On May 20, 2020, the fourth Citizens' Dialogue within the project "EU Associations and Reality in Moldova (WE&EU)" was conducted jointly by the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP), the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE) and the Institute for Strategic Initiatives (IPIS) virtually with citizens from Drochia in Moldova.
The aim of the dialogue was to gain insights into the local population's view and perception of the EU Association Agreement as well as the general EU support for the Republic of Moldova. The aim was also to counter existing misinformation and myths in a fact-based manner. In the run-up to the online citizens' dialogue, video messages as well as the fact-checks (videos) created within the project were shared with the participants. The event, which was held digitally for the first time, gathered around 30 representatives of local civil society as well as from the fields of economy, administration and politics.
In the first part of the event, reference was made to the discrepancy between high financial support from the EU and the widespread scepticism in parts of the population regarding EU association. In this context, the importance of fact-based communication to dispel myths and misinformation was emphasized. Building on this, the second part of the event was followed by a presentation of EU-funded infrastructure projects in Drochia, which are making an important contribution to improving local living conditions. This presentation and the subsequent discussions helped to highlight the effects that successful or less successful local project implementation achieves on the general perception of EU support among the population. For instance, insufficient management of projects and the perception of double standards were repeatedly criticized when companies from EU member states did not adhere to sufficient social and labor standards. In addition, a lack of visibility, communication and transparency in the implementation of EU-funded projects was raised. As a result, many citizens had their prejudices confirmed that EU aid does not sufficiently benefit the population.
In the discussion, it was pointed out that the consistent implementation of the association agreement would also raise labor and social standards, but that this implementation would ultimately be the responsibility of the government. Furthermore, EU support had been reformed so that financial aid would be better implemented on the spot and become more visible. Finally, it is the responsibility of the citizens to be skeptical about the spread of misinformation and myths from unclear sources and to form an opinion based on the facts provided by the project and the EU delegation. For the citizens of Drochia, the virtual citizens' dialogue was a premiere and a complete success, in the sense that the virtual dialogue contributed to debunking existing prejudices and myths and all participants expressed their wish for a continuation of the exchange.