Moldova is a nation at the crossroads between Europe and Russia. Whether it pivots East or West will be instrumental to the country’s future, particularly following the 2016 election of Russia supporter Igor Dodon to the presidency.
In January 2016, The Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (BST) awarded a grant to the Association for Development and Cooperation Moldova (ADC Moldova) to share knowledge of the lessons learned on the European integration process. The project, called ”Bridges to Europe,” will broadcast five 30-minute interviews with EU member state presidents, and other high-level officials, from the ex-communist bloc. The TV series is meant to support pro-Europe messages by partnering with states in the same region that have faced similar challenges on their path to EU membership.
BST supported “Bridges to Europe” because the project “aims to provide credible and accessible information around the process of EU integration, from the primary source, to a wider audience to demolish many of the myths dispersed by Russian propaganda in the national media,” according to Dinu Toderascu, BST representative.
In Moldova, TV continues to be the main source of information for most citizens. By reaching a large and active audience, Romanian and Russian speakers, the project hopes to shift public opinion and develop pro-European sentiment among the general public.
The interviews were conducted in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic and Croatia. In the series, senior leadership and high-level government officials were asked to share their thoughts on the integration process and to offer suggestions, tips, and instruction for Moldovan politicians, businesses, and thought-leaders.
The ‘Bridges to Europe’ project gives voice to the political leaders that have undertaken the difficult process of reforms necessary for EU integration. Many of those interviewed in the project, presidents, prime-ministers, ministers of foreign affairs, presidents of the parliament, emphasized the importance of national unity, political will, concrete reforms, dialogue between the political class and the general population, and clear, visible results for a successful integration process.
Given the lack of reliable information in the country, the project’s creator and host Ecaterina Covali thinks that the series fulfils a fundamental need for clear and useful information. “The video materials will be a reliable source of information in the Moldovan media environment,” says Covali.
It is no secret that Moldovan media has been negatively affected by the Russian information war and by a weak independent media. “Despite the media boom and the emergence of new media outlets in Moldova since 2009, 85% of media channels are retranslated from Russian,” Covali explains. “The situation is quite critical.” The impact of Russian-language news and media outlets sponsored by pro-Russian entities has been a targeted and malicious addition into the Moldovan media landscape.
The path to European integration has been rocky and fraught with misconceptions and myths about what integration with the EU would mean for the Moldovan people and government. Much of that misinformation originated from Russian media sources and has been incredibly effective in disseminating false narratives and news, thus eroding the fundamental fabric of Moldova’s fragile democracy.
Diversifying the number of voices and increasing the amount of accurate information in the public discourse about the process is the first step in, what is sure to be, a long, arduous process toward integration with the European Union.
Even with the very real threat that the Russian propaganda war presents to the current state of Moldovan politics Covali remains optimistic, “The documentary interviews will represent a premiere and will focus on the success stories of ex-communist countries that managed to embrace the EU values, becoming an important part of such a complex and developed system, united in diversity.”