European agenda, civil society and confrontation with government, OP-ED



The solidarity inside the independent civil society and among the citizens is essential for restoring balance ...


Dionis Cenuşa

The implementation of reforms turns into a difficult mission for the authorities because the commitments to the EU become more concrete, while the representatives of civil society more active, incisive and, respectively, dangerous for politicians and defective policies.

Even if the promises to Brussels are clearer, the government of Moldova anyway manages to juggle with these by overlapping, delaying or hurrying them, depending on its political priorities. The government cannot yet manipulate the representatives of the NGO sector that are actively involved in monitoring and signaling the earlier deviations of the authorities. The lack of control over the independent civil society bothers the ruling party, which is the Democratic Party. Partially, this is due to the harmonious cooperation between the NGO sector and the European institutions. The opinions of civil society are attentively listened to in Brussels, which acutely needs reliable local partners in Moldova and in other states of the Eastern Partnership so as to objectively assess the real progress in doing reforms.

The government of Moldova is making significant efforts to create a positive perception of itself inside the European institutions, which is yet denied by the independent representatives of civil society. Things take a new turn in the context of the attempts to change the electoral system by the Democratic Party. On the one hand, an artificial schism appears in society, produced by the nongovernmental associations affiliated to the Democratic Party, which supports the change in the electoral system reluctantly or voluntarily. On the other hand, the pro-government media outlets are trying to disqualify the independent civil society, associating it with the extra-parliamentary opposition. Consequently, the government aims to remove the monopoly of the antigovernment civil society in the relations with Brussels and to diminish its credibility.

Civil society versus civil society

The schism through which civil society goes, even if it is artificial, can have negative long-term effects.

First of all, civil society is no longer a safe ground for the progressive forces that keep at a distance and objectively supervise the behavior of the rulers. The government infiltrates into the NGO sector entities that evidently promote the political agenda of the Democratic Party and this can erode the people’s confidence in the whole NGO sector.

The massive discrediting campaign launched by the government and maintained by the affiliated civic entities against the independent civil society is another worrisome aspect. The sympathy that some of the leaders of the independent civil society dedicate to Maia Sandu and the extra-parliamentary opposition is used as an argument.

Last but not least, the stimulation of conflicts inside civil society can distract attention from the European agenda. The reconciliation of the camps inside civil society is improbable given that a camp is independent from the government, while the other one is independent to a lower extent or is not independent. That’s why a parallel activity of the two camps is possible in the future. While the first will keep its critical position of the performance of the government as regards the European integration process, the second will contradict it, giving positive appraisals of the government.

Weak points of authentic civil society

Civil society, by definition, should be independent from the authorities and, respectively, should oppose the moves that are to the detriment of the public interest. Consequently, within the limits of this concept, authentic civil society in Moldova consists of the organizations that oppose the modification of the electoral system.

Besides the fact that these changes favor the Democratic Party, these take place with the flagrant violation of the principle of decisional transparency, ignoring the good electoral practices and recommendations of civil society specialized in electoral legislation.

However, the authentic civil society has several essential weak points that are exploited by the government at present. The first weak point resides in the open sympathies of representatives of civil society with the extra-parliamentary opposition. It is evident that this does not influence the quality of their expertise or the government monitoring reports. But these sympathies serve as a propagandistic material for the pro-government media outlets, which illustrates these as politicized entities.

The second weakness derives from the lack of powerful connection with citizens and regions. Their messages are insufficient for generating significant civic mobilization. Partially, this is due to the fact that many of these organizations are more representative and more influential in the capital city than at country level.

Ultimately, the authentic civil society is rather reduced as proportion and depends on external financing. The state of affairs could change if the 2% law contributes to the financial strengthening of the NGO sector, encouraging the appearance of new apolitical organizations. The achievement of this objective will last in time, while the NGO sector affiliated to the government can also benefit from the 2% of the income tax. Though the quality is more important, the quantity also counts. But the government feels less comfortable when pressure is exported by a larger number of nongovernmental organizations.

Instead of conclusion...

The reformation of the country cannot be conceived in the absence of viable civil society. At the same time, the functionality of civil society depends on the existence of independent, active and credible NGOs. The government’s actions threaten these interdependence ties, both by discrediting civil society and by promoting new separate lines inside this.

The solidarity inside the independent civil society and among the citizens is essential for restoring balance. Even if the foreign partners keep confidence unchanged, for them civil society is a partner with complex roles. On the one hand, civil society is a watchdog in relation to the government. On the other hand, this is a neutral voice that guides the public opinion. Consequently, a series of actions should be envisioned by the foreign partners to support the independent civil society, apart from the financial assistance.

Finally, the representatives of independent civil society should fully assume the risks that derive from the rapprochement with the political forces. These are to show a perfect equilibrium to combine the public interest, the European integration and personal political sympathies.

Dionis Cenuşa


IPN publică în rubrica Op-Ed articole de opinie semnate de autori din afara redacţiei. Opiniile exprimate în aceste materiale nu neapărat coincid cu opiniile redacţiei.

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