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Is the newly elected Ukrainian president a model for any post-Soviet state? The impact of the Zelenskiy’s presidency on Moldova

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the newly elected President of Ukraine, who became a phenomenon overnight declared during the first minutes of his victory: “I am still not officially a president, and I can say as a citizen of Ukraine to all the post-Soviet states: look at us — everything is possible!”

Is that really so? Are the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine comparable when it comes to the political or economic situations, external relations and the overall character of the society? And what is even more important: will the changes in Ukraine impel any transformations in the Republic of Moldova as well?

The parallels between Ukraine and Moldova

First, Ukraine and Moldova have two different forms of government. Ukraine is a unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic, whereas Moldova is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic. Sounds similar but, in fact, that means that in Ukraine the president, as a head of state, has more political power, being more than a ceremonial, non-executive figure (as it is in the case of the Republic of Moldova). However, there is an important similarity regarding the election system used to vote the Parliament – both countries use the mixed election system.

Both post-Soviet countries suffered plenty of transformations in terms of changing governments since their independence declaration. Reformers, communists, nationalists, centrists, extremists, pro-Russians, pro-Europeans, all of them governed at certain point one country or another. Both Moldovans and Ukrainians fought for a better quality of life through mass protests. The peak for Moldovans was the mass protests from April 2009, when the victory of Communists at the parliamentary elections was publicly contested. In Ukraine, it was the Euromaidan from February 2014 when the pro-Russian President Yanukovych was removed from office after the Ukrainian ‘course’ was suddenly switched from signing the EU association agreement to tightening relations with Russia. The difference – Ukraine had a real revolution, Moldova didn’t.

Both Ukraine and Moldova have territories that were occupied. Ukraine has a territorial dispute with Russia regarding Crimea and Donbass, whereas Moldova has two self-proclaimed and unrecognised states that are, in fact, separatist regions – Transnistria and Gagauzia. The difference in this case is that Ukraine doesn’t seem to give up in trying to reclaim its territories. The Moldovan governments of all times didn’t seem to really care about the Russian tanks set in Transnistria for so-called peace-keeping reasons, leaving the situation up in the air for more than 20 years.

There is one more similarity between these two countries – both seem to be torn up between the wish to join the EU one day and the impossibility to fully detach themselves from the Russian interests. Basically, that is one of the most important sources of social disputes, beside the language and ethnic minorities problems. Moreover, both countries have ‘enthroned’ oligarchs to control the things and both have a permanently decreasing population that still keeps the post-Soviet reminisces in their behaviour and way of thinking.

As it seems, Moldova and Ukraine have a similar background. But will they have a similar future?

The Ukrainian model in Moldova

Even though so many things sound familiar both for Ukrainians and for Moldovans, the latter ones don’t really have any chance to repeat the same story, as the Moldovan cinematography is not as developed as the Ukrainian one. Taking it seriously, Moldovan people proved to be more sceptical and conservative when they had the chance to choose between a reformer woman and an experienced but traditionalist man running for President of Moldova in 2016. Maybe that would change in the future. Maybe.

For now, it is more important to observe the possible repercussions of the Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s presidency on the existing situation in the Republic of Moldova.

Zelenskiy is, at the moment, “a blank piece of paper”, as The Guardian wrote. People have a lot of expectations from him and as he didn’t discuss any political or social problems during the pre-elections period, the expectations are really differing. Nobody knows yet whether he will negotiate with Kremlin. Nobody knows yet whether he has ties with the oligarch Ihor Kolomoiski. However, as the political pundit Dionis Cenușă stated in an interview for RFE/RL: “Until now, there has been no one to come from outside the system and to propose an agenda in which to believe.”

Cenușă also stated that if Zelenskiy eventually is able to move away from the oligarchic circles, that would be relevant to the political systems and the oligarchs from Moldova and Georgia. It is widely known that the business and political interests of Vladimir Plahotniuc (Moldova), Bidzina Ivanishvili (Georgia) and Petro Poroshenko (Ukraine) coincided in the past.

Moreover, Ukraine as an active player in the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, being part of the 5 + 2 negotiation format. It would have a say in case Zelenskiy starts the informational war against Russia, as he previously promised during his electoral campaign.

One more thing that could change is the bilateral relations between the Ukrainian and the Moldovan Presidents. The discussions could be relaunched after 5 years of ‘cold’ relations between the Moldovan President Igor Dodon and the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. It happened after a precipitate statement of Dodon in which he seemed to put the Kremlin right in the Crimea problem. Since that moment,  Poroshenko refused any official meeting with Igor Dodon.

Nonetheless, things will be certainly clearer when Zelenskiy will take over after his inauguration in June 2019 and after the parliamentary elections in October 2019 will decide whether the Ukrainian president has a majority to support him.

Photo: Reuters

Diaspora

Stories from diaspora// Marian Cepoi: “While the things are not changing in Moldova, its citizens are given a second chance abroad.”

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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

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Diaspora

Stories from diaspora// Doru Curoșu – from a volunteer to a successful trainer, speaker and entrepreneur

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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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Culture

East or West? Celebrating Victory Day and Europe Day at the same time

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For 3 years, people in the Republic of Moldova have been debating what is more important: celebrating Victory Day or Europe Day on the 9th of May? In 2017, the Parliament of Moldova adopted a law to make Europe Day an official holiday in Moldova, along with Victory Day.

Every political party, regardless of the political views, organize a celebration on this day. This year, the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and the Șor Party organised concerts, parades and demonstrations for celebrating Victory Day, whereas the political bloc ACUM, the Liberal Party (LP) and the National Unity Party (NUP) celebrated Europe Day. Another political actor – the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM) tried to please everyone and organised a holiday of “peace and prosperity for Moldova”.

At the same time, the Moldovan Government decided to focus merely on Victory Day and postponed Europe Day for the following weekend, on May 11th-12th. In such a way, they considered the conflict of interests resolved.

Now it’s the proper moment to ask: what is the problem with having 2 different holidays on the same day? In fact, they are not even contradictory. On the contrary, they are related, as the end of World War II and the surrender of the Allies armed forces (which is celebrated on May 8th in Europe) represented an important drive for the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community – the forerunner to the European Union. Actually, the only problem with it is the context of the Moldovan social and political behaviour.

First, both holidays are politicized and are transformed into an apple of discord deliberately, as the Moldovan politicians, especially those who are in power today, understand very well that a divided society means a weaker society; therefore, an easier to control society. The debates about directing Moldova to West (the EU) or East (the CIS) never stopped in Moldova. On May 9th, everyone argues about that: the governors, official representatives of the civil society, activists and, consequently, common people that instead of taking time to discuss their real problems, new businesses, initiatives, projects, protests against the injustice that is done to them, most of them are dividing in groups, spreading hatred and treating superficially the true meaning of both celebrations.

People forget that Victory Day is not about expensive concerts organised by the socialists or buckwheat with pickled cucumbers served in the city centre by the democrats. It is not about pompous demonstrations that involve children who are forced to dance synchronously instead of listening from their parents, grandparents and teachers about the tragic consequences of the Second World War.

Children singing and dancing on Victory Day| Photo: ZdG

On the other hand, Europe Day is more than classical music concerts organised in the central park of the Moldovan capital. Behind the exposed photo galleries are people that have been working a lot, searched and applied for European funds, people that didn’t expect somebody to simply come and save them from the poverty, corruption, injustice, etc. Unfortunately, such people are still not enough in Moldova and Europe Day is treated by the majority just as superficially as any other holiday in Moldova: an occasion to eat out, listen to concerts’ music and have fun.

Moreover, the governmental institutions and some big media outlets present the events happening on May 9th as a natural occurrence. So, the fact that several political parties ‘marked’ their territories in the city centre of Chișinău, organizing their own events for their own electorate is considered normal. The direct use of propagandist methods combined with avoidance to declare the events’ costs by the political parties is not a problem in Moldova.

We live nowadays in a country stuck between Eastern and Western worlds, which can perfectly make it without our existence. We live in a country with poor people, morally poor first of all, as we don’t really know much about our past and don’t care as much about our future.  None of these two holidays real meaning is interesting for the biggest majority of the population. We just love their symbolism that takes us back in the past or enables us to dream about the future. May 9th is just another reason to celebrate, not more than that.

Photos: Ziarul de Garda

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