The Europeanization of the political elites is, in principle, a difficult and long-lasting process. This becomes even more difficult in an environment that is predisposed to euro-skeptical hostilities, where the pro-European practices and views are rejected, simulated or mutilated by the political class.
The consolidation of the democratic institutions, ensuring of integral justice, maximization of transparency in taking public decisions or when spending public money represent only some of the practices that derive from the phenomenon of “Europeanization” (or differently called “Westernization”). The attempts to transpose the Moldovan reality didn’t produce results during the rule of the ostensive pro-European parties that ruled in 2009-2016. On the contrary, many of the elements of Europeanization were powerfully ridiculed and trivialized. Particular expectations related to the resuscitation of the Europeanization process inside the political class are related to the new political parties with pro-European views. Surely, we will yet see if their intention is not reduced to political revenge as the idea of transposing the European practices and values is subject to egoist political bargaining and calculations.
At the level of political players, the Europeanization is effected by the transfer of knowledge and skills, socialization and association with the pan-European parties, development of interpersonal contacts and other forms of involvement in dialogue. For now, these forms of Europeanization were applied in relation to ‘twinned’ parties or parties close to the pan-European parties (the European People’s Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and the Democrats, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe). Not much Europeanization has been witnessed until now in relation to the political players seen often as natural opponents of the European integration process in Moldova. This category includes parties and individual politicians who openly criticize Moldova’s European agenda, promoting simultaneously the Eurasian geopolitical projects directed by Russia.
‘Europeanization’ of pro-Russian players by inclusion
The pan-European parties and the representatives of civil society in Brussels and other European capitals should devote sufficient time and resources for uniting the pro-European elements in the Eastern neighborhood. An inclusive approach is as needed in the relations with the opponents of Moldova’s European course.
Firstly, the direct contacts with those who criticize the European integration allows studying their arguments and, simultaneously, dispelling the myths disseminated by these. Thus, their engagement in ‘Euro-dialogues’ would be a method of constructively confronting the false and/or erroneous ideas related to the EU and its actions in the Eastern Partnership countries.
Secondly, the intensification of the relations between the Euro-optimists in the EU and the pro-Russian Euro-skeptics in Moldova would create preconditions for tempering the negative rhetoric of the latter.
Finally, the existence of joint dialogue platforms between the promoters of the EU (pan-European parties and civil society of the EU) and pro-Russian players in Chisinau can counterbalance the imminent influence resulting from the excessive socialization with the Eurasian and anti-European bodies in Russia. In all the mentioned cases, players with pro-European views that consider themselves ‘exclusive representatives’ of the EU in Moldova should be equally engaged. If such initiatives with the participation of the EU promoters are absent, their place will be taken by the Euro-skeptics from the EU. Any ‘association’ of the Euro-skeptics from the EU with the pro-Russians from the EaP countries must be diluted so as to protect Moldova’s European agenda from additional shocks.
Socialists and the roads to Brussels
The participation by Socialist MP Bogdan Tirdea in the event staged by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (May 30, 2016) is a conclusive example of socialization through the European Euro-skeptics. According to the information published by the Socialists, Tirdea’s presence at the roundtable meeting in Brussels was facilitated by MEP Tatiana Jdanok. This comes from the Latvian Russian Union and is known for her sympathies with Russia and, respectively, for the criticism leveled at the EU.
Surely, Socialists’ conversations with other participants in the roundtable meeting are a useful exercise of socialization with representatives of civil society, the mass media and of the European Parliament. However, it is recommended holding such events under the aegis of Euro-optimists. Moreover, such activities (roundtable meetings, conferences, training seminars, etc.) should focus on subjects concerning social policies, entrepreneurship policies, academic mobility, climate change, European projects and less on geopolitical issues. Similar activities should be staged both in Brussels and in other European capitals and also in Chisinau. Surely such practices will not produce major changes in the thinking of those who oppose the European course overnight, but it is essential to establish dialogue bridges initially.
Gagauzia and access to European projects
Other forms of Europeanization can take place through the agency of projects implemented with financial assistance provided by the EU. For example, about €6.5 million is to be allocated by Europeans to Gagauzia and Taraclia district within the project “Support to agriculture and rural development through promotion of confidence building measures” (SARD), which was launched on May 13, 2016. The project aims to strengthen the dialogue between the center and the beneficiary regions (Gagauzia, Taraclia) in rural development and agriculture, to promote local entrepreneurial projects and renovate the social structure.
It is yet important to ensure communication and to promote aspects related to the European principles and values (transparency in decision-making, respect for the rule of law etc.) throughout this project and in all the communities that will benefit from this project. This is crucial given the controversial referendum of February 2, 2014 held by the Gagauz administration, where about 98% of the participants voted for joining the Customs Union. The EU’s decision to launch such a project can help engage Gagauzia and Taraclia in the European integration process, even if indirectly, in particular in the area of agriculture and rural development. The Europeanization of regions managed mainly by pro-Russians can take place by ensuring efficient communication and a high degree of socialization with the public authorities of EU states (such as Bulgaria etc.).
Instead of conclusion…
If cooperation with pro-Russian political players is improved, the probability that their position will become more moderate, while their speeches less toxic in relation to the EU and Moldova’s European agenda increases. This will help dispel anti-EU myths and enhance the public speech on the European integration. On the other hand, their neglecting can lead only to the keeping of the current state and, respectively, to their preservation in the captivity of the distorted view on the EU that is actively promoted by Russian propagandists.
Ultimately, given the political volatility in Moldova and the popularity of the pro-Russian forces, the ‘Europeanization’ of the latter represents an urgent necessity for avoiding possible major ruptures in the European integration process and a possible change of government. However, considerable effort should be made further to “Europeanize” the parties with pro-European views, which are for now uninspired and inconsistent.
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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