“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.