“Need for a civic approach to identity and mutual respect between ethnic groups” – Second MIDEU Town Hall Debate in Balti

On Thursday, September 28, the second Town Hall Debate within the MIDEU project on national identity and minority integration in Moldova took place in Balti.

The event at “Aleco Russo” Balti State University was attended by representatives of academia and local public authorities, international organizations (EU, OSCE, UNHCHR), foreign and local experts, representatives of national minorities in the region, CSOs as well as university students. The debate touched upon several aspects regarding the strengthening of cohesion amongst the ethnic groups in the process of identity building in the Republic of Moldova.

The first panel of the debate tackled the issues of the possibility to identify a pragmatic approach of “living together” which will produce a sense of belonging, but one that will ensure a high degree of tolerance towards difference and plurality. The panelists stressed the need to implement the “National Strategy on Strengthening Inter-Ethnic Relations” as well as the role of the government and the media in promoting equality and non-discrimination of all ethnic groups. Furthermore, the need for integration but not assimilation was highlighted, in order to allow for cultural differences while at the same time granting equal access and opportunities to all citizens of Moldova.

In the second part of the event, Ewa Chylinski, Regional Director at the European Centre for Minority Issues and Council of Europe Expert, presented a new approach which supports the idea of people absorbing new and different layers of identity without having to leave or forget their own heritage. She put a special emphasis on the notion of “civic identity” as opposed to “ethnic” or “cultural” identity, which is based on the belonging to a state and civil rights, independent of ethnic roots of an individual. To support her thesis, the expert invoked the example of Georgia with its Strategy on Civil integration, which addresses all citizens, not only minorities. Other panelists described Moldova as a country with intersecting cultures and a natural bi- or multilingualism as an asset that Moldova should make use of. Moreover, the need to reduce stereotypes concerning certain ethnic groups and the importance of a “national idea” was highlighted.

Contributions by the audience to the discussion included the problematization of the term “national minorities” as being exclusive and the need for mutual respect between ethnic groups. The proposals and suggestions made by participants will be taken into consideration when developing a set of recommendations by experts from IPIS, IPRE and IEP at the end of the project.

Following the event, the panelists participated in a TV debate on the same topic hosted by the local TV station BTV Balti. The debate can be watched here (in Russian):

The MIDEU project is implemented by the Institut für Europäische Politik (Berlin) in cooperation with the Institute for Strategic Initiatives IPIS (Chişinău) and the Institute for European Policy and Reforms IPRE (Chişinău). It is supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.