How and who EU helps in Moldova. IPN debate

According to the EU’s data, 82% of the Moldovans know about the financial support provided by the European Union, but only 58% of them consider it efficient. According to the data of a poll commissioned by the program “Eastern Partnership”, 63% of the Moldovans trust the EU, while 61% have a positive impression of the EU. The participants in a public debate entitled “How and who the European Union helps in the Republic of Moldova” considered why doubts of the efficiency of the European support persist if the levels of trust and sympathy in the EU increased. The debate was staged by IPN in the framework of the project “Overcoming Stereotypes of European Integration through Communication”.

According to the common opinion of the participants in the debate, the situation is caused by the excessive politicization of the matters related to country development, frequent alternation of governments and non-completion of reforms. “The EU changed emphases and switched over to direct cooperation with the local authorities and businesspeople, but the central authorities still play an important role, including in accessing development resources,” said the executive director of the Congress of Local Authorities of Moldova (CALM) Viorel Furdui. The EU says it has regulated practices, but does not really understand the state of affairs in the post-Soviet states, when the central authorities do not have sufficient trust to use the resources according to purpose and efficiently.

Viorel Furdui noted Moldova experiences a shortage of internal resources needed to modernize all the areas of activity and the foreign assistance plays an exceptionally important role. “For the assistance to be offered fully, signals are needed from society and also from the state. But the central authorities do not issue such signals. We have only jumps from one side to another and attempts to stay in two boats, but this cannot open up many doors,” stated the CALM director.

“Our approach to development is very centralized and this is one of the most serious problems. If we advanced in decentralization, we would have much more initiatives at the local level.”  

The key problem generates other problems. “The local authorities are dependent on the central ones. They do not have funds and face problems in the distribution of the European resources and are unable to ensure co-financing for large projects,” stated the expert.

“At the local level, we have more statesmen than at the central level. But the decentralization process is blocked and the local authorities also have their hands tied.”

According to the executive director of the Association of Fruit Producers and Exporters “Moldova Fruct” Iurie Fala, after the signing of the Moldova - EU Association Agreement, the farmers obtained the possibility of communicating with mates from Eastern Partnership countries and to apply modern technology, but the message from the central authorities didn’t contribute to maintaining the intensity of the process. “The pace of reform leaves to be desired and the long-awaited harmonization of the legislation is rather quantitative than qualitative in character, stated Iurie Fala.

He noted that the power decentralization reform started in 2017 didn’t become a driving force for development. “We anyway have to go to Chisinau to kowtow so as to get money for one purpose or another. This hampers the development of businesses. Rural development is seriously affected,” said the director of “Moldova Fruct”.

“We gave multiple signals as to the non-functioning of state institutions. The Agency for Intervention and Payments in Agriculture should be responsible for the implementation of projects. We have discussed one and the same issue for eight-nine years and it is a vicious circle. The bureaucrats responsible for agriculture and regional development either pack their bags or unpack them. The lack of motivation, slowdown in reforms and lack of understanding of the real situation in the country derive from here.”

“If we try to represent our relations with the EU graphically, we will rather see a declining tendency,” said the project’s standing expert Ștefan Gligor. He reminded that the EU’s skepticism has persisted since 2015, when a number of European projects in Moldova were stopped. “The European Union was shocked by the banking fraud, by the level of corruption at the upper level, by the authorities’ involvement in the smuggling of billions of dollars from Russia. It’s not surprising that the EU changed the approach to the provision of assistance to Moldova, shifting emphases from the cooperation with the central authorities to the more active support for local communities and businesspeople. It’s highly improbable that this approach will be modified in the nearest future,” stated the jurist.

Ștefan Gligor noted the government continues to boast of foreign results. “Who in Moldova wonders and knows how many hundreds of people get salaries owing to the money provided by the EU? A sum of €30 million came last week. Did our Government make effort to explain this assistance?” he asked rhetorically.

He reminded that the EU has offered assistance to Moldova during tens of years, but no one in our country bothered to establish an efficient mechanism for recording this money, for informing about it and popularizing it.

Polls in six EaP countries have been annually carried out within the EU project “Eastern Partnership” for six years.

The public debate “How and who the European Union helps in the Republic of Moldova” was held as part of the project “Overcoming Stereotypes of European Integration through Communication” that is implemented by IPN News Agency with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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