01 Mar 2006

Moldova’s Convergence with the Acquis – A Pro-Growth and Pro-Integration Strategy

Oxana Gutu

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The enlargement of the EU and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) have revived the debate in the ‘neighbourhood countries’ around the need to converge legislation with EU internal rules and regulations, known as the acquis communautaire. The political incentive of accession to the EU, which has driven legal approximation in new EU member states, is missing for ENP countries. Yet, in the case of countries like Moldova, the cost of non-compliance is significant and translates into loss of existing export markets (e.g. in Romania) and the inability to expand into new markets (SEE countries and the EU). The situation is made still worse by a poor level of economic governance. As convergence with the acquis is a huge task, the key challenge for ENP countries is to determine the priorities, sequence and degree of legal approximation. This paper argues that the optimum degree and appropriate pace of convergence need to be driven by economic rationale and the development of the trade potential of the country. Thus, to secure benefits and avoid high costs for the economy, the legal approximation agenda will be moving along clearly identified economic integration scenarios, i.e. achieving a functioning market economy; taking full advantage of EU trade preferences (GSP and APTs), preparing for an FTA with the EU and, over a considerable number of years, gradually achieving a stake in the EU’s Internal Market. The author, Oxana Gutu, is a Moldovan national and a Research Fellow in the Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative (LGI) Policy Fellowship Programme of the Open Society Institute.