on the organization of the debate “How much further freedom can free movement in Europe give to Moldovans and how can they use it?”, the 28th installment of the “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” Series; Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”
Debate 28 aimed to explain for the Moldovan public some of the consequences of the visa-free regime offered by the European Union. Naturally, one of the guests invited to speak was the president of the Liberal Democratic Party and former prime minister Vlad Filat, who initiated the process and had a significant contribution to its successful outcome. The issues discussed were selected in such a way as to help to enhance the level of political culture among the Moldovan societty and they included: Freedom of movement as a fundamental liberty and incentive for the Moldovans; the political, social, economic and cultural significance of the ability to move freely within Europe; background, lessons learned and to be learned by the Moldovan political class and society; myths, disinformation attempts, realities, political and geopolitical interests; benefits, threats and risks after April 28, including the risk of losing the right to move freely in the East and the risk of losing Transnistria for good; critics and skeptics say: a) the freedom of movement doesn't mean the right to work; b) there are very few to enjoy freedom of movement, after all those able to do so have already fled abroad; c) the price paid for this privilege was too big, as the West forced us to renounce Orthodox morals and traditions, in particular through the Equality Law; d) the remainder of the capable workforce will flee too, leaving Moldova depopulated; e) freedom of movement does not aid economic growth, etc.
One of the key conclusions of the debate was that the Moldovans are ready to fully enjoy the visa-free regime in many ways, but they must also realize the obligations implied by this freedom.
The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Vlad Filat said effort was made to get this fundamental right. “Before obtaining the visa-free regime, we had other stages, such as the small-scale border traffic and facilitation of the visa issuing process. It is a great achievement, a victory and a proof that Moldova enjoys the EU’s trust,” he stated. The politician added that Moldova didn’t receive a present as it fulfilled all the conditions for benefitting from this regime. “On the one hand, it is the right to free movement. But there are also obligations. We will be able to stay in the EU for 90 days during half a year. If these rules are violated, there will be imposed penalties, including bans on travelling to the EU for a period of up to five years. We must look upon this freedom in the context of the other freedoms that the country will obtain in the relationship with the EU, including the free trade following the signing and ratification of the Association Agreement.”
Lilia Snegureac, the head of the Resource Center “Dialog-Pro”, said obtaining the visa-free regime is a great step that the Moldovans are already prepared to take. “There are certain risks for the people who will not comply with the rules. But the greatest risk is stopping at half way. The EU needs a state with people with equal rights in its composition and Moldova must do what it has to at the same pace. We do not have time to work long. We must move fast so that the people see the benefits,” she stated. “It is important that the people who will be able to see at least once what the EU is and what the rule of law is, will become less Euro-skeptic.”
The permanent expert of the IPN’s project Igor Botan, who is the executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT, said he has the feeling that the joy at the obtained success is overshadowed by certain things. “We are privileged to travel without visas in the EU. We are 4 million people, together with the Transnistrians. This privilege is an accomplishment, not a present. It is the result of an effort. Those who offered us this privilege are pragmatic and very calculated”. He added that the EU is the most exigent partner of Moldova and, if this regime was provided, it means that the country enjoys confidence.
The Agency published 4 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 11.04.14, “Moldovans are ready to fully benefit from visa-free regime with EU, debate” - http://www.ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/61209; “Vlad Filat: Moldova is close to meeting Schengen Area criteria” -http://www.ipn.md/en/politica/61212; on 12.04.14, “Granting of visa-free regime by EU means recognition of Moldova’s efforts, opinion” - http://www.ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/61228; “Stopping at half way to EU is the greatest risk for Moldova, expert” - http://www.ipn.md/en/dosar-transnistrean/61225.
Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN
Public debate: How much further freedom can free movement in Europe give to Moldovans and how can they use it?