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Belarus should be a warning for Moldova ahead of election, says presidential hopeful Maia Sandu

When asked about her vision for the future of Moldova, Maia Sandu is clear — perhaps brutally so.




When asked about her vision for the future of Moldova, Maia Sandu is clear — perhaps brutally so.

She says only a “cleansing of the political class” will solve Moldova’s problems, which Sandu claims centre on migration, corruption and weak state institutions.

It hasnt been so long since Sandu was part of that political class. She was education minister between 2012 and 2015 and then — between June and November 2019 — prime minister, until she was ousted after a vote of no confidence in the Moldovan parliament.

But the pro-European former World Bank adviser, 48, is attempting a return to politics. On November 1 she is challenging Igor Dodon, president since 2016, for Moldovas top job.

Like many countries of the Balkans and eastern Europe, Moldova is torn between two forces: to its west, Romania and Europe and to its east, Russia. Dodon is unashamedly pro-Russian and has gone out of his way to cultivate ties with Vladimir Putin.

By contrast, Sandu is seen as the pro-Europe candidate, seeing the future path of Moldova to the experience of neighbouring Romania in terms of European integration.

“We are primarily interested in implementing the provisions of the Association Agreement with the EU, which aims to improve the quality of governance, institutions, welfare and security of citizens,” Sandu told Euronews.

‘A free and prosperous European country’

She sees Moldovas future along the same path as Romania, in terms of European integration. Moldova signed an Association Agreement with the EU in 2014 after an economic embargo against the country by Russia. Now, 70 per cent of Moldovan exports go to European markets.

“Moldovan citizens have felt European support over the years; they have seen the EU send aid, funds, and resources. Especially during this pandemic, the Romanian and European support was beneficial,” she said.

“People see the differences, and they want to live in a free and prosperous European country. And we are ready to put our shoulder to this change.”

Even for a small country, Moldovan pro-European parties are well connected in Brussels. In a recent intervention, the EPP leader Donald Tusk vouched for Maia Sandu.

“When someone asks me in Europe if it is worth supporting Moldova, I immediately answer: Yes! And when someone is asked who can lead Moldova to success the fastest, I immediately answer: Maia Sandu.”, said Tusk, in a video message in Romanian.

But since 1991 when Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union, links to the West and particularly to NATO has been used by pro-Russian or nationalists politicians to scare specific categories of citizens in Moldovan society. In reality, Sandu says, Moldovas links with the transatlantic alliance have always been strong, regardless of the party in power.

“Dodon is trying to exploit these fears to mobilise his electorate. However, there is a dose of hypocrisy because Moldova has institutional ties with the North Atlantic alliance. In recent years several governments […] have accepted collaboration with NATO,” she said.

And even if Brussels has had notable failures in the Western Balkans when it comes to its next wave of expansion, Sandu remains optimistic about Moldovas future in Europe.

“We are not Eurosceptics to focus on the alleged failures of the European project in Western Balkans,” she said.

“We understand that the evolution of any political entity, including the EU, has its sinuous periods. Still, we, as an aspiring state, want to look at things in their positive dynamics.”

If elected, Sandu wants to rebuild the relations with neighbouring Romania and Ukraine, which have been damaged by Dodon, who has not visited either country since he was elected in 2016.

“It is time to relaunch a dynamic, responsible foreign policy, for the benefit of the Moldovan citizens. We do not intend to focus only on strengthening relations with development partners in the West, and we will also work on solving problems in relations with the Russian Federation, starting from the interest of our citizens,” she said.

‘Belarus should be a warning for Moldova’

The difference of opinion between Sandu and her rival for the presidency is no less obvious than in their relative reactions to Belarus, with Dodon among very few leaders to congratulate Alexander Lukashenko for his success in recent elections, widely believed to be rigged.

Belarus, which has seen weeks of protests by Belarusians angered by Lukashenkos “win”, also serves as a warning for Moldova, she said.

“The events in Belarus become extremely relevant for Moldova. The message coming from Belarus is that today there is ‘zero tolerance’ for the fraud of the popular will,” she said.

As well as the presidential election on November 1, Sandu has an eye on parliamentary elections that will come soon after.

“The current parliament no longer represents the will of the people and has lost its legitimacy, because the actions of the deputies are dictated by interest groups, and not by the national interest, especially considering a large number of defecting deputies,” she said.

Moldova is currently ruled by a coalition of two centre-left parties, the pro-Russian Socialist Party (PSRM) and the Democratic Party (PDM), formerly led by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who is currently fighting extradition to Moldova from the US on fraud charges.

The ruling coalition has just 51 deputies out of 101, making a change of government likely.

That said, like other countries in the Balkans, Moldova is split down the middle, with half the country looking towards Russia and the other half towards Romania and the EU.

Sandu believes that despite this division, a shared desire for a better life could bring Moldovans together on November 1.

“The divisions in our society have always suited only corrupt politicians,” Sandu said.

“We are convinced that they all want to live better and we rely on the support of all those who are tired of poverty.”

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Denmark asylum: Law passed to allow offshore asylum centres




Denmark has passed legislation allowing it to relocate asylum seekers to third countries outside the European Union while their cases are reviewed.

The project, proposed by the Social Democrat-led government, would seek partner countries to run camps and fund agencies along migration routes.

But the European Commission said it had concerns about the law, and a leading NGO said it was irresponsible.

Denmark has repeatedly tightened its immigration policies in recent years.

This follows a peak of more than 21,000 asylum seekers arriving in Denmark in 2015.

MPs voted for the bill by 70 votes to 24.

“If you apply for asylum in Denmark, you know that you will be sent back to a country outside Europe, and therefore we hope that people will stop seeking asylum in Denmark,” said government spokesman Rasmus Stoklund, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The asylum cases would be reviewed in the third country and the applicant could potentially be given protection in that country.


But the European Commission was critical of the law.

“External processing of asylum claims raises fundamental questions about both the access to asylum procedures and effective access to protection,” said spokesman Adalbert Jahnz, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), a leading NGO, said in a statement that MPs had “effectively voted in the blind”, as the model they had backed did not yet exist.

“The idea to externalise the responsibility of processing asylum seekers’ claims is both irresponsible and lacking in solidarity. We have repeatedly called on the Danish members of parliament to reject this bill,” it said.

The council added that there was now a risk of countries hosting larger numbers of refugees would also opt out.

Denmark recently signed a migration deal with Rwanda leading to speculation that it intends to open a facility there.

Two weeks ago it became the first European country to revoke residence status for more than 200 Syrian refugees.

Danish authorities say parts of Syria are safe enough to return to but the move has sparked protests from activists and community groups.

Last year the UK considered building an asylum processing centre on Ascension Island, a remote territory in the Atlantic Ocean, but decided not to proceed.

Australia has also caused controversy in recent years with its use of camps for processing asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

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Russia to pull troops back from near Ukraine




After weeks of tension over a build-up of Russian troops close to Ukraine’s border, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered a number of units in the area back to their bases.

The EU estimated that more than 100,000 Russian soldiers had amassed near the border as well as in Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Russia in 2014.

Speaking in Crimea, Mr Shoigu said units on exercise would return to base.

The aims of the “snap checks” had been achieved, he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who earlier challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him in the conflict zone, welcomed the decision to “de-escalate” tensions at the border.

“The troops have demonstrated their ability to provide a credible defence for the country,” the Russian defence minister said, adding that he had instructed the commanders of units from the 58th and 41st armies as well as several airborne divisions to start returning to their permanent bases on Friday and to complete the operation by 1 May.

President Zelensky raised the troop build-up with European leaders last week. Ukraine’s armed forces chief said Russian military units had been moving into the Rostov, Bryansk and Voronezh regions as well as Crimea, while battalion tactical groups were stationed on the border.

Following Mr Shoigu’s announcement, Nato said that any move towards reversing the escalation would be “important and well overdue”. It added that the Western military alliance remained vigilant.

Nato leaders have called a summit in June when Russia will be high on the agenda.

Although Russia has shrugged off the build-up as training exercises in response to “threatening” actions from Nato, it is also said to be planning to cordon off areas of the Black Sea to foreign shipping. Ukraine fears its ports could be affected.

Russia said all along that these were nothing more than military exercises.

But Moscow knew very well that its troop movements close to Ukraine and in annexed Crimea were making a lot of people very nervous: in Ukraine, Europe and in America.

And that was the point.

Moscow may well have been using the build-up of troops to send a signal to Kyiv, Brussels and, especially, to Washington that Russia is a force to be reckoned with.

US President Joe Biden took notice. Last week, he telephoned President Putin and proposed a summit. True, he also imposed a new round of sanctions over Russia’s “malign activity”. But inside Russia these were perceived as not particularly tough.

A reduction in tension, however, does not mean the end of tension. Russia’s defence minister has made it clear that “Russia is taking measures in response to threats from Nato”.

For example, Moscow is planning to block areas of the Black Sea to foreign shipping for six months.

In a state-of-the-nation address on Wednesday, President Putin warned the West against “crossing a red line”.

Speaking to reporters after the order for troops to return to base, Mr Putin said as far as bilateral relations were concerned “we are ready to welcome the president of Ukraine at any time that is convenient for him”, but in Moscow.

However, he stressed if Mr Zelensky wanted to discuss eastern Ukraine, then he should first meet the leaders there.

Conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in 2014, after the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. Russian-backed troops captured large areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and declared them both peoples’ republics.

There have been a number of breaches of a ceasefire in the east in recent weeks. A Ukrainian soldier was fatally wounded in shelling on Thursday, in what Ukrainian forces said was a deliberate violation of the ceasefire. Some 14,000 people have died since the conflict began.

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European Parliament meeting assess migrant workers conditions in Gulf region




By Lailuma Sadid

Qatar is the first county that brings changes into it’s landmark reforms in the Gulf.

The first country in the gulf region is Qatar who introduces a non-discriminatory minimum wage, which is part of a series of landmark reforms to the country’s labour laws. Success in the GCC countries depend on having solid labour laws that are linked to international standards and convections and the implementation of these laws. If the law isn’t good enough then the implementation will be a non-starter.  Mr Houtan addedd.

He said that the collaboration of some international and national organisations brought up really solid laws. They are not being perfectly implemented at once since all revolutionary changes in the labour market takes time and if they happen overnight, it’s not sustainable he added.

In the mean time he also mentions how these labor laws benefit both employers and employees.

Indeed, these laws allow employers to find more local workers with the same skills at a lower cost and employees to be more satisfied because they benefit from a greater power to negotiate and discuss. It’s a win- win situation. The wage issue is a common issue acrosse the GCC region , he said.

According to Mr. Houtan  access to Justice variesfrom  country to country. It is very common to hear that an employee who has worked for the past six months is only paid for the last three months of his work and according to some this is fair and justice has been done. This is no rocket science, this is not justice.

He said: No worker should go a day without being paid or receive their salary a day late. This matter is serious and needs to be more focused on. To overcome this problem, we have the structures in place in the regions that are working, although they need to be improved. They work because everyone comes together, with the support of the European  Unions, trade union and employers etc.

According to Mr. Houtan, That’s is success model that we need to replicate across the GCC countries. In addition, it is obvious that we should not denigrate the importance of Labour inspection and occupational safety and health. It has to be considered as a priority.

Also, another very important point is engaging with the private sector which is key, the role is fundamentally important.

Of course the trade unions as well as the government, the ministry of Labour have been really keen pushing forward the agenda but if the employers don’t play ball again it will be a very slow progress.

The key word for him is coordination and cooperation between different organizations to achieve successful changes in the GCC countries.

Hassan AL-Thawadi is representing of Qatar Ambassador in this meeting, he said:Qatar’s commitment to improving labour related matters and improving lives is constant. The commitment is intrinsic to our national values.

The commitment is intrinsic to our national values enshrined in our constitution and ais the key tenants to our Islamic principles. He added

Mr. Hassan said, these reforms combined with bolstered enforcement mechanisms including electronic based wage protection system demonstrates a commitment to sustainable long-term change that I mentioned previously however we acknowledge that there is a long journey ahead of us and more needs to be done as of the case in every nation of the world. In some countries still not possible to change employers without permission in other countries, but in Qatar it is possible.

Mark from European Delegation, with the contribution for workers to the numbers is only 500,000 workers 50 years ago and 25 million demanded today for the whole Peninsula. However, much more needs to be done to ensure access to dignified living and working conditions of Migrant workers and their families.

In addition to the basic minimum monthly wage of 1000 Qatari riyals 275 $, the legislation ensures that employers must pay allowances of at least 300 and 500 QAR for food and accommodation respectively, if they do not provide them.

Legislation passed last year provided for a six-month transition period for employers to prepare for the new minimum thresholds. First country in the region is Qatar to introduce a non-discriminatory minimum wage, which is part of a series of landmark reforms to the country’s labor laws.

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