The Days of the Diaspora were held in Chisinau for the first time this year, followed by the Congress of the Diaspora where there were set the future objectives. We spoke with Ala Mandacanu, head of the Community of Moldovans in Québec, Canada, about how successful the meeting of the Moldovans was, about their wishes and the future parliamentary elections.
– For the fist time this year, the Government ordered organizing the Days of the Diaspora. What is your opinion about this initiative and how useful was it to those from the Diaspora?
– This time, the events related to the Diaspora were organized in a different way. Earlier, the congresses of the diaspora were staged in October, but this year the events took place in August, on the occasion of the Independence Day and the Romanian Language Day. There was held not only the Congress, but also the Days of the Diaspora that included in a number of events: conferences, artistic meetings at the complex “Vatra” with performances of music and culinary activities. In general, it was good... I think this formula will be kept as many people come home in August and this way not only the delegates to the Congress, but also much more citizens who settled abroad, including the children who come home on vacation, can take part in the Days of the Diaspora. The atmosphere was special, while some of the activities organized by representatives of the Diaspora still go on. I refer to the activities performed by Tamara Schiopu from the UK, who promotes healthy nutrition and stages special picnics at ecological farms in Moldova.
I would like to also mention the organization of the Open Doors Day at ministers and Parliament for the first time and the participation of ministers in workshops during the Congress.
Earlier it was different. The leaders appeared only in the opening, gave short speeches and went away. This time we had special visibility, which means that the European integration project of Moldova produces results.
– Some representatives of the organizations of the Diaspora raised the issue of lack of books in the Romanian language, cultural centers, etc. Others even asked for money for solving such problems. Are there other solutions than seeking help from such a poor state as Moldova?
– I think emphasis should be put in a different way. There is almost 1 million people who left Moldova namely because of poverty. The economic problems of the state are not caused by the Diaspora. On the contrary, most of the families that remained at home and the state keep up owing to the remittances (over US$1.5 billion a year) sent home for consumption. As to the books, traditions and national culture, we should follow the example of Romania, which makes effort to promote its image abroad, to keep the Romanian language and national culture by representatives of the Diaspora, which is a reliable promoter of the country’s positive image. Emil Cioran has an extraordinary saying that refers to each of us, no matter where we are: “We do not live in a country, we live in a language. This is what motherland means, not something else”...
It is in the direct interest of the state to support by all means possible the keeping of the Romanian language, the cultural and artistic traditions of those who went abroad because circular migration ensures continuous mobility, while those who forget the language and traditions have no interest in their country of origin. The children grow and leave too. The parents who remain at home pass away in time. The relations of friendship and the ties of kinship disappear. The whole society suffers losses, not only the national culture and traditions. Romania understood this. Through the Romanian Cultural Institute that is present in 20 large capitals, the Romanian state fully supports the preservation of the Romanian traditions and culture, the schools and libraries and stages painting exhibitions and concerts for the members of the Diaspora.
The Diaspora does not seek money. It asks for support so that the state is near in this disinterested activity of promoting the national values. That’s why, if budget money was found for setting up even small cultural centers with 1-2 employees working for several hours a day, a lot of problems could be solved in the towns where the Diaspora is large and where the number of children is large. Publishing houses from Romania and Moldova would gladly provide books and sponsors would be found both inside and outside the country.
Sometimes I have the impression that those who remain at home are less patriotic than those who left because the latter keep and promote the national values by themselves, during their free time. They do it with pleasure as they wish to keep our traditions, customs and language. Nobody can oblige them to do this. It is voluntary work. I would like to ask those who remained at home: how much time do you spend on voluntary work for the country? I do not refer to projects financed from outside. How many organize cultural or charity activities for the children of the community just because they feel they should do it?
I come with my experience from Canada, where voluntary work for the community’s benefit is very appreciated and supported by society. I would be glad if the projects to preserve the culture outside Moldova’s borders would find understanding and support in Moldovan society.
– Now that the Association Agreement with the EU was signed and ratified, how is Moldova’s image like to those from the Diaspora? Did it become more attractive to bring them back home?
– Not much time has passed since the signing of the accord and I cannot yet say what image changes took place. But you should know that the Diaspora follows attentively the steps taken by Moldova on its path to the EU. The signing of the accord is an important event, but it does not yet mean integration into the EU. The Diaspora’s attitude to the European Union is positive and this was noticeable at the Congress. The European integration is regarded outside as the only chance of development and progress for Moldova.
– Was there something special this year that marked the Moldovan Diaspora?
– Besides the signing and ratification of the Association Agreement with the EU, I consider that the liberalization of the visa regime also had an important and positive impact on the European Diaspora because a lot of families could reunite after many years of separation. This accomplishment of the government, obtained by a lot of effort and professional attitude, will go down in history. Neither Georgia nor Ukraine achieved such a result.
Even the Moldovans who settled in the U.S. and Canada during the last few years have biometric passports and are able to visit the relatives in Italy, Spain, France and other countries on the way to Chisinau, without losing time and money for visas.
– In the Congress of the Diaspora, there was presented the draft strategy “Diaspora-2025”, which is aimed at bringing the Moldovans back home not only physically, but also financially. It’s expected that the Diaspora will invest in new businesses and will bring to Moldova the experience gained outside. How do you think, will those from the Diaspora trust the justice, financial and political systems and be motivated to invest over the next years?
– Businessmen from the Diaspora, as any other investors from outside, will invest in Moldova if the judicial system is reformed, if the security of investments is ensured and if corruption is rooted out. I think the Diaspora must not be treated in a special way in this respect. When any citizen has favorable conditions for investments, the money will come. In the economic conference staged within the Days of the Diaspora, I heard presentations by young people from the Diaspora, who came with very nice ideas concerning investment programs. We will see if Moldova profits from the ideas and knowledge of these young people.
– What can you say about the call made to the Diaspora to support Moldova’s European course by giving their votes in this autumn’s elections?
– The government makes a call to the Diaspora, the Diaspora makes a call to the government... The participants in the Congress unanimously adopted a Call urging the leaders, lawmakers, ministers and ordinary members of the pro-European parties to be united and cohesive in their activity, to take part in the elections with a common list to show that the political will in achieving the European integration objective is more powerful than the personal ambitions and narrow interests. The delegates warned the government that if their Call is not heard and understood, the Diaspora may react by not going to the polls.
The leaders of the pro-European parties are asked to show now maximum responsibility. The consequences of internal conflicts caused from inside or outside could be very serious and the responsibility for the results in elections will be borne by the government.
On November 28, 2010, the pro-European parties gained 80-85% of the vote of the Diaspora. We would like that situation to repeat. If we put on scales the European future and the personal ambitions, I think it’s clear in what direction the scales should incline.
If the leaders do not get on well and continue the conflicts inside their teams, if the suspicions of corruption at the highest level persist in society, if those who showed efficiency and enjoy support from the voters both in Moldova and abroad are not on the lists of candidates in the appropriate place, the Diaspora will not take part in the elections. This will happen not because the delegates to the Congress will promote the idea of non-participation, but because the citizens who once believed in the pro-European government and appreciated the common efforts of all its components and the aforementioned accomplishments will become disappointed and will not believe in promises. Those who plead for joining the Customs Union will thus win and this would be considerable regression.
A disaster can be avoided if the leaders of the parties show maturity and maximum responsibility. I remain optimistic and hope I will take part again in the Congress of the Diaspora in two years, where we would be able to ascertain with pride substantial progress made in doing judicial, economic and social reforms and on the path to European integration.
Alina Marin, IPN