A: Could you tell me more about what brought you here?
M: I’m half French, half British and, before coming to Moldova, I was associate professor of economics at a French public university. A few years ago, I wanted to learn Romanian, for no special reasons: I liked the language and wanted to learn it in Romania, so I went to Brasov and did a summer course there. My first contact with Moldova was 10 years ago. I was teaching in Nice, in the South of France, and I had a few students from Moldova. At the time, I didn’t even know where Moldova was, I was curious. I just went there after my trip to Romania. I tried not to go on Google or get information from other people, I wanted to get my own impressions. Without much research, I must say I heard people say that “Moldova is a very poor country, poorest in the Europe, etc.” My first experience in Chisinau was, actually, kind of a good surprise. I like your country very much. At the time, my Romanian was very bad compared to what it is now, so people tried to help me out. When I first got to Moldova in 2015, your country was voted the least visited country in Europe. It’s rather sad that people don’t visit it, considering the fact that you have a nice country and nice people. I thought, why not go to Moldova, open a little company and try to make something with tourism? I feel like it’s not so explored, although it has a lot of potential. Even if I failed, I would benefit from the experience of living in a different country. Just before leaving, I answered a call for papers to contribute to a book focusing on technology and globalization. In fact, what I did was submit a proposal for what I had in mind back then, the idea that one can only improve tourism in Moldova if one uses technology. It’s because today, we’re living in a kind of platform-based world, with the social media. I think it’s a good idea to try to use technology and promote the country like that.
This was my whole reflection on Tourism 2.0. It’s getting people to interact, to contribute, to generate content, to share photos, ideas and experiences. If you go to travel agency websites, sometimes – you do find nice websites, with nice photos, etc.. But if people don’t know anything about Moldova, even if it looks nice, they will not go there. I remember very well, my feeling when I wanted to go for the first time. I was a bit impressed, because my language skills were not very good. It’s a bit of a mysterious country, it used to be part of the Soviet Union. All these post soviet countries are very interesting. Coming to Eastern Europe is like a discovery, it’s nothing like Austria or Switzerland. I was surprised, because it wasn’t that difficult to be in Moldova. People were nice, I could see that they had problems… I wouldn’t like to talk about all their problems, but life was tough, Moldova has a lot of poverty, a lot of corruption – these are the big issues. But in spite of that, people are trying to do something. Also, when you’re a foreigner, you’re being treated very nicely. I’m sad to say this, but most people in the world do not know where Moldova is. It’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because there isn’t a lot of communication, and this is the big problem with Moldova. Every time there is communication in the media – it is to highlight the problems. If you want me to list all the problems with Moldova, I’ll unfortunately write a very long list.
For us, foreigners being in Moldova is like an adventure. A lot of people who go to Moldova for the first time do it because they have a friend there. I think there could be psychological aspects for Moldovan people to overcome in order to attract tourists to Moldova. You have to show them the good things first; not just the problems, not just the corruption, not just the banking scandals, but also the culture, the traditions, etc.. That’s my general perspective about your country.
A: Can you briefly describe what each of the Moldova Tours 2.0 perspective tours offer within their activities?
M: What I was thinking was that everybody has their own reasons to go to Moldova. For example, the monastery tours would be for people interested in religious tourism. You have very nice monasteries in Moldova. One can take a whole week to just do this. Most people don’t just go to a country in order to visit a monastery. I think it was a good thing to divide tours in such a way, because I knew there would be people interested in them. For example, I was approached by a company in Pakistan. A Christian group of people with a travel agency in Pakistan. They wanted to send me some customers, because they do religious tourism in countries like Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, etc.. Moldova would be a whole new market for them. And then, there are people interested in wine. The French region where I come from, Burgundy, is very famous for wine. I must say I’m very impressed by the quality of the Moldovan wine. Then, you have the corporate tours. That’s for business men, for potential investors and so you need to organize something which is very suitable for them. I like the idea of the social business tours very much. A lot of people want to go to Moldova with some kind of NGO perspective. They know there are a lot of problems and so they want to help.
Most people are not going to be interested in doing one thing for a week, so that’s what the perspective tours offer. You go to Moldova for the first time and then, you could have a mix of everything. It’s funny, 2 days ago I received an E-mail from somebody in Florida, and I thought that was crazy, because they wanted to travel all the way from Florida, just to visit one monastery near Nisporeni. I thought that was crazy! Why would you come all the way up here and only want to see one thing?
Another thing I am exploring right now, and I believe has a lot of potential, is developing Russian teaching combined with tourism. One reason is because Moldova is nice and most people don’t know about it, and the other one is because it is, actually, very cheap. Moldovan people complain that there is no money, that everything is expensive, and it’s true, because the salaries are very low here. Now, if you come from the Netherlands with a very good purchasing power, you’ll find Moldova extremely cheap, compared to other destinations.
Moldova has very good doctors as well. I’ve spoken to people, and I know that the dental care you can get in Moldova would be the same as what you can get in France or Germany, but four times cheaper. It’s another thing you can think about.
A: Could you explain what is the role of Blockchain for Tourism 2.0, in easy terms?
M: That is a very important question. Blockchain is an area of interest, it’s something I have researched and published articles about. It’s really something very large that I’m interested in. At first, it all started with Bitcoin. It’s not just about Bitcoin, it’s about the technology behind Bitcoin. A British guy currently staying in Moldova has a big project here. In fact, he had a very successful experience on a Greek island about 2 years ago. There was a big turmoil in Greece, people were talking about the exit from the European Union. Finally, they saw the problems, but it was a big mess. So what he did, he went to a Greek island and introduced the cryptocurrency based on blockchain through just tourism – as an experiment. This cryptocurrency would be accepted by hotels, restaurants, tourism service providers, and there would be no fee. People would save money thanks to this cryptographic technology… You could transfer money without paying the fee. You pay very high fees when you transfer by credit card, for instance, when you travel abroad. This guy obtained a very good result on this island, where he introduced the blockchain-based currency. You need two things: you need people to work together as a coherent ecosystem, and this is exactly what tourism is about. Nowadays, you just have individual and separated elements. There are hotels, restaurants, guides, travel agencies. Everybody is working separately. If you could introduce a crypto-token – which would be accepted as a parallel currency – this could redefine tourism and, it would bring a lot of media exposure. There would be people that would come to Moldova because they’re curious. For example, a lot of people travelled to the island where the clip ‘Despacito’ was filmed (editor’s note: Porto Rico) – just because of the popularity on the internet. I’m not saying we should be superficial all the time, but sometimes you have to play with the marketing trends, the social media, so that you can create some kind of novelty. I think it would be interesting for people. The only people who go to Moldova nowadays either have a friend there, or are a bit adventurous, curious.
A lot of people interested in History come to Moldova as well. Moldova has a very rich history. There are settlements in the North of Moldova, and these settlements come
from one of the oldest civilizations that has ever existed in Europe, the Cucuteni civilization, around 7000 years ago. This civilization was, in fact, extremely advanced. I know someone who was doing her PhD in archeology, and she excavated some remnants of this ancient civilization. Those were very intelligent people, the most advanced, considering the level of technology they had at the time. The way this civilization disappeared is very mysterious as well. It’s a bit like in the Bible, there could have been a natural disaster, a catarstrophe – it’s very unclear under which circumstances this civilization disappeared.
Click here for more about the Cucuteni civilization.
It’s not just the 20th century and the Soviet Union that attract tourists interested in history. A lot happened in the Middle ages as well, or around the Stefan cel Mare time. It is a very deep belief to me, that a lot of Moldovans are very critical about their own countries because of all the political problems. Most of the time are not aware of their own heritage, their culture. Surprisingly to me, a lot of Moldovans haven’t even visited their own country. On my second day in Moldova, I was in Tipova. Talking to some people later who’ve lived in Moldova forever, and they told me they’d never been to Tipova. And it’s a very nice place in your country. How can you promote your country if you don’t know it too well?
A: I’d like to talk more about poverty and corruption in Moldova. What way do you believe in, that would get Moldova to consolidate the rule of law? What “propels judicial nihilism and corruption in Moldovan society?”
M: May I ask what you’re studing in the Netherlands?
A: It’s called Interactive/Media/Design, a conceptual art-related subject.
M: So you’re not a law student. The question you asked me is very difficult. How could we consolidate, strengthen the rule of law? You said it very well, Moldova is a very young country – 26-27 years old, the problem you have in Moldova is the same problem a lot of transition economies have: high levels of corruption. One could find the same problems in a lot of similar economies. With more economic grouth, with more economic prosperity – there would be less corruption. But this is only in the long term, so the question is, how could we improve the situation in the short term at least, knowing that it’s a difficult problem, because corruption in Moldova is a big problem. You asked a question about Blockchain, and I should’ve added something. Blockchain has some applications for the e-government, and also, more transparency in everything: for public services, in public life etc. What I think Moldova needs is more transparency about politicians. They have vested interests, and it could be that blockchain technologies could help out here. Say, you use blockchain for publicizing information related to politicians, especially politicians involved in previous elections, and see if they have any potential conflict of interest. You could see, for example, if they have a contract with a big company. One could use digital technologies, like blockchain, to generate more transparency. It would be a step in the right direction. I see that a lot of people vote for politicians for very superficial reasons. And this is what happened last year, in 2016 – people being disappointed with the EU movement and decided to look backwards, up to the Russian standards. If people reflected more upon this, they would understand it’s not as simple as it seems. People need to create a more transparent environment and know exactly who they’re voting for – the ideas they are going to present in the parliament.
A: I’m not sure whether you’ve read “Society of the spectacle” by Guy Debord, but he wrote a lot about the political spectacle, comparing the authorities to some sort of ‘pseudo-stars.’ He said “The spectacle exists in a concentrated form and diffuse form depending on the requirements of the particular stage of poverty it denies and supports.”
Unquestionably, the Moldovan authorities manipulate people in any way they can. If you agree with that, what is the reason this whole spectacle is happening? Why have people become hopeless and inactive in what comes to being part of a community and fighting for a better country?
M: Thank you for this question. One of my best friends who I’m collaborating with for this project, is a journalist here. She told me, many times, that there isn’t really any independent journalism in Moldova. People have tried, and failed – because of the lack of financial resources. The media is politically controlled, and so a lot of people are extremely passive. A thing which is very sad about Moldova is the divide between people who live here and the diaspora. When you go abroad you get to interact with other cultures, other people – it opens your mind. A lot of people in Moldova have a very narrow mindset, and this is very easy to understand. They have a life which is very difficult, they may be making around €250 a month, so when they go back home in the evening – they’re tired, they have to look after their children, their household. They turn on the television – they don’t really have the energy, the strength to go further than that. I know there are some people who are trying to do this – people with a more critical perspective. These people should really be given credit for trying to open minds and eyes of the masses. Poverty turns it into an extremely slow process.
When I came to Moldova, about to establish myself, I’ve arrived on September 4th 2015, and 2 days later you had the biggest demonstration ever in the history of your country. Chisinau had more people on the streets than on Independence Day in 1991. I think it was around 100.000 people, and that was a big movement. Through the winter, there were big protests in front of the government building. I thought that, maybe, there was going to be a similar scenario – like you had in Ukraine, with Maidan. I thought people were going to revolt, rebel against the government. And what happened was… it faded away. Everything went back to normal. People were resigned, I think. People – they can’t just spend 6 months in a tent, in front of the parliament. They need money, they have children… It’s just an economic necessity that brought people back to where they were. In fact, I don’t think anything has really changed, the appearance perhaps – on the surface. And this is sad, people are victims of their own economic conditions. There was a nice window at some stage, for people who want to change society. But this window is not really effective. I’m glad it didn’t turn into a similar movement as in Ukraine, because what happened in Ukraine was very violent. There was bloodshed, and I did not see Moldova as a country like that. It’s a very divided country. You have Russian speaking people, Romanian speaking people… Turkish speaking people (editor’s note: Gagauz), and so on – but it’s not a violent country. I’m glad that in spite of the problems you had, you didn’t take the same route as Ukraine, because the situation hasn’t improved much in there ever since. What Moldovan people need is to get more education. Education is another big problem in Moldova. It needs better education, better paid teachers, so that people have a more constructive criticism about what is going on around them. It’s more of a long term thing.
Getting back to my topic – it’s very important for your country that more foreigners go there. Of course, tourists are going to bring money, but they’re also going to bring in ideas by interacting with the locals. That’s something that could really help your country.
A: What would be an advice you could give to the Moldovan diaspora as well as the people living in Moldova in order for them to contribute to the country they hope for?
M: There are lot of different people in diaspora. It isn’t one whole mindset. There is something I wrote in my papers: it is about the future of Moldova the diaspora has a key role to play in. Diaspora may be the most decisive force for the future of Moldova. We were talking about technologies. What diaspora has to do, is try and be more united, try to be better connected on a platform, and thus, better organized. Diaspora needs to have a voice in the domestic affairs.
Today, the diaspora isn’t very well represented. I don’t think the voice of diaspora is very powerful. Using a platform-based technology would get diaspora to speak with a common voice in a way that is more coherent and powerful. Right now, you have Moldovans living almost everywhere in the world. Every country has a consulate, an embassy, and there is a need of organizing everything at an international level. I like Moldova.org a lot. I think you are doing something in the right direction. The platform you have is, in fact, a very powerful instrument. What you do – you are trying to inform people. My objective is trying to arouse interest about Moldova as a first step and bringing people to Moldova as a second step. It may sound like a foundation, but my project contains a private component, which is business, or profit-oriented. It’s ambitious, because it’s a big project, but I like to be optimistic, regardless of the problems and difficulties.
Access the Moldova Tours 2.0 website here.
Historic protests in Romania: are there any lessons for the Republic of Moldova? By Irina Staver and Marc Pilkington
Can the Blockchain Help Fight off Corruption in Developing Countries? The Case of the Republic of Moldova.
There are three Harvard University graduates in the government of PM Maia Sandu
Three of the cabinet members in Chisinau have master degrees at from Harvard University. These are the Minister of Finance, (Natalia Gavriliţă) Minister of Economy (Vadim Brânzan), and Prime Minister Maia Sandu.
Newsweek.ro made a comparison of the members of the Government of Chisinau with those of the Cabinet of Ministers in Bucharest.
Vadim Brânzan, the new Minister of Economy in the Chisinau Executive, is a professor of physics, yet between 1999 and 2001 he took a Masters Degree in Finance at Harvard University. From 2001 to 2019, he worked for various investment companies in London, New York, and Miami, the latter being Miami’s Logos Advisers, specializing in “angel investments,” which is aimed at helping startups.
Maia Sandu assigned Natalia Gavriliţă as Minister of Finance. Natalia has a Masters degree at the John F. Kennedy School of Governance, Harvard University. From 2015 until today she was a director of a London investment fund. Gavriliță also worked at the European Commission and the World Bank. She worked in countries such as Bangladesh, Belgium, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Nigeria, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), the Russian Federation, South Africa, Tajikistan, United Kingdom, USA, Zambia.
Moldova’s Minister of Agriculture is Georgeta Mincu, who holds a Master’s degree at the University of Dublin.
Nicu Popescu, the new Foreign Minister in Chisinau, is a Doctor of Political Sciences, a title obtained at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, with the thesis: “Stealth: EU and post-Soviet conflicts”. Popescu is a professor at the Po-Paris School of Science.
Finally, the new Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu has a Masters degree at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and has worked at the World Bank in Washington DC.
Stories from diaspora// Marian Cepoi: “While the things are not changing in Moldova, its citizens are given a second chance abroad.”
Marian Cepoi is an ambitious and hardworking person from Moldova who is currently working as a policy assistant at the European Commission, while living in Brussels, Belgium. He is the protagonist of this week’s story from diaspora.
About working for the EU
Marian wakes up early every day. He has settled down into a morning routine: exercises, reflecting and a healthy breakfast. “I have noticed that I am feeling better during the day if I wake up earlier and have more time for morning activities. If you do not hurry up in the morning, your entire day will seem to be longer, with more time to achieve the always-infinite list of proposed tasks,” he says.
Marian’s list of daily tasks is really long: coordinating the organisation of meetings, drafting policy and working documents and briefings, liaising and communicating with internal and external actors, etc. Therefore, getting an energy boost in the morning is really useful.
However, his morning habits are not the only source of enthusiasm and efficiency. Marian also gets his energy from the joy of doing what he really likes. “European Affairs are an interdisciplinary topic and you never get bored with only one type of activity. It is a nice combination between political science, economics, law, development studies, communication, diplomacy, etc.” It is clear that Marian loves his job at the European Commission. “It is a big community of people with more or less the same profile, education and activities. You feel a member of this big family.”
Furthermore, Marian also enjoys living in Brussels: “It is a Babylon of our era. Here you do not feel like a foreigner and your language accent will not be judged. It allows me to be far from home, develop myself, and, at the same time, to not feel as a stranger – the way I would have been felt if I was working and living in another country or city.”
At the same time, our protagonist reveals some aspects of having a job at a European institution: “The work style is very different. The specificity of having 28 countries on equal foot developed here a strong common sense of co-decision, negotiation and respect for the opinion of other people. Even at the lower levels all decisions are taken after a wide internal and external consultation process.” In the end, everybody is aware of their own contribution and no conflict of interests during the implementation process could appear, according to Marian.
Of course, there is the other side of the coin as well. “All these advanced democratic practices generate a complex system and, sometimes, it may appear slow, over-regulated, and too bureaucratic. However, without bureaucracy, that in fact assures the rules compliance, the European Union would have not been capable to extend at such a large scale, both in terms of number of countries and in terms of competences,” explains Marian.
About the prerequisites to enter the EU institutions’ competitive system
Marian did his master’s degree in European Studies at the College of Europe. “The College of Europe was a ‘visa’ for Brussels and for working at EU institutions in my case. It is almost impossible to enter the EU institutions, being from a third country, if you do not have a diploma with good results from a prestigious university, as well as prior relevant work experience.”
Marian says that studies at such high ranked abroad universities develop teamwork skills, self-studying abilities, public speaking, debating skills, critical thinking, self-confidence, research skills, and many more. “The experience at the College of Europe also taught me stress management, prioritization and self-organisation. It helped me adjust my already formed profile to the Western high work and life standards.”
To those young people who are working hard in Moldova and want to get to the next level, he recommends to go for a master’s degree abroad. “It will be the element which will complete their profile and prepare them for the international competition and career.”
Prior to his master’s degree, Marian gained his work experience as a policy researcher at IDIS VIITORUL and as a coordinator at Promo-LEX in the Republic of Moldova.
About the Moldova-EU Association Agreement
“If the current Association Agreement were fully implemented, 80% of Moldova’s situation would be adjusted to the European standards. It indeed means that the quality of life would grow as well.” Marian claims that the implemented reforms in the justice sector, for example, would attract significant EU funds and foreign investments. “At the EU level, there are enough money, but they don’t arrive in Moldova because of lack of structural reforms.”
According to Marian, it’s good that Moldovans have the opportunities to travel, work and live abroad. Still, as he mentions, without having good living conditions at home, it turns into a negative effect, as people simply leave their country for good. “The Moldovan diaspora has significantly grown in the last 5 years. People settle abroad together with their families, in the countries where they see a future for their children. This is a phenomenon without precedent in the history of the Republic of Moldova and I am afraid of its consequences. So, urgent significant changes in Moldova are needed if we want to still have it populated,” he says.
Marian will continue to work hard and look to a brighter future for his country and his family. “I want to profit from every single day and climb another step on my Everest!”
Photos: Facebook/ Marian Cepoi
Stories from diaspora// Doru Curoșu – from a volunteer to a successful trainer, speaker and entrepreneur
Doru is one of the most dynamic persons you could ever met. He is one of the few Moldovans who were mentioned in Forbes 30 under 30. Over the years, he participated in so many volunteering projects, that I would need some more space here to list them all. Doru is an HR expert, an international trainer and speaker, an entrepreneur, and simply an assertive person who, as it seems, could achieve anything.
About his career ‘determiners’
Doru’s successful career emerged from his volunteering activity. Indeed, volunteering experience has brought him where he is today.
Doru started his path at the AIESEC organisation. “AIESEC was the first organization I have been involved in since 2009. Actually, my life and work are determined by the values I learned back then. My professional activity is related to what I was doing in AIESEC.” Our protagonist was a trainer and a coordinator of several important projects under the organisation’s aegis.
Another crucial experience that served as a runway for Doru’s future professional career was his activity within the National Youth Council of Moldova. “There I experienced what it means to be a team manager, a colleague and an entrepreneur. The activity at the Council combined them all and taught me to have an impact while harnessing human capital.” Doru says that he was lucky to work in a wonderful team of people with whom he would come back to work together at any time.
Doru has also been a board member of the European Youth Forum where he got useful insights regarding internationalism, globalization, European values and many more. “During four years of volunteering, I have acquired as much information as I could about national and international policies, especially youth policies. I got the chance to travel a lot, discovered new cultures, met new people, got new ideas, which I tried to implement at home afterwards,” Doru reveals.
Doru believes that each person is unique in his own way.
“What is important is how the personal capabilities and experience are used to get yourself noticed. I have always tried to be very good in everything I do, to offer quality, enthusiasm, energy and dedication. I like helping those in need and trying to build ‘bridges’ for a better future for young people. Probably, that’s how I made myself noticed, that’s how the world got to know me.”
There is one more essential determiner of a successful career, according to Doru – the network of contacts. “It has helped me since high school years. In 10 years, each experience has been adding value to who I am and to the way people know me. Every time my work brought results, it was noticed either in Moldova or internationally.” Therefore, he was awarded the National Youth Prize in 2013 and was the first Moldovan nominated in Forbes 30 under 30.
About the spectrum of his activities
Besides building his own brand of delivering excellent training and team building services, Doru founded his own company named Camelot. “All the experience I gained as a volunteer was monetized and transformed into a qualitative and unique product on our market. Camelot is the company that offers unique, memorable and impactful experiences for those working with us. We offer training, team building, human resource management and event management consulting,” specifies Doru.
In parallel, Doru is doing his master’s degree in Human Resources Management at Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca. He often commutes from Cluj-Napoca to Chișinău and back. When asked how he manages it; he often jokes that he learned teleportation. “I go to classes when I have to present projects, I am in Chișinău for training and team building activities, and I go to Bucharest for meetings with partners and potential clients. I am always on the road.” It’s not easy for Doru to do it all, still it is very rewarding in the end.
Just like his work, travelling is another ‘drug’ that gives him energy and inspiration, as Doru states. “The more I travel, the more I want to do it. Every visited country has had a huge impact on me.” Until this moment, Doru managed to discover 49 countries and more than 200 cities from Europe and Asia. His personal top of countries is led by Georgia, Portugal and Sri Lanka. “The 50th country has to be very special. I hope it will be Peru, Colombia or India.”
About the hidden part of the iceberg
Doru could tell from his personal experience how harsh the public opinion could be in regard to people that don’t want to take the ordinary way and how inefficient the educational system in the Republic of Moldova became. Only few know about the challenges Doru had in his effort to combine university, job, travelling, sports and volunteering activity.
Only few know that our protagonist was forced to confront the traditionalist views of the Moldovan university system. “I had a conflict situation with the university where I was doing my bachelor’s degree and, for 8 years, I have been investing my effort in graduating without giving up on our poor education system.” He also had to confront some of the most trivial stigmata of the Moldovan society: <<A man has to make money. The rest is a waste of time.>> or <<Forbes? Did they pay you for it? How did it help?>>
Doru preferred to prioritize his own needs and aspirations. “My experience with formal education was not necessarily the most enjoyable, as I am not the person who accepts to waste time on things that do not add value.” He considers that young people have to combine studies with other activities in order to be successful. It can be opening own business, volunteering, participating in international exchange of studies and volunteer programs, doing internships, organizing projects, events, etc.
“University provides the theoretical basis. It represents only 20% of your employment portfolio, the remaining 80% comes from practical experience. Young people need education, but with no other experience besides, they will not be able to distinguish themselves on the labour market.”
Doru declares himself a happy and a fulfilled person and, at the same time, he thinks there is still room for improvement: “That motivates me to never stop.” He says that the key to the balance between personal and professional life is efficient communication. The rest can be managed through patience and hard work.
Photos: Facebook/ Doru Curoșu
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