Project closing conference – EU perceptions and realities in Moldova (WE&EU)

On 01 July 2020 the virtual format of the concluding conference of the project “EU Percep­tions and Reality in Moldova” (WE&EU) was success­fully held. This public event was attended by high-ranking repre­sen­ta­tives such as the German Ambas­sador, Mrs. Angela Ganninger and the Head of the EU Delegation, Ambas­sador Peter Michalko, as well as numerous partic­i­pants from previous project events. In addition, about 16,500 citizens from all over Moldova followed the presen­tation and final discussion of the results of the project conducted by the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) in cooper­ation with the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE) and the Institute for Strategic Initia­tives (IPIS). The public final conference allowed a review of the project activ­ities (Citizen dialogues, EU awareness workshops, fact checks, videos on EU success stories) and a summarised presen­tation of the collected findings, which allowed conclu­sions for the future.

The opening session confirmed the relevance of the project for Moldova’s EU approx­i­mation process. In her video message, the German Ambas­sador to the Republic of Moldova, Mrs. Angela Ganninger, empha­sised that trustful cooper­ation and successful partnership required mutual knowledge and under­standing. IEP Director Dr. Funda Tekin pointed out that the beginning of the German EU Presi­dency was also an oppor­tunity to promote common interests within the EU and in the Eastern neigh­bourhood.

The first panel dealt with EU support for Moldova under the current crisis condi­tions and in the recent past. Ambas­sador Michalko under­lined that a substantial support package has been put in place by the EU to mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the first EU aid tranche was provided uncon­di­tionally, the second aid package was condi­tional. Recent surveys show that Moldovan citizens are increas­ingly aware of EU support, and the WE&EU project has contributed to this rising awareness. The repre­sen­tative of the Moldovan Foreign Ministry, Ambas­sador Andrej Popov, empha­sized that despite these positive figures, there is still a pronounced scepticism among large parts of the Moldovan population regarding the EU rapprochement. Dialogue must continue to be sought in this context in order to counter the spread of myths. Iulian Groza, Director of IPRE, stressed that the EU should develop better and coordi­nated commu­ni­cation strategies, especially with the help of the reform minded civil society.

After a short break, during which two videos (Successful story “We and the EU”. Ina Negrua, entre­preneur from Orhei; The success story of Grigory Kiss) on success stories of EU funding were shown, the second panel focused on the concrete percep­tions of the population at local level regarding the EU-Moldova relations.

The mayors Anatolii Topal (Ceadir-Lunga) and Constantin Cojocaru (Edinet) stressed the impor­tance of EU support in the fields of agriculture, environment and infra­structure, which has led to an increase in living standards in rural areas of Moldova. With regard to the perception of this connection within the population, they summed up that more and more people would associate projects with the EU, but that this depended heavily on commu­ni­cation, trans­parency and success of these projects. According to IPIS Director Vadim Pristrinciuc, the fact-checks initiated by the project, as well as videos of success stories, were an important contri­bution to this process. In addition, the admin­is­trative management structure and the distri­b­ution of EU aid should be further decen­tralised.

The future challenge is to make the often complex issues of the necessary reform processes and acces­si­bility to project funding easier to under­stand for many citizens, so that all social forces feel better integrated in the process of EU rapprochement.

Both panels concluded with a question and answer session. Overall, the discus­sions at the final conference generated a very high public response, which under­lines the relevance of the topic.

The project “WE&EU: EU Associ­a­tions and Reality in Moldova” aims to make a signif­icant contri­bution to overcoming the social divisions in Moldova in relation to the EU approx­i­mation process by promoting an informed intra-societal dialogue on the specific content and funda­mental values of the Associ­ation Agreement and the concrete benefits of the moderni­sation of Moldova in the course of the EU approx­i­mation process. The project activ­ities between July 2019 and June 2020 include civil dialogue, workshops, public confer­ences and TV debates in diverse regions such as Basarabeasca, Orhei, Nisporeni and Ungheni.

The project is kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.

More infor­mation on the project can be found here.