Moldova’s parliament moves to put key agencies under its own control

Moldova’s parliament moves to put key agencies under its own control
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest September 10, 2021

The Moldovan parliament, dominated by President Maia Sandu’s pro-EU Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), passed in the first reading a bill that entitles MPs to evaluate the work of regulatory bodies, such as energy or financial markets regulators, and dismiss their leadership.

The bill is part of the new government’s efforts to clean Moldovan institutions of corruption, but it was criticised by independent analysts and the opposition as potentially threatening the independence of these bodies. The Energy Community and the Venice Commission are expected to criticise the bill as well, critics say, recalling past reactions from the two European bodies.

The authors of the draft bill, meanwhile, point to similar provisions in Romania, where the Ombudsman’s activity is evaluated by the lawmakers, who can dismiss the Ombudsman if its activity is assessed negatively. However, both cases when the Romanian parliament dismissed the Ombudsman were criticised by the Venice Commission and the latest such attempt was reversed by the Romanian Constitutional Court.

PAS deputy president Olesya Stamate admitted that “there is a danger of [setting] a precedent” by dismissing the head of agencies based on accelerated procedures carried out by non-expert bodies, but she argues that what is happening and has happened in these institutions so far is a much more dangerous precedent.

“Heads of institutions who do not perform their duties properly are harmful to the state. They receive money from the budget, that is, from citizens' taxes. At the same time, the state does not have the ability to somehow punish them,” said Stamate.

Recently the parliament passed a similar bill aimed at evaluating head prosecutors and allowing the Supreme Prosecutors Council (CSP) to dismiss them based on these evaluations. The CSP membership criteria were adjusted such as to eliminate members of the previous regime, including by setting an age limit of 65 years.

The declared target was to dismiss general prosecutor Alexandr Stoianaglo for his alleged mishandling of investigations into major corruption cases.

The PAS, which developed the second bill, argues that in this way the parliament will be able to control the work of the regulators subordinated to it.

The bill provides for the dismissal of the leadership of four regulatory bodies: the National Energy Regulatory Agency (ANRE), the National Financial Market Commission (NCFM), the Television and Radio Council (CTR), the Competition Council and the National Dispute Resolution Agency.

The amendments assume that the relevant parliamentary commission, having studied the report on the activities of the leadership of any of these departments, the performance indicators of its management and complaints against the leadership, will be able to conclude that the leaders are not performing their duties properly and recommend to parliament to dismiss them.