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Economy

5 Moldovan products you didn’t know about that could take the country’s exports to a new level

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The Republic of Moldova is a small country, so are its annual exports. In 2017, the annual Moldovan exports amounted $2.42 billion, according to the National Statistical Bureau (NBS). Of course, that is a drop in the ocean when compared to Germany, for example, that registered an amount of $1450.21 billion for the same period. However, it means a lot for a tiny country situated at the edge of Europe, with a weakened economy as a consequence of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. So, what is so special about the Moldovan exports besides the wine and the exported professional human capital? What are the Moldovan products that have the potential to increase the Moldovan exports and make Moldova sound more familiar on the global market?

First of all, it should be mentioned that Moldova is merely specialised in agri-food products. Therefore, this is one of the directions with a great potential for the Moldovan exports as long as the local producers abide by the international production standards. There were about 70 certified Eco producers in Moldova, according to the data from 2016, of which 30 are oriented to the local market and 40 to the export.

1. Honey from Moldova

Photo source: adevarul.ro

Honey never was an export product until the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. However, things have changes since the liberalization of trade with the EU and the US Government’s support for Moldovan beekeepers. In recent years, exports have increased from half a million dollars at the beginning, to 14 million dollars annually. Romania, Italy and France consume two thirds of Moldovan honey designated to exports.

According to Veaceslav Ioniță, an economist from the Republic of Moldova, “we are now witnessing the rebirth of a promising product for the export in the Republic of Moldova: Organic Honey,” mentioned Ioniță on his blog.

With the support of the US Farming Program, the Organic Honey of the Moldovan beekeepers will start to be certified in the summer of 2019, which means a potential of doubling the exports over the next 2-3 years.

2. Lavender oil from Moldova

Photo source: mamaplus.md

I bet you didn’t know that the lavender essential oil manufactured in Moldova is one of the most appreciated lavender oils in the world, besides the Bulgarian, French, Chinese and South African one. The climatic conditions, fertile soil and the available manual labour force are the main factors that contribute to a successful product. For producing the organic oil, hundreds of people are involved in the care and harvesting process of the plants. All the work is done manually, as the use of automated systems reduces the quality of the oil.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2014, 569 hectares of lavender were planted in the Republic of Moldova. The farmers and entrepreneurs also cultivate sage, fennel, roses, mint, etc. France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg are just some of the countries where the Moldovan lavender essential oil is exported to.

3. Almonds from Moldova

Photo source: madein.md

Almonds cultivation is not a very popular activity in the Republic of Moldova, as it originates from the Mediterranean area. However, the Moldovan farmers started to be more and more interested in producing almonds and exporting them to Europe and Asia.

The family Golban is one of those families that decided to start an activity related to almond cultivation. They planted their almond orchard in 2006. “The almonds harvested in 2014 were sold to some intermediaries who exported them. We had to accept a small price, because we did not have a warehouse where we would have kept them. This year, as we received financial help through a state grant, we managed to build a warehouse. Now that we have where to keep them, we can sell almonds at a better price,” said Tamara, a Golban family member. The family farm already obtained the Eco certification. Every year the farm produces 5-6 tones of the product that is sold internally and is exported as well. Besides the almond seeds, almond flour and oil are also produced. From the almond bark briquettes are obtained, used by the family to heat the household.

4. Berries from Moldova

Photo source: madein.md

Blueberry, goji, strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry, currant – these berries along with other kinds are already gardened in the Republic of Moldova.

There is even a public association called “Pomuşoarele Moldovei”, which would be translated as “The Berries of Moldova”, launched in 2012 at the initiative of some producers. It aims to promote and develop the tradition of production of berries in Moldova, and to stimulate their consumption as an ecological product with beneficial effects. The Association intends to achieve these goals by promoting advanced technologies, by providing assistance in business development, public policy, marketing and cooperation. Nowadays, it encompasses 1200 farmers from Moldova that own 2700 hectares of plantations in 10 different regions.

The berries are sold fresh or frozen. Also, jams, syrups, pasta and sweets are obtained from them. “Today, more and more international projects are ready to offer their financial support and conciliation for the Moldovan berry producers,” declared Anatolie Paladi, the executive director of Advisory Center Business.

5. Cheese from Moldova

Branza de Popeasca
Photo source: moldnova.eu

Just like in the case of wine making, almost every household in Moldova produces traditional, home-made cheese. Moldovan people love cheese, called here “brânză” or “caș”. In the last year, more and more cheese producers appeared on the market. Some of them manage to export their products.

There are farmers that produce cheese after the original recipe of Gouda, Tomme, Crottin, Mozzarella, Cheddar, etc. The technologies are foreign, the ingredients are local. In such a way, a tasty, qualitative, certified and relatively cheap cheese can be obtained.

Moreover, a unique kind of cheese is produced in Moldova as well – “Brânza de Popeasca”, a product that is protected by the European Commission. It is one of the few authentic products from Moldova that were qualified as products with a protected designation of origin. Once it obtained such a labelling, it can no longer be manufactured according to the same recipe and the same name anywhere in the world. “Brânza de Popeasca” is a cheese with different additions like dill, parsley, olives, and other kinds of cheese.

Still, the biggest problem of the domestic cheesemakers in Moldova remains the market. Large retailers have conditions that farmers can’t meet, and the state has no policies to promote local producers.

Generally, the Moldovan exports depend very much on the regional market ‘mood’ and the decisions of the political leaders from the closest partner countries. For example, the Moldovan wine producers, including those from the Transnistrian region, were recently overwhelmed by a decision taken by the Russian authorities to impose trade restrictions on Ukraine. Consequently, products that have to transit Ukraine were also affected. Some of the exporters from Moldova already targeted the Korean, Chinese, Japanese, EU and American markets as an alternative for the CIS states, inspiring other exporters to do the same thing.

Hence, whereas in 2005, the Moldovan exports to the CIS states represented 50.5% of the total exports, it decreased to a share of 19.1% in 2017, according to the NBS data. In the same time, the exports to the EU member states increased from a share of 40.6% of the total exports in 2005 to 65.8% in 2017. A raising trend is also registered in the case of China, Japan, USA, South Korea and other countries. The share of the total exports for these countries raised from 8.8% in 2005 to 15.1% in 2017.

Politics

A leopard never changes its spots or the ambitions of President Igor Dodon

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Recently, a minority government was established in the Republic of Moldova at the initiative of the Moldovan president – Igor Dodon. It was formed of only one party – the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) – which is unofficially led by Igor Dodon (according to the law, the president can’t be a member of a political party). The socialists helped by democrats (the Democratic Party of Moldova – DPM) offered the confidence vote to the Government led by Ion Chicu, who is a closely connected person to the president. Therefore, President Dodon has now more and more influence on the key state institutions for promoting his own vision on how the things should be done in the Republic of Moldova. How is that possible? Let’s take it one by one.

The Parliament

On November 12th, the government led by Maia Sandu fell as a result of the no-confidence motion submitted by PSRM in the Parliament. The representatives of the previous government coalition (PSRM and the political bloc ACUM) couldn’t reach a compromise regarding submitting the list of candidates for the position of Prosecutor General. The no-confidence motion was voted by 63 Members of the Parliament (MPs) – 34 MPs from PSRM and 29 deputies from DPM.

The next day, socialists declared their support for the initiative of President Igor Dodon to create a minority Government. “It will be made up of professionals, apolitical and technocratic people, to ensure the good development and progress of the Republic of Moldova. […] The next Government will be a technocratic one, not a political one. However, the Government will have all the powers to implement the economic and social projects that the PSRM has promoted so far.” it was said in a PSRM statement.

Political experts though, have very big doubts that an apolitical minority government controlled by one political party is possible, from the very beginning, being clear that it will be directly connected to PSRM and President Dodon.

In such a way, beside assuming the responsibility for the minority government in Moldova, PSRM is currently represented by the speaker and the vice-president of the Parliament, as well as by four members of the Permanent Bureau of the legislative power.

The Government

The new prime minister along with the new Government were appointed as quick as lighting, President Dodon said there is no reason to wait 90 days as the law stipulates and Ion Chicu (the former adviser of the President Dodon) was appointed the prime minister of the country. In reality, all of it seemed like a hell of a plan: ruling in a coalition to gain credibility internationally and, at the proper moment, getting rid of it and establishing a new, controllable Government with the support of own political party.

Beside Prime Minister Ion Chicu, there are five more former advisers to the head of state who were appointed Ministers in the new Cabinet, as well as the PSRM lawyer. That is one of the reasons why the newly established Government can’t be categorised as apolitical by political analysts and civil society.

The first signs of attempting to control the Government were openly manifested at the first sitting of the Cabinet of Ministers, which was personally chaired by the President Dodon, even though that challenges the principle of separation of power in a state. The sitting was suddenly and without any explanation held behind closed doors, albeit it was initially announced as public.

“The Government led by Chicu is meant to solve problems certainly in the interests of society, but especially in the interests of the head of state. This is obvious,” declared the analyst Igor Boțan for FRE/RL.

source: gov.md| President Dodon sat on the Prime Minister’s chair, Prime Minister Chicu is on his right.

Former Prime Minister Maia Sandu declared that she had information about negotiations between President Dodon, socialists and democrats to tear down the government since September. “No matter if we had assumed the responsibility (for the  amendments to the Law on Prosecutor’s Office) or not, the government would have been anyway dismissed.[…] I was aware that, once Plahotniuc was away, Dodon would also try to subordinate the state institutions, but we could not fight both Plahotniuc and Dodon at the same time. We had to get rid of the most toxic first. The fact that Dodon subsequently violated the agreements with ACUM, showed his true self,” said Maia Sandu in an interview for G4Media.ro.

The Prosecutor General

The General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) has a new Prosecutor General – Alexandr Stoianoglo, the only candidate (out of 4 proposed) who previously had a political (DPM) affiliation. President Igor Dodon signed the decree and presented him to the GPO. Everything happened in less than 24 hours since the interviews with candidates were conducted. “The appointment of the Prosecutor General is a long awaited moment, in order to overcome the deadlock of the General Prosecutor’s Office. I reiterate that, nowadays, the Republic of Moldova cannot afford to maintain a key institution in a semi-functional regime,” declared Igor Dodon.

Despite the lawsuit filed by the deputy of Prosecutor General Eduard Bulat against the Ministry of Justice, as well as the allegations made by former Minister of Justice Olesea Stamate, the same list of four candidates for the position of Prosecutor General was transmitted to the Superior Council of Prosecutors (SCP) by the decision of the new Minister of Justice, Fadei Nagacevschi.

More details on the subject here.

“The political situation that took place around the dismissal of the Government led by Sandu and the appointment of the Government led by Chicu was the high stake of President Igor Dodon to obtain and take control of the Prosecutor General, which would give him personal comfort and neutralise any surprise that could have appeared in the case of an independent prosecutor, as well as would ensure him a smooth election campaign and the second term in the next presidential elections,” opinated the economic expert Veaceslav Negruța in a press conference organised by IPN and Radio Moldova.

Media control

Accent TV (one of four TV stations affiliated with PSRM) has been renamed “the First in Moldova” and has obtained the right to re-transmit the broadcasts of the Russian main TV station Pervii Kanal. After the creation of “the First in Moldova” TV channel, Telesistem TV SRL (the founder of Accent TV) requested to the Audiovisual Council (AC) to issue a new broadcast license for the TV station Accent TV. Previously, Prime TV, a TV station affiliated with the former democrat leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, had this exclusive right.

Additionally, two other televisions – NTV Moldova, which re-transmits the Russian NTV channel, and Exclusiv TV, which re-transmits the Russian TV station TNT – are both administered by Exclusiv Media SRL, founded by the PSRM member Corneliu Furculiță.

As a result of these events, several NGOs from Moldova expressed their concern about the latest decisions of the AC, which would, according to them, stimulate media monopolisation in the Republic of Moldova. Also, the NGOs drew the attention of the AC members to the fact that PSRM affiliated TV stations reflect the most important topics on the public agenda by strongly favouring and promoting the PSRM members.

“It may happen that we will have an ideology that dominates the country again. We already had a time when everyone was thinking the same way. This led to nothing. The history repeats itself. When the government is changing, the redistribution of the media market is beginning. It’s sad. It proves that we didn’t develop as a society, as a state or as a political culture,” said the media expert Ion Bunduchi.

**

Igor Dodon is one of the most trusted persons in the Moldovan society. According to the last survey performed by the Public Opinion Fund, 26% of respondents said they trust President Igor Dodon the most. Therefore, having the society’s support, control over media and the most important state institutions, it seems that the plans of President Dodon to gain the second presidential seat and switch to the presidential system have a big potential to become true. But will they?

Photo: gov.md

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Economy

Moldova will receive two grants of about 12 million dollars from the USA

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The United States will offer two grants of a total amount of $ 12 million to Moldova, under two previously signed between the USA and Moldova agreements. According to a press release of Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Moldova, the money will be offered in the form of technical assistance.

The first grant will supplement the total amount of the Assistance Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Government of the United States of America for a more efficient and responsible democratic governance, which amounts $ 6.6 million, reaching a total value of $ 50.8 million.

The main objective of the program is to ensure a democratic, efficient and responsible government in the Republic of Moldova, by involving citizens in the decision-making process of the Government, ensuring a more transparent and responsible judiciary, and creating conditions for local public authorities to be more involved in solving citizens’ needs.

The second grant represents a supplement to the Assistance Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Government of the United States of America for the increase of trade and investments in key sectors, which adds up $ 5.4 million, reaching a total value of $ 48,4 million.

The objective of the program is to increase competitiveness, improve the business climate and the regulatory framework, to increase access to finance, to improve the skills of the workforce and to fight corruption.

Recently, the US Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, Dereck J. Hogan, emphasised that external partners want to see a Government implementing reforms, otherwise the country will be lacking financial support. “We want the current Government to continue implementing reforms in the same way. External partners insist on continuing to implement reforms. If external partners, including the US, will not see progress, of course we will stop funding,” the ambassador said.

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Society

Violence against women in Moldova. Facts and figures

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The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) launched the “Break the Silence” campaign in the Republic of Moldova and throughout Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, on the occasion of the annual 16-Day Activism Against Violence campaign. According to the OSCE research, women who face violence in Moldova rarely contact the police.

OSCE Study

The study revealed that three out of four women think that violence against women (VAW) is common in Moldova. Cases of VAW remain under-reported to police and other specialised organisations because of a lack of trust in institutions among women and a limited specialised services for survivors of violence. Also, according to the survey conducted within the OSCE study, one third of women personally know someone subjected to domestic violence among their family and friends, and the same percentage within their local neighbourhood. Two out of five women say that they have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15 by a partner or non-partner.

Therefore, just as in other countries where the survey was conducted – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and Ukraine – violence against women remains a huge social problem in Moldova, as well as a serious violation of human rights and the most serious form of discrimination against women. “The research conducted by the OSCE is essential for raising awareness with policy and lawmakers, but also the general public, law enforcement agencies and many other stakeholders. […] Attitudes, norms, and beliefs that justify violence against women need to be tackled at their root, as they continue to perpetuate this grave human rights violation. This survey provides the information needed to take action,” said Serani Siegel, OSCE Project Manager.

National statistics

According to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), violence against women is more common among women in rural areas, the phenomenon is more often with the age of the woman and it is indirectly related to her level of education. The married women are more reluctant to report cases of violence and, consequently, the highest rates of reported VAW is recorded for divorced women and widows.

60% of women from Moldova reported at least one form of psychological violence, while physical violence was disclosed by about 40% of women. About 19% of women said they suffered sexual violence at least once in their life. (Violence against women report, NBS, 2011)

13 women were killed by one family member, and another 22 women lost their lives as a result of traumas caused by their partners since 2018, as NGOs official data revealed.

Most of the time, the women do not report the cases of violence because they are afraid of the aggressor, they are blamed by the society, they do not trust the authorities and the judiciary, they do not have sufficient financial resources and employment opportunities (especially if they have children), and the support services are insufficient or even missing.

Istanbul Convention

Several organisations and representatives of civil society are calling for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) until the end of 2019. The NGOs from Moldova also launched an appeal the President of the Parliament of Moldova Zinaida Greceanîi and to Prime Minister Ion Chicu.

The Istanbul Convention is currently the most effective international tool to ensure the prevention and fight against VAW, being based on the belief that VAW seriously violates the fundamental rights to life, security, freedom, dignity, physical and emotional integrity of women. The document calls on implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies against this type of violence, governmental support for specialised non-governmental organisations (NGOs), collection of relevant data, changes in social and cultural models for eradication of prejudices, customs, traditions and other practices, which are based on the idea of ​​inferiority of women or on stereotypical roles for women and men.

The document also provides for the development of support services for victims, raising awareness, education and training of professionals, participation of private sector and media in preventing and combating violence, etc.

The Istanbul Convention was signed by Moldova on February 6th, 2017 but until now its ratification has been delayed, even though the representatives of the Government and the Parliament have repeatedly assumed a public commitment in this regard.

Legal measures

Moldova is part of the European Convention on Human Rights since September 12th, 1997. The Convention is the main instrument within the Council of Europe for guaranteeing fundamental human rights. Moldova also has an obligation not to infringe the guaranteed rights and freedoms and to ensure adequate judicial protection.

Since 2008, the Republic of Moldova regulated domestic violence, adopting the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence. The law prohibits the aggressor from approaching victims for a specific period. Still, the authorities do not have an effective mechanism of protection, as the victim is rarely offered a place in a specialised centre, psychological counselling and material assistance.

In 2017, the Government of the Republic of Moldova adopted the National Strategy on Prevention and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence for 2018-2023 and the National Action Plan for 2018-2020 regarding its implementation.

NGOs

The National Coalition “Life without domestic violence” is an informal platform that gathered 21 NGOs and public institutions that try to do their best in their work to prevent and fight against domestic violence.

The Coalition members managed to provide telephone counselling, emergency and long-term psychological counselling, legal, primary and qualified assistance, social assistance, financial support, material and placement to 5600 beneficiaries, working in 1681 localities with the direct involvement of 200 specialists.

There are also local projects supported by international organisations involved in fighting against VAW. One of them is “Combating violence against women in the Republic of Moldova: exploring and learning from local solutions” – a pilot project from Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) Gagauzia, supported by UNDP Moldova.  The purpose of this project is to help the local implementation of the the National Strategy on Prevention and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence for 2018-2023 and to use the lessons learned, as well as the results of the initiative proposed in the pilot project, for offering improved policy recommendations to the decision makers.

Photo: Tumisu – Pixabay

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