Virtual Citizens‘ Dialogue aims at countering Myhts and Preconceptions about the EU Association Agreement in Drochia, Moldova

On 20 May 2020 the fourth Citizens‘ Dialogue in the framework of the project “EU percep­tions and reality in Moldova (WE&EU)” was jointly organized as a virtual event by the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP), the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE) and the Institute for Strategic Initia­tives (IPIS) with citizens of Drochia in Moldova.

The aim of the event was to gain insights of a diversity of perspec­tives from local civil society regarding the EU-associ­ation agreement and its support for the EU as a whole. Another goal of the event was to provide facts and infor­mation to counter existing myths and misin­for­mation. Prior to this online citizens’ dialogue video messages as well as fact-checks were shared with the partic­i­pants. Around 30 repre­sen­ta­tives from local civil society, public author­ities and local businesses from Drochia partic­i­pated at the event which for the first time was hosted online.

During the first part of the event, experts shared their obser­vation of the lack of support for the EU-approx­i­mation in parts of the Moldovan society although the EU remains its biggest donor. This being identified to be partly caused by a spread of insuf­fi­cient or false infor­mation, the experts stressed the impor­tance of improving commu­ni­cation while providing a more acces­sible and fact-based exchange of infor­mation for the local society. Accord­ingly, the second part of the event focused on EU projects in Drochia in the field of infra­structure devel­opment that contribute to improved living standards in the area. The discussion of the examples highlighted once again the conse­quences of successful or less successful project imple­men­tation for the general perception of the EU support. In this respect, poor management of projects as well as perceived double-standards, such as in the field of social and workers’ rights, were criti­cized. Furthermore, the partic­i­pants expressed their concern of the missing visibility as well as the lack of commu­ni­cation and trans­parency in the imple­men­tation of projects, funded by the EU. Especially with regard to the disbursement of funds, many citizens are not feeling well enough informed or even see their precon­cep­tions confirmed such as that EU-funds would not be reaching the citizens. While referring to the efforts of the EU to make its financial assis­tance to be allocated more efficient and trans­parent, it was also stressed that with the associ­ation agreement social and labor standards would be improved, provided that the government is imple­menting the agreement seriously. When speaking about the spread of fake news and false infor­mation within society, the partic­i­pants reempha­sized the respon­si­bility of the citizens to remain alert regarding suspi­cious or unver­ified sources of infor­mation. In order to inform themselves citizens should rather rely on official facts published, for instance, by this project or the EU delegation. For the citizens of Drochia this first-time virtual citizens’ dialogue provided a fruitful and stimu­lating exchange that countered existing myths and misper­cep­tions and that all partic­i­pants wanted to be continued in the future.

The project “WE&EU: EU Percep­tions and Reality in Moldova” aims at making a substantial contri­bution to overcoming the societal dividing lines in Moldova regarding the EU rapprochement process. It promotes the informed intra-societal dialogue on the specific contents and under­lying values of the EU-Moldova Associ­ation Agreement and the concrete benefits of modernising Moldova in the course of the EU associ­ation process. The project activ­ities between July 2019 and June 2020 include citizens’ dialogues, awareness 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.