Institut für Europäische Politik from Berlin (IEP), in cooperation with Institute for Strategic Initiatives (IPIS) and Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE) organized a TV debate on RealitateaTV within the project “#NEXT4EU – Young generation for EU integration of the Republic of Moldova”.

The participants in the debate, which was moderated by Ileana Pîrgaru, talked about vulnerabilities, fears and solutions in the course of Moldova’s European integration.

Below are the key points raised by the speakers:

Vadim Pistrinciuc, Executive Director IPIS: The most important thing we need to do now is to take care of our information space. We are practically a daily target of informational attacks. The second thing we need to do is to strengthen a healthy bureaucracy, so that everyone in their own field does their job.

Ileana Pîrgaru, moderator: Does this Ukraine – Republic of Moldova package rather benefit us or disadvantage us? Or is the Republic of Moldova already decoupled from Ukraine and we are on our own?

Iulian Groza, IPRE Executive Director: I think it is very good that we, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, are helping each other in promoting our European agenda.

From the moment we are at the official launch of the negotiations we are basically already at a more technical stage where we are on our own. The accession negotiations are country-by-country and it will depend on us how quickly and qualitatively we will be able to move forward in negotiating the 35 chapters of the accession treaty. Ukraine will not wait for us if it moves faster and we will not wait for Ukraine, that was also the case in the Balkans.

Ileana Pîrgaru: A new opinion poll conducted by IMAS has been released. According to this poll 54% of respondents want the country to join the EU, 39% want to join the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan union. How do you see this balance of power?

Vadim Pistrinciuc: There are two elements in analyzing people’s perceptions. The first one is about objective reality, the obvious things that surround you: movement, benefits, economy, export, and others are about ideological paternity, influenced by too much harmful information abundance.

I believe that the real support of the EU in Moldova is much bigger.

But I don’t even know if there is still integration into the Customs Union. As a result of sanctions the economy of these countries is suffering a lot. There is no longer a real free movement of goods. As an economic union this partnership is no longer functional.

Ileana Pîrgaru: Do you think the picture will change, or are these are the figures?

Iulian Groza: The trends of the last two years show that support for EU membership in Moldova is increasing and support for the Euro-Asian option is decreasing. More and more businessmen have access to European markets: 2/3 of our exports are directed to European markets. There has not been a monopolization of our market by EU products, as the myths used to go, we are already economically integrated with the EU. This integration has been multiplied with the possibility of free movement within the EU.

On the other hand, more people understand that Russia brings war, danger, instability and insecurity.

Polls only capture residents of Moldova without Transnistria and without diaspora.  More than 2/3 of the diaspora supports the EU option and obviously the coming referendum exercise is an opportunity for all of us to put an end to these endless discussions that politicians are conducting in our country, whether we should join the EU or not.

Obviously it will not be easy. There is a campaign to demotivate citizens to go to the referendum, to boycott it, and this is a danger because in Moldova we do not have a referendum tradition.  It is a new issue that we have to learn.

Ileana Pîrgaru: Mr Groza referred to the effects of the war. There is a narrative that is also fed by the voice of Maria Zaharova, the Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, who says that any rapprochement with the EU will mean the resumption of the Ukraine scenario, how do you combat this narrative?

Vadim Pistrinciuc: Everything is actually the opposite. Where is the war? In Russia there is war.

Things are simpler. People simply have to ask themselves some questions. Indeed, there were times when the main remittances, the money of Moldovans from abroad, came from Russia. You know how much it is now – 12% from the CIS and more than 80% comes from the West.

You want someone to decide for me? I don’t think that the referendum issue is just about politicians, but I don’t think that I, as a citizen, should let politicians decide for me such an important issue.

Ileana Pîrgaru: In the Republic of Moldova, who are the main victims of propaganda? Russian speakers who do not have access to information in Romanian, middle-aged people who are nostalgic for the USSR, or young people who generally do not inform themselves?

Vadim Pistrinciuc: A little bit of everything. Among Russian speakers there are people who have ultra-European positions, especially after the war. Rather, there is a difference in the socio-demographic profile: lower education, below-average income, more depressed and remote localities, there is a trend here. There are also people with a very good standard of living, but who are exposed to certain sources of information. Here the internet has overtaken television in popularity. Nothing is homogeneous.

Ileana Pîrgaru: Why is Moldova so vulnerable when it comes to propaganda and what should the authorities do?  I don’t know if the solution of closing down TV stations has been successful because everyone has migrated online.

Iulian Groza: Beyond the counter actions pro active communication is the surest way to reach as many people as possible. The speed at which information reaches them still matters a lot. There are things we need to learn. For example, if a piece of information arouses fear, a negative emotion, the light bulb must go on.

Indeed, the information space is diverse and there are many tools. The information we get from non-professional media sources, e.g. Telegram or TikTok, is not information to which editorial policies are applied or which follows journalistic rules etc. It is used worldwide as a propaganda tool.

Ileana Pîrgaru: Mr Pistrinciuc, you said that our society is not homogeneous. What should the authorities do, target their messages to each category and each region?

Vadim Pistrinciuc: If we wait for the state alone to rule in information policy, we will remain dissatisfied. The state has limited tools and often over-regulation. We have to create social systems.

Watch the full recording of the debate here:

The debate took place within the project “#NEXT4EU – Young generation for EU integration of the Republic of Moldova “, which is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany in the framework of its civil society cooperation programe.