During June 13-15, representatives of the press from different corners of the world came together for the Global Media Forum that was staged by Deutsche Welle for the ninth consecutive year. This year’s event was entitled “Media. Freedom. Values”. There were held tens of discussion sessions that involved media experts, European politicians, civil activists, people of culture and others (over 2,000 participants from 110 countries, including Moldova).
The discussions centered on several key subjects such as ensuring the observance of human rights in the context of the refugee crisis; safety of journalists in countries with authoritarian regimes; correct informing as a mandatory element for democracy. Special attention was devoted to the democratic values and unfriendly environment where these develop.
Supporters of democratic values are ‘in minority’
The democratic values are in danger because only minority segments of society more often dedicate themselves to protecting them. These values include democracy, good governance, human rights, etc.
In the Eastern Partnership countries, the majority tends to comply and/or to tolerate the manifestations of corruptions and only minority groups of people really oppose corruption. Jerzy Pomianowski, executive director of the European Endowment for Democracy, spoke about this reality hostile to values. According to him, in the same Europe more courage is needed to defend the European values (human rights, freedom of the media, democracy, etc.). This observation is perfectly correct if we refer to Hungary, Poland and other European countries, where the speeches of politicians slip to extremist populism, more often amid the crisis refugee settlement. The distancing from the democratic values tests stability and peace in Europe. In support of this thesis, Jerzy Pomianowski mentioned the principles of ‘democratic peace theory’, which posits that democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies.
Claudia Roth, Vice President of the Bundestag (lower house of the Parliament of Germany), said that amid the refugee crisis, the West lost credibility as a human rights defender. Roth added that Europe, instead of protecting the refugees, defends itself from these. According to her, the efforts must be aimed at counteracting extremist parties of the right, not at borrowing their ideas by other parties.
Democracy must not be exported, but cultivated from inside
Democracy needs transparency, Claudia Roth stated before the participants in the Forum. According to the German MP, namely democracy ensures stability. This is a thesis full of truth as, without transparency in the activity of institutions, preconditions for inefficient bureaucracy and even corruption appear.
According to Claudia Roth, democracy cannot be exported or imported by military ways. Democracy never comes immediately. A similar position was stated by Jerzy Pomianowski, for whom viable democracy is what appears naturally and is of local make.
World Bank data show that after an external intervention, up to 40 years are needed to translate the democratic values (human rights, rule of law, etc.) into life, to root out corruption and rebuilt the country.
Parallels with situation in Moldova
The Moldovans’ attachment to democracy is significantly inferior to the way in which these perceive the importance of welfare. Thus, according to a poll conducted by the International Republican Institute in March 2016, only 35% of the Moldovans consider that democracy is more important than the financial situation (prosperity), for which 57% opt.
Partially, this can be explained by the vague understanding of democracy by a large part of society. But Moldovan democracy didn’t manage to consolidate as it is very young. Also, the democratic principles (supremacy of the law or human rights) are interpreted and assumed selectively by the political class and such behavior turned into a daily norm for many citizens. That’s why some of the representatives of civil society, who are politically unaffiliated and actively protest against the abuses committed by the authorities, often become public stars. These haven’t been yet converted to widely used models of behavior.
The events of April 2009 and the protests of 2015-2016 created preconditions for improving democracy. But every time the political players tend to concentrate the energy of the majority on staging political revenge or on borrowing vicious models from the previous regimes. For now Moldova hasn’t yet lived the experience of massive concentration of society with the aim of strengthening the democratic values.
Instead of conclusion
The weakness of democratic values in Moldova does not reside only in paternalism that is spread among Moldovans, but also in the fact that at practical level, only the minority groups of society assume the risk of confronting those who compromise the democratic values.
In reality, a large part of the people prefer to comply with the existent circumstances or to protest against these in national or foreign social networking sites. This happens mainly when the interests of the majority of the people are to cheat the state.
As long as the struggle for the democratic values is related to the initiative and capacities of a minority from society, Moldovan democracy will remain impotent. We will yet see if the Association Agreement and the European integration process contain enough leveraging tools to reanimate and advance democracy.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
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