIPs.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Moldova's European Integration: How to Avoid Failure

The timeframe allowed for the implementation of the EU-Moldova Action Plan (EUMAP) is bound to expire soon. This makes Moldovan analysts and think-tanks attempt to reveal the reasons why the implementation of EUMAP has failed. To date, there is an overall consensus regarding the complete failure of the EUMAP. The latest study undertaken by analyst Dumitru Minzarari and IDIS Viitorul is a good read for those still wondering why the gap between European and Moldovan quality of life standards has been widening rather than narrowing and why there is so much talk and so little performance on behalf of public institutions.

The conclusion of the study is that the current government never really intended to implement the measures forseen in EUMAP because by reforming the judiciary sector, strengthening independent mass-media and democratic institutions, it would have eroded all the benefits it currently derives from the status-quo. However, it gained time and political capital by PRETENDING to implement it. The study also factors in Russia's open resistance to Moldova's possibility of joining EU.

The study contains an idea for overcoming the problem. The scenario proposes Moldovan non-governmental organizations establish and maintain an alternative cooperation forum with the Visegrad countries' governments and NGOs (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland) to mobilize alternative resources around the Moldovan European integration aspirations and implement the EUMAP. Basically, to create an alternative pseudo-government to do the job of the inefficient Moldovan government with the support of several EU countries. Although I agree with the description of the problem, I find the proposed solution neither justified nor feasible. We may want a positive change in the quality of governance, but the way to pursue change is not by creating an illegitimate replacement for the current government thus creating false expectations misplacing the object and burden of accountability. Since only citizens, represented by competing political parties, can change the government in a democracy, they need to be further educated in exercising tighter control over their government, demanding and recognizing real progress. It may take a longer time, but this is the only way change will translate into progress.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Managing Teleradio-Moldova: Truth or Libel?

Now that the long Moldovan holidays are over, besides such events as abundant snowfall that made the traffic even more difficult, and the car accident caused by Mayor of Chisinau, I hear people talking and writing about failures. Failure to successfully implement laws, policies and plans, failure to reform public institutions, failure of Moldovan citizenry to demand a better political representation and government.

It is too bad we are starting off a brand new year with such a poor progress evaluation. However, it is good to see some people feel compelled and independent enough to deliver the bad news. To continue the previous discussion about the well-being of Moldovan public institutions, let’s take the case of the public TV&Radio company Teleradio-Moldova. Two members of the company’s supervisory board published a report which spells out some facts and figures that suggest an extremely poor management of this important but highly-vulnerable public institution. For example, out of all television companies active in the country (about 7), the public TV Moldova1 with 92% coverage has merely a 4.7% audience. In addition, the report provides a colorful picture of how the company is managed on everyday basis, including its human resources, finances, public relations. Evidently, in this picture, the director of the company does not look very good. So, he decides to sue the authors of the report - and the organization they are affiliated with - for libel.

Will have to see what the court – another public institution – decides in this case. For now, however, I look at this report as a favor to the public in the sense that it provides some hard evidence (although, I must admit, still poorly documented and referenced) about the quality of management of one of its key institutions – the national television and radio. It does provide some answers to those of us wondering why the quality of Moldova1 and Radio Moldova programs reached a level so low it is below any criticism.