Why do we need to know and measure society’s attitude to the EU? Which are the motives and areas in which these attitudes appear? Why should we compare the three Associates of the EU in this regard? These and other aspects were discussed by the invitees to IPN’s public debate “Society’s attitude to the EU: objective reasons and political and geopolitical manipulations. Situation in Moldova against situation in Ukraine and Georgia”.
According to Dionis Cenușa, a political scientist, researcher at the Institute of Political Science at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, there are many factors that can explain the geopolitical feelings of the Moldovans. In the Republic of Moldova, the sympathies with Brussels have declined owing to the negative performance of the so-called pro-European political parties. He saw evident proportionality between the decline in the pro-EU sympathies and the disastrous governance with shades of kleptocracy and state capture that were promoted by the parties that used the pro-European narrative. There is yet another, rather reasonable explanation that is somehow related to the economic development measure and more to the way in which the Moldovans project the possibility of obtaining particular tangible benefits. The “connections” should be assessed here.
“It is visible how the exports of the Republic of Moldova to the European Union increased, how the EU’s foreign assistance was reestablished after using the conditionality principle with particular efficiency, how progress was made in doing particular reforms, how amendments to the electoral legislation were made and how greater democracy was achieved in the Republic of Moldova. These aspects of connections became stronger the past few years and contributed to the qualitative adjustment of the Moldovans’ attitude to the EU,” stated Dionis Cenușa.
He noted that if we compare the Republic of Moldova and the profile of those who support the European project with the sociological profile of their mates in Ukraine and Georgia, a difference between Ukraine and Georgia should be automatically made because Ukraine is much more similar to the Republic of Moldova than Georgia as regards ethnic homogeneity. “Ukraine, as Moldova, even if in a smaller proportion, has Russian-speaking minorities, a rather large quota of population that is constantly under the influence of the information sources promoted by the Kremlin, which often aim to discredit the European project. In Georgia, the situation is entirely different. There, the ethnic homogeneity of the population is much greater and this explains why the opinion about the EU and the country’s relationship with the West is more unified in Georgia. The ethnic aspect matters, but the internal factors should also be taken into account. In the Republic of Moldova and in Ukraine, these factors played a trick on the European project. That’s why Brussels makes changes in the narrative after it realizes that the local players, the ruling political parties actually act against the European interests,” said the researcher.
Mark Mazureanu, specialist in civil society, compared policies and international relations, stated that there are many theories in the compared policies that explain the democratization process. One of the theories that turned out to be very able in explaining ”the development theory” is based on a very clear argumentation element, namely that “the grater the economic capacity of a state is, the more natural the democratization processes are”. Respectively, there is no need to make additional efforts to democratize a society as the relations in society democratize, including the relationship between the public authority and the social groups, between the public authority and international players,” he stated.
Mark Mazureanu asked rhetorically “Why in a process of growth and democratization conditioned by economic growth, we yet see that a large part of the population puts up resistance to a democratization process?”. “It is very simple. In an economic growth process, there are always beneficiaries and losers. The latter, those who lose in the economic growth process, do not accept economic growth as they are losers. This way it is clear why the dominant ethnic group sees itself pro-European and a kind of beneficiary of the economic growth and enlargement to the West, while particular ethnic minorities that are marginalized from economic viewpoint feel they are losers in this process and, respectively, they automatically resist modernization and democratization in favor of pro-EU or pro-Russia. They counterpoise democratization and economic and social stability felt in the Soviet period to the detriment of democratization and economic growth,” stated Mark Mazureanu.
Vasile Cantarji, sociologist of the sociological company SBS-AXA, said the indictors that refer to the attitude to the EU traditionally form part of the large part of sociopolitical surveys. “According to the last Public Opinion Barometer, of February 2021, 49% of the respondents would say they are pro-EU in an eventual referendum, while 35% - pro-Eurasian Union. The portrait of the pro-EU citizens is more concentrated in the urban areas. There are primarily male, young, Moldovan or Romanian and with a high level of education and socioeconomic level. These are the categories of citizens in which the parties of the right most often obtain higher support. This portrait is a rather stable one,” stated Vasile Cantarji.
According to him, there are a number of major factors that in time can influence the pro-EU or anti-EU attitude. At the end of the 1990s – the start of the 2000s, the number of pro-EU citizens was by about 10% higher than now. During the period of measurements, the number of those who say they are pro-EU varied rather powerfully. There was a maximum period when the rhetoric of the authorities coincided. It was in 2005-2007-2008, when the Party of Communists was in power and promoted the European agenda. Then the number of pro-EU citizens stood at about 70%. A decline followed during about eight years, starting with 2009 and ending with 2017, while in 2015-2016, the number of those would vote for EU oscillated around 40% and later rose. According to the last barometers, the figure now stands at 50%-60%,” stated Vasile Cantarji.
He said there is a great discrepancy by the ethnicity of the respondents in the profile of those that are pro-EU and this is curios. “Among the Moldovan ethnics, the number of those who are in favor of integration into the EU is two-three times higher and it seems to be something traditional, but it is not. According to the first barometers of the start of the 2000s, most of the citizens declared themselves pro-UE regardless of ethnicity, including the ethnic minorities. Later, during many years, the figure among the minorities declined and the majority supported the integration into the East, which was due to the Russian propaganda. As the Russian Federation was considered a weakened state, it didn’t promote its information agenda much and the ethnic minorities were in favor of the EU. But later things changed and persist until now,” stated the sociologist.
The public debate “Society’s attitude to the EU: objective reasons and political and geopolitical manipulations. Situation in Moldova against situation in Ukraine and Georgia” is the 185th installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.