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Diaspora

Mass Exodus from Moldova, the Fastest Shrinking Country in the World

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CHISINAU, Moldova — On a rainy October day, two years ago, Oleg Bumbac, 29, landed at Luton Airport, in southern England. While walking on the airstairs, dressed in a blue business suit, Bumbac realized that he left Moldova for good.

“I felt a bittersweet feeling of guilt and excitement. I did it, I said to myself,” remembered Bumbac. After six years of medical school and four years of working as an emergency doctor in Moldova, he realized that he couldn’t live anymore with a salary of 134 Euro a month. He needed to leave.

Bumbac is not the only Moldovan fed up with the country enough to move away. More than 15 percent of Moldova’s population, some 550 thousand citizens, currently live outside Moldova, according to Civis Centre of sociological, political and psychological investigations. The total number of migrants translates into a third of the employable population while every fifth of them is actually a highly qualified worker (teacher, doctor, economist or engineer). According to BBC, four people exit the country for a better life every hour, making Moldova the fastest shrinking country in the world.

Moldova is now at a crossroads. After almost twenty years, the country faces the first direct presidential elections. On Nov. 14, the day after the second round, pro-Russia candidate Igor Dodon or pro-Europe rival Maia Sandu will officially become the head of state. If pro-Russia candidate Igor Dodon wins presidency, Moldova could forge closer ties with Russia again. Meanwhile, Bumbac will vote for a European future in the heart of England. “In the first round, there weren’t enough ballots. I am afraid that not everyone will be able to vote on Nov. 13, but I am so moved. Moldovans across the world are gathering together to choose their president,” said Bumbac .

Oleg Bumbac (29, doctor) is one of 550 thousand citizens of Moldova who left the country. Photo: Victoria Colesnic

Oleg Bumbac (29, doctor) is one of 550 thousand citizens of Moldova who left the country. Photo: Victoria Colesnic

From Moldova to England

Oleg Bumbac was born in a small village, surrounded by vineyards and fruit gardens, called Hajdieni in northern Moldova. He graduated the lyceum in Glodeni city, where he edited a local newspaper with a close friend. As a child, Bumbac loved to study and was the teachers’ first candidate for different academic competitions. After graduating school, the boy decided to become a doctor, so he moved to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. “The admission contest was fierce. More than fifteen candidates competed for each place,” Bumbac said. Yet, he managed to get a state-funded scholarship at the Faculty of General Medicine.

After six years of challenging studies, Bumbac got his first job as an emergency assistant in the Municipal Emergency Hospital. “I didn’t expect it to be easy, but it felt impossible. I don’t remember days when the emergency kit had everything it was supposed to. I had the most important medicine, but the kit was never full.” Meanwhile, in 2013, Bumbac’s salary was about 100 Euro for ten 24-hour shifts per month while the living wage (the minimum income necessary to meet basic needs) was 98 EUR. In order to survive, Bumbac used to take more shifts. “Of course, I chose the cheapest rent. But to be able to pay even that, I had to take 15-18 shifts every month. Sometimes, I had to stay for 48 hours straight, because there were not enough doctors, which also happened frequently,” Bumbac stated.

Even employed as an emergency room doctor, Bumbac didn’t receive more than 130 EUR. According to him, every emergency medical team should have at least one doctor and two to three assistants, but these teams were never complete. “So I had to respond to the patient’s request completely alone. A lot of pressure was put on the doctors. And, of course, in these stressful conditions, I was not allowed to make any mistakes,” said Bumbac.

The idea of leaving Moldova was always in the back of his head. “A lot of my colleagues had left and I was so tired to live slightly above minimum wage. I wasn’t able to buy clothes, books or to travel anywhere,” said Bumbac. He managed to survive because of his mother who also left the country and started working in Greece in order to help the family. For more than 15 years, she cooked pastries and taught Russian language. “She was my help, I wouldn’t have made it without her,” said Bumbac.

During the following six months, Bumbac passed through a lot of interviews, collected recommendation letters and prepared for the big journey. When he was told that he had gotten a job at a private hospital in England, he needed a few minutes to realize his life was about to change drastically. “I had very mixed feelings. I left my job with a feeling of guilt, because I was leaving my colleagues behind, amazing doctors, who are not guilty that the medical system in Moldova is ruined. But I was also so excited! I knew it was going to be huge,” said Bumbac.

Two years ago, on Oct. 16, Bumbac passed for the first time the threshold of the British hospital. “I was excited, but also very stressed. I had to prove that I am a good doctor if I wanted to stay. I even took a small bag because I didn’t know what this unbelievable journey would bring,” said Bumbac.

Now Bumbac lives in London and is the hospital’s doctor on call. Every day, he supervises up to 60 patients or more, responds to all kinds of emergencies and works with his patients’ physicians on their follow-up treatment. He talks warmly with his patients about Moldova. “I even have this prepared presentation. It sounds like this: Moldova is a tiny country between Romania and Ukraine. It has the biggest wine cellars in the world and the tastiest wine in Eastern Europe,” said Bumbac like talking to an invisible camera. At work, on his desk, he keeps a small traditional clay bell. “It has Moldova written on it and it has this small vine leaf as the bell clapper, so that I don’t forget where I should return,” he said.

No wind of change

On 7th of April, thousands of demonstrators claimed that 2009 parliamentary election results were fraudulent and gathered in major cities of Moldova demanding a recount, a new election, or resignation of the communist government. In Chisinau, where the number of protesters rose above 30,000, the demonstration escalated into a riot. On this day, Bumbac protested peacefully in the center of the capital. “I am not a rebel. I couldn’t throw stones, but I was on the side of those who did, because that communist government deserved the stones. Unfortunately, the change that we had brought [the pro-European parties] didn’t fulfill our expectations for a bright European future,” he said. At these presidential elections, Bumbac thinks that Moldova has a chance to start over. “Watching the debates, I realized that Igor Dodon is a rasist, intolerant person. Maia Sandu is the only honest candidate, that has a plan on fighting the corruption’, said Bumbac. “If we don’t win this battle, I sincerely don’t see any perspectives in Moldova for now,” he said.

According to a national survey, conducted by Magenta research company in March 2016, 83 percent of citizens of Moldova think that the country is going in the wrong direction while 60 percent of Moldavans claim that they are worse off than they were last year. On top of it, 74 percent are convinced that the situation will either not change or will become even worse.

infographic

Vitalie Varzari, a local consultant at the International Organization for Migration believes that “the lack of trust in the state institutions, the disappointment in the society and the country encouraged migration.” On the other hand, Ruslan Sintov, sociologist and director of Civis Centre of sociological, political and psychological investigations, is convinced that the effects of the disappointment are yet to be seen. “If the economic situation in the country does not get better, people will continue to leave. According to our surveys, another 100 thousand citizens have intentions to leave Moldova in the next 12 months. Moreover, the number of those who took all their family members with them doubled during the last two years,” Sintov affirmed.

Experts agree that the most frightening phenomenon is the unwillingness of the citizens to return. “If in 2012, the migrants were saving money to buy a house here, now the number of those willing to invest in real estate in Moldova is decreasing dramatically. If in 2013, 40 percent of migrants were interested to invest in Moldova, then by now, this intention has shrunk by a third,” Sintov continued, explaining that it all comes down to the $1 billion embezzlements. “The decision to leave the country is a difficult one, so we can’t expect a massive and quick response from the population, but we are convinced that even more people will leave Moldova, if nothing changes.”

Bumbac sees his leave as a form of protest against the reality in Moldova. “What else can doctors do? If they quit, they will starve. If they change the job, they will lose their profession. So the only solution is to leave the country. This is the only way to attract the government’s attention. People will suffer, but then again they already do. The protests don’t work. People stayed in the streets for almost a year and nothing changed,” recalled Bumbac the large scale anti-corruption demonstrations in Moldova during 2015.

However, Bumbac is one of the few willing to return someday. “I think I will stay in the U.K. for the next ten years, but then I would like to come back and implement the things I learnt. I still feel indebted to our medical system that formed me as a specialist”. The man recognizes that he has no idea how he will be able to do that. “Probably, I will have to save money so that I don’t need to survive with Moldova’s salary. You know, I realized that managing to live in Moldova is actually a luxury,” added Bumbac and chuckled, looking through the window.

Diaspora

The Festival of Talents of the Moldovan Diaspora will have its first edition in London

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The Festival of Talents of the Moldovan Diaspora is the first event that unifies the entire Moldovan diaspora from the United Kingdom.

Being organised by UncageX – an international community of Moldovan entrepreneurs representing a movement towards self-development, transformation and exploration – with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of Moldova in the United Kingdom, this festival aims to promote the image of Moldova and to strengthen the love of its people for their roots.

Another goal of the festival is to present and promote the organisations of the Moldovan Diaspora in the UK, as well as the services and products created and delivered by Moldovan citizens who are settled in the United Kingdom.

The Festival of Talents of the Moldovan Diaspora, just as its name suggests, will have as guests talented people from Moldova who are already beloved by the public or are just newly introduced to it.

The special guests of this event are:

  • Andrei Bolocan – the author, producer and host of the “Lumina” Show, who will be for the first time in the UK.
  • Alexandru Manciu – the winner of the “Star Factory” Show
  • Vasile Vozian – international fashion designer
  • Dan-Iulian Druțac – violinist and participant of the “Moldo Crescendo” Festival
  • Denis Roșca – the author of the “Golden Book of Bessarabia and of the Republic of Moldova”
  • Constantin Botezat – artist, painter.

The event will take place on December 21st, at Victoria Park Plaza Hotel, in London,.

Tickets may be purchased here.

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Moldovan Government fell as a result of the Parliament’s no-confidence vote – a full picture of events

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Today, October 12th, the government led by Maia Sandu collapsed. The no-confidence motion submitted by the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) in the Parliament was adopted by 63 Members of the Parliament (MPs) – 34 MPs were from the PSRM and 29 deputies from the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM).

Details about the no-confidence motion here.

The contradictory declarations

Prime Minister Maia Sandu had a speech at the Parliament today, trying to defend the Government’s position.

source: privesc.eu

“Deputies from the Socialist Party build their motion on false accusations about the worsening of the social and economic situation of the country. Why do you lie to people? Where do you see the worsening social and economic situation? The only worsening of the economic situation is for those who have been stopped from corruption schemes. […]

The citizens did not expect miracles in 5 months, they understand and appreciate a responsible government, made up of honest ministers, who came to these functions to make people’s lives better.

The vision of ACUM is known – we want true justice. We want efficient prosecutors and judges who make decisions in the name of law. We want those who stole the billion to go to jail. It’s simple. That is what the whole society wants,” Maia Sandu announced.

“Today, there was not only a betrayal of the Government, but also of every citizen who hoped that justice would soon be done and the life would be better,” Sandu also claimed.


President Igor Dodon made a few declarations in a press conference after the Parliament’s sitting. First of all, Dodon stated that Prime Minister Maia Sandu intentionally caused the fall of the entire Cabinet of Ministers. “Maia Sandu intentionally caused the fall of Government and the crisis of the ruling coalition to distract the citizens’ attention from the inefficient economic and social policies of the last five months. Apart from promises, Maia Sandu was not able to provide any results,” said Igor Dodon.

source: privesc.eu

The head of state declared that he is ready to accept any candidacy for the position of prime minister, proposed by ACUM and PSRM, but he will not accept the candidacy of Maia Sandu again. “If the MPs from ACUM will not accept the dialogue, then their desire to cause snap parliamentary elections, in an extremely difficult period for the Republic of Moldova, becomes evident.”

At the same time, President Dodon invited all parliamentary factions to consultations for the appointment of a new prime minister tomorrow. The president of the country said he could personally submit a candidate for the position of prime minister. The head of state also gave assurances that “the Socialists do not want a coalition with DPM.”

The reactions of Moldova’s international partners

The EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Maja Kocijancic, expressed her concern regarding the situation in the Republic of Moldova in an official statement.

“The vote of no-confidence in the government in the Republic of Moldova over questions concerning the recruitment process of the Prosecutor General sends worrying signals for the reform process in the country.

The coalition had started a number of initiatives to deliver on the key commitments made since June notably in the fields of the fight against corruption, independence of the judiciary and investigation into the banking fraud.

The need for such reforms has not gone away with the voting down of the government.

The European Union’s partnership will remain focused on delivering tangible benefits to the Moldovan citizens. In this spirit, the EU is committed to working with those in the Republic of Moldova who support the reform process that is at the core of our Association Agreement, in particular as regards fighting corruption and vested interests irrespective of the political affiliations, ensuring the independence of the judiciary and de-politicising the state institutions. We will continue to base our relationship with the Republic of Moldova on the principle of conditionality and respect for the rule of law and democratic standards,” is mentioned in the statement.

Dragoș Tudorache, the rapporteur of the European Parliament (EP) for the Republic of Moldova, also made a statement about today’s events in Moldova: “Politicians in the Republic of Moldova should never forget the only objective that matters both now and in the future: the European route of their country. […] Rapid action is therefore needed to provide the necessary assurances that the pro-European route is not derailed in any way. We are waiting for the correct signals that will follow from the negotiations in the coming days and I hope that we will not have any unpleasant surprises from the Moldovan politicians,” the EP rapporteur declared.

The President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, argued that the socialist approach to dismiss the Government is against the long-term interests of the Republic of Moldova.

“Romania strongly supported the efforts of the Government of Chișinău, given the clear and determined commitment of the government coalition for the European path. […] In this context, Romania’s support, including financial support, will continue to focus on the interests of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, as well as on the implementation of strategic bilateral projects, being strictly conditioned by the continuation of the essential reforms for the democratic development of the Republic of Moldova and the advancement of its European path,” it is mentioned in the official statement of the Romanian head of state.

What is happening next?

According to the law of the Republic of Moldova, after the MPs have adopted the no-confidence motion against the Executive, prime minister is obliged to submit to the head of state the resignation of the Government within a maximum of three days. The Cabinet of Ministers will be in office until the members of the new Government are appointed.

During the term of his resignation, the Government cannot make foreign policy decisions and is not entitled to legislative initiative.

The president of the Republic of Moldova is obliged to initiate consultations with parliamentary factions to form a new Government.

After consulting the MPs, the president appoints a candidate for the position of prime minister and, within 15 days from the appointment, the candidate requests the confidence vote of the Parliament on the Government’s program of activity, presenting the full list of the Cabinet of Ministers.

The deadline for forming a new Government is three months. If the Government does not get the confidence vote from the Parliament during this period, the legislative is dissolved and snap parliamentary elections are called.

Photo: privesc.eu

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Moldova’s Press Council President: “Free mass media in Moldova still conducts its activity on subsistence level.”

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Free mass media institutions in the Republic of Moldova are kept on subsistence level due to limited access to supposedly public information, which declines the quality of media products, concentration of mass media in the hands of politicians, which creates a high volume of manipulative information, as well as the monopoly of advertising market, which cuts the main source of income for the majority of media outlets in Moldova, according to a statement published by media-azi.md.

In result, “free media can’t survive without help from external donors and journalism as a profession can’t develop.” The declarations were made by Viorica Zaharia, Moldova’s Press Council President, at the Mass Media Forum, which took place on November 4-5.

“Of course, underdeveloped or enslaved journalism is only an obstacle to the democratic development of a state. Also, the same factors determined a lower position in the World Press Freedom Index for Moldova, a report prepared by Reporters Without Borders,” emphasised Viorica Zaharia. The Republic of Moldova dropped 10 positions in 2019 as compared to 2018, from 81st to 91st rank.

Press Council president added that there are visible signs of redistribution of influence spheres in the media market. The same aspect was stressed by Prime minister Maia Sandu, who also participated and gave a speech at the event. In her opinion, free mass media in Moldova face a dramatic situation, as it struggles to survive.

“The General Media Group TV stations give up national frequencies, they lose people after Vladimir Plahotniuc left the country. Probably some of them will be shut down. […] Instead, another holding, which is politically affiliated with the Socialists, gets ahead. Accent TV has recently received the right to re-transmit the most popular TV station in Russia. Where one political power weakened, another is seeking to strengthen its position.”

The prime minister also mentioned the Government’s 3 priorities regarding the Moldovan media: supporting free media channels by creating proper conditions for their development, strengthening the independence and creative capacity of public media institutions, and increasing the capacities of regulators in media advertising to maintain market stability.

With messages of support for free media came the Ambassador of Sweden to the Republic of Moldova, Anna Lyberg, and USAID Mission Director in the Republic of Moldova, Scott Hocklander. The latter official mentioned the Media-M program, which is implemented in Moldova for a period of five years, aiming to support independent media, product diversification and media sustainability.

The Mass-Media Forum is organised annually by the Press Council of the Republic of Moldova, in partnership with the Independent Press Association (IPA), the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Electronic Press Association (ELPA).

In the Republic of Moldova, the Deontological Code of Journalists is signed by 25 national media institutions, 28 news portals (including Moldova.org) and 46 local or regional media institutions.

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