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Opinion

A former Liberal Democratic Party president about the pressure on “ACUM” opposition bloc and the DPM-SPM link

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Former Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova, Viorel Ciboraru, says that the pressure put on bloc “ACUM”(PAS + Dignity and Truth Platform) to create a majority with the Socialist Party for Democratic Party’s “situational” elimination is aimed at further justifying the alliance between DPM-SPM. In this schematic of the politician, the “ACUM” bloc will be declared guilty because it would not have made an alliance with the Socialist Party.

“All the pressure put on us today to create a non-bloc with PSRM for the “situational” elimination of the Democratic Party from power has a clear purpose: to lay down a most credible story for the true DPM-SPM alliance, lived in 2016 (and earlier, but in 2016 it became evident).

I’m waiting for another DPM move. To propose to “ACUM”, concretely – a hyper-European and reformist program: approaching NATO, the EU membership, the integration programs and intensive cooperation with Romania, the 50/50 government (and the post of prime minister, of course). But in this program, there will be a comma or two that will annihilate the virtual proposal. That is to demotivate the West: “you see how far we were ready to go …” Again, Maia and Andrei – the guilty ones.

However, there are no good variants. Miracle solutions – not even. As anticipated by more people, we expect a long and hard “positional war”, “melee” battles in parliament, in public institutions, on the ground. Ready with slogans, more grueling work of analyzing, monitoring, observing, criticizing, unmasking, and depicting the corrupt power being re-installed. And strikes, protests, demonstrations, any kind of national resistance, if necessary, to establish the values ​​that we share and which we can no longer deny.

Civil society (the associative sector, independent and corporate affiliates, freelancers and bloggers, alternative media, progressive priests, beta-unionists, teachers and researchers) must re-invent, revive, be more dynamic and more self-sustaining, more ingenious and … more optimistic, after all.”, declared Viorel Cibotaru.

Opinion

Survey// Popular COVID-19 fake news in Moldova and people’s (dis)information sources

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More and more Moldovans have to deal with fake news every day. Unfortunately, a part of population believes them. According to a survey conducted by the WatchDog.MD community, in cooperation with CBS Research, the degree of acceptance of various false statements indicates an extremely high level of trust in such manipulations among Moldovan citizens.

For example, when asked about quite a few popular fake statements that circulate the whole world regarding the novel coronavirus, the survey participants answered the following:

  • 50.4% of respondents believe that the virus is no more dangerous than a flu and that it was intentionally made to destroy the economy;
  • 37.8% of respondents admitted that the virus was created by Bill Gates, in order to introduce nano-chips in the bodies and control them;
  • 37,2% of questioned people think that the COVID-19 virus was created in a Chinese laboratory;
  • 35,9% of them said the pandemic is an excuse to impose a global Government that will rule the whole world;
  • 33,4% of participants consider garlic a remedy for coronavirus;
  • 32.7% of persons who answered the survey dangerously consider that the virus is a myth and everything is just a lie;
  • 32,3% of them are sure that only old people get infected and die;
  • 32,2% of survey participants believe that democratic regimes have bigger troubles with managing the crisis than the dictatorial ones;
  • 29.7% of persons said the EU will collapse due to the novel virus;
  • 28.8% of respondents fear the COVID-19 tests are already infected when getting tested.

And these are, by far, not all false statements some Moldovans declared as being true during the survey. Some respondents think that the virus is spread in the Republic of Moldova through the 5G technology (11.7%), even though there is no such technology used in the country yet. Others claimed that the European Union didn’t offer any support to Moldova during the pandemic crisis (21.3%), despite the existing facts they can easily check.

Out of 1003 respondents, only one denied absolutely all false or manipulating statements.

At the same time, 45% of the Moldovan citizens who answered the opinion poll don’t trust at all or trust very little the World Health Organisation as a source of information. 5.2% of them don’t even know anything about the organisation.

When it comes to the local information sources, the survey respondents claimed that they merely find out what’s new by watching TV (77.2%), by accessing web pages (42.2%), various social media platforms (35.7%), such as Facebook, Odnoklasniki, Instagram and Vkontakte, or talk to family members (12.7%), friends and neighbours (15.1%).

Another important aspect is that only 1.4% of respondents inform themselves in any other language than Romanian, Russian or both. Even so, 16.3% of survey participants said it is rather hard or very hard for them to understand what news are accurate and whether the information presented is true or not.

A crucial source of disinformation for people of Moldova, which is not mentioned in the options of the survey though, is the church. Lately, the Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G.

See also: The Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G

**

The survey was conducted at the national level between May 5-11, being part of the project “Facilitating crisis communication and accountability as a civic response to COVID-19 pandemic in Moldova”. It was implemented with the support of the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation of the German Marshall Fund and involved 1003 persons aged 18 years and over.

The study measured political trends, geo-political preferences, media consumption, as well as the impact of manipulative rhetoric, false news and conspiracy theories in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo: Lukas Blazek| Unsplash

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Opinion

Older people’s rights and dignity must be protected amid the COVID-19 pandemic

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By Alanna Armitage

Across Europe, from Spain to Serbia, care homes for older people have become hotspots of COVID-19 infections. According to the World Health Organization, residents of long-term care facilities account for up to half of coronavirus deaths in Europe.

Among all the heartbreaking statistics that tell the story of how the virus is devastating lives around the world, this figure sticks out to me. It shines light on an unimaginable tragedy unfolding right before our eyes – but drawing surprisingly little public attention.

Older people living in care facilities make up only a tiny fraction of the total population – barely 1%, for example in Germany, the country with Europe’s largest number of nursing home beds per capita. This gives a sense of how grotesquely over-represented care home residents are among the deaths caused by the virus.

Older people in general are badly affected by the pandemic. They are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and some 95% of deaths are among people aged 60 and older. This is one reason why Europe, the region with the world’s largest proportion of older people, is seeing the pandemic ravaging with such force within its borders. And older people aren’t just facing a health crisis: physical distancing (erroneously called social distancing) measures to contain the virus also have a disproportionate impact on their lives and livelihoods, as many are cut off from the services, support and caregivers they rely on.

Often neglected and out of sight, older people living in care homes are among the most vulnerable of all. We hear haunting stories of people dying alone, without having their loved ones around them and with sometimes only minimal care provided by overwhelmed and under-financed facilities.

The tragedies happening in nursing homes right now are just one, albeit extreme, expression of how we are failing older people more broadly. The pandemic has put this failure into stark relief, but it didn’t begin with COVID-19. As countries in Europe are ageing rapidly – one in four people already is 60 years or older – societies have been struggling to create conditions for the growing number of older people to be able to thrive, remaining in good health and active in their communities and public life.

Instead, many older people experience neglect, poverty, social exclusion and isolation – exacerbated now because of the pandemic. Perhaps even worse is the way public discourse tells them, more or less subtly and through myriads of cultural clues, that because of their age they are a burden, less valuable, even expendable.

It is my hope that this crisis, and the horrifying effects it has on many older people, will come to be a turning point for how we see and treat older people in society. At UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, we work hard with our partners in government and civil society not only to support older people during the pandemic. But also to ensure more broadly that their dignity and rights are protected and that they remain integrated and engaged in their communities.

Many countries are now looking at how the crisis can be turned into opportunity. There are four key steps governments can take to make this happen:

  1. Prioritise the protection of older people in response to COVID-19. This can include sending unequivocal public messages of support for the equal rights and dignity of older people and taking bold measures to demonstrate that public commitments go beyond lip service. Ensuring continuity of services, supporting caregivers, using digital technologies to reach people in isolation – a lot can be done to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
  2. Hear the voices of older people. As we are responding to this crisis, and developing policies for the future, we must listen to what older people have to say. Engaging with community representatives is vital for avoiding biases and being able to come up with solutions that respond to actual needs.
  3. Counter ageism in public discourse and practice. There must be no tolerance for the rampant age discrimination and negative stereotyping that has surfaced even more during this crisis. Promoting a counter-narrative centred on inter-generational solidarity and the agency and valuable contributions of older people will be key for shifting social norms and attitudes.
  4. Revisit legal and policy frameworks and budgets through an age lens. Now is the time to start looking beyond the crisis and review what needs to change in sectors like health, education, employment and social welfare so that countries are in a better position to cope with the effects of rapid demographic change while ensuring the rights and choices of an ageing population.

Let’s be clear: the death of so many older people during this crisis was not inevitable. It is the direct result of our failure – as societies, institutions and cultures – to assign equal importance and value to the lives and well-being of the older generation. We must learn from past mistakes and get serious about creating a society for all ages in which older people are recognized, and supported, as the important pillars of society that they are: as teachers and mentors, carers and volunteers, story-tellers and creators, conveyors of culture, and fighters for rights that we sometimes take for granted. In an ageing Europe, we simply cannot afford to exclude a quarter of the population with all their skills, talents and other contributions. Ensuring that older people are treated with the same rights and dignity as everyone else is not only a moral imperative, it’s a win-win for all, old and young alike.

Alanna Armitage is the Director of the Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Photo: UNFPA

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Economy

The Russian loan agreement declared unconstitutional – escaping the trap of excessive debt or missing a chance to overcome the crisis?

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The judges of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova (CC) declared the Agreement between the Government of Moldova and that of Russia, providing for a loan of 200 million euros to be allocated to the Moldovan budget, to be unconstitutional. The decision was announced yesterday, as the adopted law on the ratification of the agreement, along with 2 related Government’s decisions have gained the same status.

The bill on the ratification of the agreement was adopted shortly after the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova had signed a loan agreement, on April 17. It was adopted with the vote of 56 socialist and democrat members of the Moldovan Parliament.

At the same time, the exercise of the constitutionality control of some provisions was requested by several opposition MPs, after the legality and feasibility of the conditions for granting the loan have been questioned by experts and civil society.

See also: Experts: What is wrong with the credit agreement signed with the Russian Federation?

In the Opinion on the conditions of the EUR 200 million loan offered to the Republic of Moldova by Russian Federation published by the Watchdog experts, Sergiu Tofilat and Valeriu Pasa, is mentioned that the purpose of the loan was to cover Moldova’s budget deficit and to finance joint projects of the agreement parties.

The agreement included abusive provisions though, according to the published opinion. First, the agreement provided that Russian companies would be contracted for projects funded by the loan. “Currently, no public information about the nature of the projects, the benefits for Moldova, the costs and the list of Russian companies is available. Given Russian widespread disreputable precedents and Igor Dodon’s obedience to Vladimir Putin, it is probable that Dodon will promote companies controlled by Putin’s people, which will execute the projects at higher costs in order to misappropriate a part from the loan,” is mentioned in the opinion.

Moreover, the loan agreement stated that the Republic of Moldova would have to undertake to repay other loans received from Russian Federation, in addition to the 200 million euros loan. Therefore, “there is a risk that Russian companies controlled by Putin’s entourage would register companies in the Republic of Moldova in order to borrow funds from Russian banks, under the guarantee of the Russian government, while the payment obligations would be registered as Moldovan national debt to Russian Federation.”

All debts would have been repaid at an interest rate of 2% per year, plus 2% annual penalty*150% to the entire debt, including  to the interest and penalties for other loans, that is while applying a penalty to another penalty is an illegal provision that can’t be applied in Moldova.

Taking into consideration that the loan agreement didn’t provide for the jurisdiction that would litigate any loan related disputes and that other loans including private debts could be simply added up to the consolidated national debt, that could create difficulties in a potential international litigation against the Russian Federation. “If Russia claims that the Agency, as a creditor of Moldova, is a separate entity from the Russian government, the Republic of Moldova will have to prove in front of an international court that all the actions of this creditor in relation to the debt of Moldova are dictated by Kremlin,” said the Watchdog experts.

Moldova would risk to have its access blocked to foreign financing by the Russian Federation. “According to IMF rules, lending is prohibited to countries with outstanding debts to other countries.” And Moldova would have been gather an impressive foreign debt as a result of the agreement.

In such a way, the experts concluded that the abusive conditions of the loan agreement would have allowed for a considerable increase of the Moldovan national debt to Russian Federation, which could be used as a control instrument in Moldova’s strategic infrastructure areas, as it previously happened in the natural gas sector.

The only Moldovan citizen that could benefit from this agreement would be President Igor Dodon. “The EUR 100 million second tranche, scheduled by October 31, 2020, may lead to the re-election of Igor Dodon as president,” Watchdog representatives opinated.

Prime Minister Ion Chicu and President Igor Dodon denied all accusations and repeated the same words in front of Moldovan people:

“This agreement does not involve any financial or political risks. This agreement does not jeopardise the economic security of the country, nor does it affect other agreements.”

As a consequence of the CC decision to declare the loan agreement unconstitutional, it’s ratification was blocked along with the funds that won’t reach the Moldovan budget. “In the context of the crisis, we can get through this year without Dodon’s airports and the roads around them. We can reduce the expenses for them by the amount of the Russian loan,” suggested Former Minister of Finance, Natalia Gavrilita.

According to the World Bank projections regarding Moldova’s economic development, the unfolding economic crisis will lead to a contraction of Moldova’s economy in 2020. “If the coronavirus outbreak is largely contained by mid-2020, with a recovery thereafter, in the baseline scenario by year-end, the economy will still have to deal with a recession of 3.1 percent. […] Increased social needs and unemployment, as well as fiscal stimulus through public investment, will bring fiscal deficits above the historical average in the years to come,” is mentioned in the report.

However, a prolonged disruption of economic activities until August 2020 would cause Real GDP growth to fall by 5.2%, which would be the biggest drop since 2009. “Weaker growth will further strain public finances faced with already large financing needs at 15 percent of GDP. A higher number of returning migrants, high social spending needs and high unemployment may put additional strain on labor market conditions and create further fiscal pressures,” said the World Bank projections that were updated recently.

Photo: Feodora Chiosea | Getty Images

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