Moldova between Russians’ antipathy to EU and rising Euroskepticism of Europeans



The major problem is the fact that without a robust level of Eurooptimism in the EU member states, the pro-European feelings outside the EU could be seriously affected [...] The extension of Euroskepticism in Europe will most probably lead to the amplification of Euro-Asianism in the Eastern neighborhood of the EU, in particular in Moldova...

Dionis Cenuşa


The Russians’ negative attitude to the European Union remains at a high level. The information war launched by the Russian authorities against the EU and the supporters of the European integration idea inside it and in its neighborhood, in particular after 2013, contributed the most to the worsening of the pro-European perception in Russia. Polls show the pro-European aspirations in Russian society decreased considerably.

The impact of the Russian propaganda extends outside the national territory of Russia. This causes collateral victims in the neighboring countries, especially in the CIS, which is easily reached by the messages spread by the mass media controlled by the Kremlin. The vulnerability of the CIS countries is due to the dynamism shown by the pro-Russian players (Russian Orthodox Church, pro-Russian political parties, Russophile minorities, etc.).

Moldova is among the countries of the region that were seriously affected by the anti-European propaganda coordinated by Moscow. As a result, Moldovans’ preferences for the Eurasian agenda became stronger. But the Russian propaganda would have been less efficient if other factors that undermined the EU’s image hadn’t intervened, favoring thus the Eurasian initiatives of Russia. These factors include: corruption among the ostensible pro-European governments of 2009-2016 and defective vigilance of the EU; the EU’s communication deficiencies in the EaP countries; the impact of crises on the EU’s popularity.

Dispersion of pro-EU sympathies among Russians

According to a poll carried out by “Levada-Centru”, the number of Russian citizens who sympathized with the EU on May 20-23, 2016 declined significantly. It is a normal result if we take into account the abundance of manipulation to which the Russians were exposed, in particular in 2013-2016. Thus, in 2015-2016, the negative attitude to the EU remained at the level of 58-62%, while the positive attitude stood at 25-28%. Russians’ antipathies are aimed in particular at Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, and UK. These EU member states form part of the top 10 countries that are considered by Russians as unfriendly. Negative trends are seen in the pro-European aspirations existing in Russian society. Thus, the positive attitude to the hypothetical joining of the EU almost halved (from 53% in August 2009 to 24% in May 2016). (See Table No. 1).

Table No. 1 If Russia decides to join the EU, will you be for or against?


Certainly yes

Rather yes

Rather no

Surely no

No answer

August 2009






May 2016






Source: Poll carried out by Leva-Centru, May 2, 2016

Besides the daily propaganda that demonizes the EU and the member states, the decline in the interest in the EU among the Russians can be also explained by the rise in the share of the Eurasian Economic Union on the public agenda. The visibility of this Union is determined by Russia’s efforts to counterpoint it with the European project in the region.

Europeans’ Euroskepticism is on the rise

A worrisome situation is witnessed in the European countries, where the interest in the EU decreased significantly. Recent polls show that a significant number of Europeans are for the restoration of the powers of the national governments that were earlier delegated to the EU. Also, a high percentage of Europeans are dissatisfied with the way in which the EU manages the problem of refugees and the economic policies. The negative impact on the pro-European feelings is often observed in the countries affected by the consequences of the economic decline or the refugee crisis (See Table No. 2)

Table No. 2 View on the EU



Between 60% and 72% - Hungary, Poland

Between 60% and 71% - France, Greece

Between 50% and 58% - Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy

Between 44% and 48% - Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, the UK

Between 27% and 47% - Greece, France, the UK, Spain

Between 22% and 37% - Poland, Hungary

Source: Pew Research Center, June 2016

In general, in many EU states the people are tempted to put the blame on the EU for the failure of the national governments. Moreover, there is insufficient understanding of the fact that the EU acts with all its force only in a very low number of areas where it has exclusive powers (trade, customs union, monetary policy, competition, joint policy in fishing). The fact that the Europeans have poor knowledge of the EU is skillfully exploited by the radical populist parties (from France, Germany, Austria etc.), including with the help of the Russian propaganda.

The Moldovans between the European agenda and the Eurasian one

If we compare the polls conducted in Moldova with those conducted in Europe (see below), we ascertain that the pro-European sympathies are more powerful among the Moldovans than among the French and Greek people. However, unlike the latter, the Moldovans are always put in front of a geopolitical dilemma, where the Eurasian initiatives have a considerable weight (See Table No. 3). This aspect must not be neglected given that the pro-Russian political forces would gain about 40% of the poll in case of parliamentary elections.

Helped by the Russian anti-European propaganda, the pro-Russian players in Moldova have the instruments needed to discredit the European agenda. Their efforts would have required more time and resources if corrupt and inefficient parties associated with the EU hadn’t remained in power. Moreover, the people’s support for the pro-Russian parties would have been lower if the EU had shown more accentuated pragmatism and exactingness, renouncing indulgent approaches in relation to the ostensible pro-European governments (2009-2014).

Table No. 3 If Moldova could join only one economic union, which one would you choose?


European Union

Eurasian Union

March 2016



October 2015



September 2014



Source: International Republican Institute, Poll, March 2016

Similarities between philo-Russian parties in Europe and those in Moldova

Some aspects related to the Europeans’ opposition to the EU can be seen in miniature in Moldova.

So, there is a particular dose of repulsion of the EU in Europe, associated with the ruling parties accused of corruption and/or inefficiency. In the case of Moldova, the pro-Russian parties criticize the EU for the financial assistance provided to Moldova. These consider that the EU assistance enables the oligarchized government involved in cases of political corruption, bank fraud and other illegalities to remain in power.

Also, the negative attitude to the EU is associated with Russia. Thus, the populist philo-Russian parties in Europe demand to lift the penalties imposed on Russia following its intervention in Donbas and Crimea. These consider that the penalties are disproportionate or illegitimate and are tempted to accuse the EU for the confrontation with Russia in the CIS. An as indulgent attitude to Russia can be seen in the case of the pro-Russian parties in Chisinau (Party of Socialists, “Our Party”). These avoid admitting the fact that the commercial restrictions contrary to the international agreements are used by Moscow in response to the Moldova – EU Association Agreement.

Instead of conclusion…

The European integration as an expression of the European Union goes through a profound popularity crisis. The European citizens question the importance of the EU though they do not realize who is to really to blame for the problems faced by the member states. It is evident that the anti-EU players inside the member states and outside the European community use false arguments to discredit the EU.

The Russian propaganda plays a central role in the spread of false criticism aimed at the EU or the governments that are for greater integration. Most of the times, the EU is turned into a ‘scapegoat’ for everything. The Europeans’ answer to the anti-EU offensive launched by Russia is yet very weak. At the same time, the national governments of the EU member states are more powerfully constrained by the radical and philo-Russian populist parties.

The pro-European feelings are decreasing among the Russians, who daily feel the effects of the domestic propaganda against the EU and the supporters of the European integration.

In conditions that are fully unfavorable to the EU image, the Moldovans oscillate between two geopolitical options. Comparing the poll data, we see that the Moldovans seem to be more pro-European than the French or Greek people. The major problem is the fact that without a robust level of Eurooptimism in the EU member states, the pro-European feelings outside the EU could be seriously affected. Ultimately, the extension of Euroskepticism in Europe will most probably lead to the amplification of Euro-Asianism in the Eastern neighborhood of the EU, in particular in Moldova. 

Dionis Cenuşa


IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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