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“The parliamentary elections will be a crucial test for Moldova” – Interview with Maja Kocijancic, the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

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We spoke with Mrs. Maja Kocijancic, the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy about the situation created in the Republic of Moldova, in the context of the future parliamentary elections.

The Parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova will be organised soon, on February 24th. The political situation is already strained, even though the campaigning period starts only on January 25th. How exactly is the approaching elections seen by European Commission?

Credible, inclusive, and transparent elections at all levels, be it national or local, are pillars of any democracy and respecting the will of voters is one of the fundamental democratic principles. Hence, the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova are of critical importance for the credibility of Chisinau’s commitment towards political association to the EU and for its democratic credentials, first and foremost, vis-à-vis the Moldovan citizens.

The EU is strongly committed to helping deliver real changes to the lives of the Moldovan people and so we would like to believe in the same level of commitment on the side of the Moldovan authorities. Unfortunately, recent developments, in particular the invalidation of the results of the mayoral elections in Chisinau, put into serious question the respect for democratic values and the rule of law in the country. These values are at the heart of the EU’s relations with the Republic of Moldova, as enshrined in our Association Agreement. The upcoming parliamentary elections will be yet another very crucial test for the respect for those core values and principles we agreed upon when signing the Agreement.

We therefore expect the authorities of the Republic of Moldova to ensure that the parliamentary elections are conducted in line with international standards.

The pending recommendations of the Council of Europe Venice Commission opinion of March 2018 and OSCE/ODIHR final reports should be implemented, including in particular by ensuring that all candidates receive equal opportunity to stand for the elections and have access to media, as well as ensuring appropriate international and national monitoring throughout the entire electoral process. The Moldovan authorities should also implement recommendations related to the transparency rules of party and campaign financing.

Is the situation during the electoral period supervised by the EU officials? What is the attitude towards the abuses committed by the Moldovan political parties during the pre-election period, investigated by the Promo-LEX Association, and what is the attitude regarding the invalidation of the last municipal elections for the mayor of Chisinau?

The changes to the electoral code adopted in 2017 were against the recommendations of the Council of Europe Venice Commission and OSCE/ODHIR. We said that at the time, publicly and to our Moldovan counterparts at various meetings. Since then, we have been very clear that the EU will continue to closely monitor the consequences of the new electoral system during the electoral process, including during the campaign, on Election Day and the period thereafter, with respect to their impact on democracy in general and on the multi-party system in particular.

Following the non-transparent invalidation of mayoral elections in Chisinau in July 2018, High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn issued a joint statement expressing the importance for the government to respect the will of the voters. And in September 2018, Commissioner Hahn clearly communicated to Prime Minister Filip that we expect the Moldovan authorities to take further urgent actions to address our concerns, including the growing pressure on opposition, independent media and civil society.

The EU and other international partners are also regularly raising issues pertaining to human rights, including cases related to widespread use of preventive arrest, non-transparent judicial processes, as well as detention conditions and treatment of detainees, including several recent allegations of ill-treatment.

Now, in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, the EU will continue to follow with the closest attention all aspects relevant to the preparation and conduct of the elections.

As already mentioned, parliamentary elections in line with international standards, respecting democratic principles, are of crucial importance for us and so is the rule of law and human rights in Moldova, including the situation of the civil society and media. Guaranteeing an enabling environment for opposition and civil society is a key component of democracy.

We are also fully aware of, amongst others, the Promo-Lex report, as well as of the reactions it received. The findings of this national NGO with a long and reputable tradition in election monitoring should be considered by the relevant authorities and serve as the basis for taking appropriate steps to address identified shortcomings.

The Republic of Moldova was to receive a macro financial assistance of 100 million Euro from the EU, but the financial assistance was blocked, mainly due to the modification of the electoral system despite the recommendations of the European institutions and also due to the invalidation of elections for the mayor of Chisinau. Could you please evaluate the implementation by the Moldovan government of the reforms as part of the Eastern Partnership?

The EU supports political and economic reforms in Moldova in line with the Association Agreement. We also support Moldova through the cooperation in the Eastern Partnership format and provide assistance to improve the lives of citizens. However, it is the responsibility of the Moldovan authorities to effectively implement reforms and make good use of our support. In the Council Conclusions of February 2018, the EU reaffirmed these commitments, but also expressed concern at the lack of implementation of key reforms in Moldova. The new electoral law did not address some of the key recommendations of the Council of Europe Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR, and immediate changes were also needed elsewhere, namely, the need to ensure media freedom and pluralism; to decisively fight against corruption; and to pursue a thorough reform of the judiciary.

At its meetings with the Moldovan counterparts, including at the Association Council in May 2018 and Association Committee in November 2018, the EU acknowledged that Moldova has made some progress in economic reforms, fiscal consolidation and bank restructuring, as well as in implementing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, but clearly stated the areas where it feels there are shortcomings and where more decisive actions are needed.

While the EU acknowledges progress in Moldova in terms of economic development, it has witnessed a backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and, in particular, citizens’ rights. The European Commission, Parliament and the Member States have all expressed their concerns over the situation in Moldova.

In light of this deterioration, and in line with the principle of strict conditionality, payments under the Macro-Financial Assistance and EU budget support programmes have been put on hold, pending tangible progress in the areas already specified in the Council Conclusions of February 2018 and in those where we have been repeatedly voicing our concerns. Furthermore, the European Commission has taken the decision to substantially recalibrate its financial assistance and redirect support to projects that have a direct, positive impact on Moldovan citizens.

Taking into consideration the political context and the pre-election environment, is the Republic of Moldova on its way of approaching the EU and how willing is the EU to continue this process? Is the Association Agreement endangered by the direction of the events that take place in Chișinău?

The EU’s policy and assistance towards the Republic of Moldova remains focused on bringing tangible improvements in the lives of citizens. The EU has no intention of disengaging from the country. On the contrary, we will continue to engage by, i.a., stepping up our support for citizens’ empowerment, independent media and strategic communications. We also intend to support socio-economic development at regional level, focussing on Ungheni and Cahul. We will also continue supporting the peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict and strengthening the rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms.

The EU will remain committed to the Association Agreement as we believe the Moldovan citizens deserve better, and more specifically, they deserve the upcoming elections to be free and fair, a government committed to fight against corruption and a truly independent judiciary. The EU will continue to assist Moldova to this end, as one of our closest neighbours who made a clear European choice as testified by our Association Agreement.  But we expect the current and future Moldovan authorities to stay committed to this most ambitious agreement signed with the EU.

Our stability, security and prosperity are interdependent: a strong EU will help Moldova, and a strong Moldova will help the EU.  For such a partnership to work effectively and bear fruit, we need to rely on the establishment and proper functioning of democratic institutions, a strong and active civil society, and economic structures that facilitate and support development, inward investment, jobs and growth.

What should the priorities in the EU-Moldova relationship be and what measures should be taken considering the current situation?

The priorities in the EU-Moldova relationship are clearly stated by the Association Agreement. With signing it, Moldova decided to come closer to the EU and to adhere to our values. Moldova also committed to the swift and thorough implementation of key reforms aimed at bringing positive changes to the lives of the Moldovan people. The revised Association Agenda, setting out 13 key priorities for action, and the 20 deliverables for 2020 under the Eastern Partnership framework, also serve as practical guidance to this end.

Structural reforms are needed to create jobs and reduce poverty. But most of all, what remains absolutely crucial is building the State’s resilience, which can only be done with a genuine and decisive fight against vested interests and corruption, in order to build stronger institutions and contribute to the country’s growth. The EU stands ready to assist the Republic of Moldova to this end, but it is vital that the Moldovan authorities demonstrate their deep commitment to such values as the rule of law and democratic principles.

The EU expects the Moldovan authorities to take some urgent actions in order to redress the current situation. Our expectations concern elections, which should be credible, inclusive and transparent, but also other critical areas related to the respect of the rule of law. These include in particular:

  • a comprehensive and impartial prosecution of the banking fraud case, including in particular progress on Mr Shor’s case. The recurrent delays in judicial proceedings related to this case raise serious doubts about the credibility of efforts to prosecute this massive fraudulent scheme in a comprehensive and transparent manner. A thorough, impartial and comprehensive investigation and prosecution of the cases of the banking fraud with the aim of recovering the misappropriated funds and bringing all those responsible to justice, irrespective of any political affiliations without further delay and in full respect of the rule of law, is critical. This is what the EU has been repeatedly calling for during the past four years;
  • a substantive justice reform which is long overdue. The EU expects the Moldovan authorities to guarantee judicial accountability, transparency, impartiality and independence in line with the country’s international commitments as one of the key principles of the rule of law, a crucial element of democracy and the protection of human rights, and a long-standing expectation of the Moldovan citizens;
  • a decisive fight against high level corruption and vested interests.

Photo source: tiranatimes.com

Politics

Promo-LEX estimates: 19,02 million lei as failed expenses to be reported to the Central Electoral Commission by the political parties in 2019

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A report on political party financing in 2019, carried out by the Promo-LEX Association and published lately, revealed undeclared expenses amounting to about 19,02 million lei. Also, it announced one of the lowest level of financial reporting to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).

As of May 7, 2020, only 19 political parties (43%) managed to submit their financial statement to the CEC in time, one faction submitted it with a delay and 26 political parties failed to submit any declaration at all. Therefore, Promo-LEX found the lowest rate of political parties’ annual reporting regarding their financial situation since 2014, according to the association’s notice.

“The Promo-LEX Association took into account the specificity of the state of emergency instituted in the Republic of Moldova.” However, the CEC did not have a proactive and transparent attitude in settling the issue and it didn’t remind the political parties of their reporting obligation under the given exceptional circumstances.

On the one hand, Promo-LEX mentioned the lack of transparency due to the absence of obligation to publish information on political party donors, and the vulnerabilities caused by hiding these data. On the other hand, the association highlighted the insufficient control and supervision of political parties’ sources of financing that was exercised by the CEC.

That happened despite the improvements in the legal framework on party financing made last year, such as reduction of the minimum amount of authorised donations from natural and legal persons, allowing donations from  nationals residing abroad, etc. “Despite these substantial legislative improvements, there are unsettled legislative loopholes that arise our concern,” is mentioned in the report.

In 2019, 16 political parties from Moldova reported a total amount of 70 million lei as revenues and 94 million lei as expenses. Other 4 parties that submitted their financial statements did not indicate any revenues or expenses.

Moldovan political parties declared that the subsidies from the state budget represented the main source of their income in 2019 (39%), along with membership fees (32%), donations from individuals (18%), and donations from legal entities (11%).

It was also found that 17 political parties organised at least 2936 promotional activities and events in 2019, including activities organised by charitable foundations. Such foundations as “EDELWEISS”, associated with Vladimir Plahotniuc and the Democratic Party of Moldova, “Din Suflet” Charity Foundation, associated with the Party of Socialists and President Igor Dodon, and“For Orhei” Association, connected with the “Sor” Party, were reported as organising promotional activities. However, none of the political parties associated with the charitable entities mentioned above reported promotion expenses as being linked to charity activities.

In such a way, Promo-LEX estimated that 17 political parties failed to report a total amount of 19,02 million lei (20% more than actually reported), the most questionable category of expenses being that of public events, followed by the expenses for maintenance of headquarters and staff.

Source: Promo-LEX

The monitoring reports carried out by Promo-LEX between 2016 and 2019 showed large discrepancies between the financial statements reported to the CEC and the estimates of the association. The highest share of undeclared expenses was reached in 2017, when political parties from Moldova hid 42,75 million lei, that being 48% more that it was actually reported.

Photo: contaconect.ro

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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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Culture

Generation C – a documentary by Moldova.org about shepherding in Moldova and Georgia // VIDEO

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At the end of January, Moldova.org presented the premiere of the documentary Generation C, a film about an occupation that was passed on from father to son – shepherding.

The documentary tells the story of Vaso and Anatolie – two men, one from the Georgian mountains and another from the south of Moldova – and displays the activity of their lives, that of their fathers, grandparents and great-grandparents. But will it be inherited by their sons as well?

Anatolie Ciobanu (his name is translated as shepherd) lives in Alexandru Ioan Cuza village, Cahul district. He has several hundred sheep and says he may run out of them one day.

Vaso Gulelauri lives in Lalisquri Village, Telavi, Georgia with his family. When he is not taking care of sheep and is not at home, he spends his time in the mountains. He has never been to the sea, because he loves the mountains too much.

In the last 20 years, the number of sheep in the Republic of Moldova has almost halved. The same thing happened in Georgia. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia had about two million sheep. Now, the figure reaches one million only.

The documentary can be watched below:

„Generation C” documentary (english subtitles)

Prieteni, astăzi publicăm documentarul „Generația C” subtitrat în limba engleză! Deci vă invităm să-l distribuiți și să-l arătați prietenilor voștri care nu vorbesc româna sau georgiana și rusa. ^_^Într-o eră a Internetului, vitezei și industrializării, doi ciobani, unul moldovean, altul georgian, ne-au împărtășit istoriile lor și ne-au vorbit despre tradiția transmisă lor de bunicii și tații lor.Pe lângă imaginile pitorești, bucuria celor doi este că încă mai pot împărtăși această cutumă cu fii lor. Dar oare vor fi cei doi oieri și ultima generație de ciobani din familiile lor? Găsiți răspunsul în documentarul nostru, „Generația C”.

Geplaatst door Moldova.org op Maandag 18 mei 2020

This text is a translation. The original article here.

Photos: Moldova.org| Tatiana Beghiu

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