The IED in collaboration with the Mladí Európania (Young Europeans, ME, Slovakia) organized the international conference titled "Moldova between East and West" which took place on Monday 28 November 2016 in Chisinau, Moldova. This event aspired to reflect upon intensifying relations between the EU and Moldova after the EU-Moldovan Association Agreement entered into force on 1 July 2016. The conference analyzed the relationship between Moldova and the EU from three perspectives – international, domestic and from the view of youth.
Accordingly, the first panel titled "Moldova between East and West from international perspective: European Union, Russia and the future of Moldova's geopolitical orientation" was devoted to the evaluation of the country's political and foreign policy direction in the view of the experts from the EU. The event was opened by the Director of the IED Luca Bader and the Honorary Consul of Moldova in Slovakia Antonio Parziale. They both praised the positive steps and the recent reforms which have been commenced with the support of the EU and which are gradually decreasing the level of political corruption, strengthening the rule of law, boosting economic development and business climate in Moldova. However, as Mr Bader emphasized in regards to the winning of a pro-Russian candidate in the 2016 Moldovan presidential elections, Moldova is still at the crossroad between West and East and only Moldovans and nobody else can decide about the scope of the reform and future geopolitical orientation of their country.
The experts from the countries which entered the EU in the last enlargement rounds in 2004, 2007 and 2013 (Slovakia, Romania, Croatia respectively) then explained their perspectives of the current situation in Moldova. Robert Kirnag, the Ambassador of Slovakia to Moldova, compared the example and practices of Slovakia from its transition period during which it applied for and became the member of the EU. He explained the main problems and challenges Slovakia faced during the implementation of the reforms and the main positives which Slovakia has gained since it entered the European project. Monika Begovic, the Project Manager for the Center for International Studies of Croatia, emphasized that although Moldova is a small country it has a significant strategic importance – among others the country is a transit point for the movement of oil and natural gas from Russia into Europe and Turkey. This creates the situation in which both, the EU and Russia, compete for the influence in Moldova; however, Moldova must continue to balance between its Eastern and Western neighbors, continue to carry out reforms and decide about its future on its own without foreign influences. The expert on the European politics of the European Institute of Romania Mihai Sebe followed up by the explanation of the Romanian position regarding the European Neighbourhood Policy in general and the geopolitical situation of Moldova in particular. In his view, the EU and its member states should involve itself in social policies that will increase the quality of life for the citizens from the countries of the Eastern Partnership in order to decrease the fragmentation levels that are present in Moldova. However, first of all the end of the illusions is the first step toward the healing process because neither the EU, nor the USA or Russia would risk antagonizing each other on the topic of Moldova nor they would massively invest in the support of the regime in place – Moldova has to reform on its own, the EU can only support it.
The second panel titled "Moldova between East and West from domestic perspective: Political, social and economic challenges of Moldova" presented the opinions of domestic politicians and experts. The Associate Professor at the Free International University of Moldova Veaceslav Ionita introduced the experience from his term in the Moldovan Parliament and his vision of what steps should be further undertaken in order to bring more democracy and transparency into the Moldovan governmental and state bodies. The Mayor of the city of Chisinau Dorin Chirtoaca evaluated the major economic, political and social challenges Moldova is facing now and the state of relations between Moldova and the EU on the one hand and Moldova and Russia on the other. He expressed his belief that Moldova is a country with a great potential and talented people, however, much work is ahead in order to improve the quality of lives of ordinary Moldovans. Serghei Ostaf, the Director of the Resource Center for Human Rights of Moldova, concentrated on evaluation of the compliance with laws in Moldova and highlighted that political corruption and selective justice are still one of the most serious problems of the country and very serious obstacles towards the implementation of the rule of law and democratic institutions in Moldova. The Mayor of the city of Comrat Serghei Anastasov concluded the panel by the explanation of the status-quo situation in Trasnistria and the presentation of good economic and political initiatives which have been commenced in Moldova recently and which need to serve as the examples for the future proceedings.
The third panel "Youth in Moldova and Europe" concentrated on youth perception of the future of the EU-Moldovan relations. Natalia Stercul, the Lecturer at the Faculty of International Relations at the Moldova State University, explained the impact the intensified relations between the EU and Moldova has on young Moldovans. In Mrs Sterculʼs opinion, there should be the consolidation of the social partnership with youth associations, encouragement of the dialogue between Moldovan and the EU youth organizations and the improvement of international cooperation on youth problems. Two representatives from the European youth organizations Miroslava Calegari from Young Democrats for Europe (YDE) and Veronika Okata from Mladi Europania (Young Europeans, ME), shared their personal practices on how the youth can be influential on the European and national levels. They also presented the greatest advantages and disadvantages of being in the EU and advised young Moldovans how to be active in the Moldovaʼs public affairs so they can also influence the future orientation of their country.
The event was moderated by Slavomír Rudenko, the Director for International Affairs of the Pan-European University in Slovakia and the Member of the Board of Directors of the IED. The conference was attended by a high number of students from the Moldova State University, representatives of NGOs, Embassies and several Moldovan national TV and radio stations.
Main highlights and outcomes
- Moldova's presidential election will shape the country's politics and international orientation – Igor Dodonʼs promise to pursue closer ties with Russia rather than the EU is in direct conflict with the pro-European stance of the current government;
- The EU should involve itself in social policies that will increase the quality of life for the citizens from the countries of Eastern Partnership in order to decrease the fragmentation levels that are present in Moldova;
- EU Special Representatives and EU delegations in EaP countries should be given a stronger political mandate;
- The end of the illusions is the first step toward the healing process – neither the EU, nor the USA or Russia would risk antagonizing each other on the topic of Moldova nor they would massively invest in the support of the regime in place, Moldova has to reform on its own, the EU can only support it;
- Democracy and rule of law as well as prosperity cannot be exported but just supported and everyone must work for that – Moldova must continue to balance between its Eastern and Western neighbors and continue to carry out reforms.
The event was organized with the financial support of the European Parliament.