European values versus traditional values and geopolitical subtext in Moldova
The perpetuated disappointment in the pro-European political parties (2009-2017) and the high poverty level at which many Moldovans live make the European integration and, respectively, the European values, to be associated with something elitist or imaginary, for now inaccessible …
The foundations of the European Union and, respectively, the European integration processes derive from a set of European values, such as democracy, human rights, human dignity and the rule of law. These are defined in the European treaties that govern internal order in the EU, its relationship with the EU member states and its people. With the maturation of the European project, especially after the signing of the Treaty of Lisboan (December 2009), the European values started to be consolidated through the EU’s dialogue with the external world. The EU’s enlargement of 2004-2007 considerably extended the geography of the European values. The launch of the Eastern Partnership (2009) led to the stimulation of the EU’s relations with Eastern Europe, contributing to the more articulated promotion of the European values in the region. The signatories of the EU – Moldova Association Agreement, Ukraine and Georgia, went further by accepting the European values as benchmarks for the strategic development objectives.
The geographical extension of the European values to the East contrasts yet with the geopolitical views of Russia, which does not want to renounce Eastern Europe as part of the Russian sphere of influence. The successful penetration of the political and social systems by the European values will strengthen the states of the region and, respectively, their independence from Moscow, becoming dangerous even for the political regime inside Russia. Consequently, Russia uses the Eurasian integration and the Eurasian Economic Union to counterbalance the European integration and the Russian Orthodox Church to counteract the European values, in the region.
The European values turned into a maturity test for Moldovan democracy. Even if these values are gradually channeled into the national legislation, not all the citizens have the necessary knowledge and convictions to put them into practice daily. On the one hand, there is yet nostalgia for the values of the totalitarian Soviet regime. On the other hand, the Orthodox Church controlled by Russia is involved in an open ideological crusade against the European values. However, the collapse of the ostensibly pro-European political class hampers most the cultivation of the European values in Moldovan society.
European and traditional values in EU
The existence of the European project, which is the EU, depends on the sustainability of the European values in the European Union member states. The Rome Declaration, signed on the occasion of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the European Community (March 25, 2017), underlines that the EU should be proud of its values (peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law) and should protect them. At the same time, the declaration specifies that the EU continues to be open to the European states that respect the European values and pledge to promote these. So, the functionality of the EU depends on the way in which the European values are applied.
The most recent European polls (Eurobarometer, 2016) show that about 50% of the European citizens consider the EU countries are close to each other through the values they share. This idea finds the most serious support in Ireland, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic, while the weakest support in Greece, France, Cyprus and Latvia.
The main four values that are appreciated most by the Europeans are: peace (46%), human rights (43%), respect for human life (37%) and democracy (27%). Peace is the most popular value in Slovenia, human rights in Cyprus, Sweden and Denmark, while respect for the human life in Ireland, Malta and Portugal.
Polls show that the European citizens associate the EU with peace (39%), human rights (34%) and democracy (31%). These values correspond to the individual aspirations of the Europeans and the Europeans’ perception of the EU values.
But the European values are vulnerable in practically all the EU member states, including those that joined the EU more recently. The variety of crises that continue to multiply is the main cause. Underequipped with the necessary tools and powerfully dependent on the will of national governments, the EU was directly associated with the defective administration of the consequences of the economic and financial crisis of 2009. The refugee crisis of 2015 and problematic management of internal and external migration during the last few years also played a negative role. All these shattered the political support for the EU, inevitably affecting the attachment to the European values.
Every time the state institutions (pro-European and evidently lay) and the political elite, at national and European levels, fail, the citizens start to look for answers at the national anti-European populists and in the Church, in some cases. The more unstable the situation in Europe is, the easier is for Russia to amplify the negative feelings of the EU, through the anti-European propaganda, or by actively supporting the Euro-skeptical populists in France, Germany, the Netherlands or other European states.
At the same time, the European values in the EU meet with a harsh position on the part of the Church (Poland) or conservative social movements (Romania, Lithuania), which actively promote the traditional values. In such cases, Russia is a source of inspiration for different homophobe practices such as legislation on the protection of minors from information about homosexuality.
European and traditional values in Moldova
Currently, a rather narrow segment of Moldovan society embraces unconditionally all the European values. Most of the citizens divide these, selecting only the acceptable European values. Consequently, these prefer to distance themselves from the human rights because they didn’t exactly assimilate the principle of equality and the necessity of social integration of discriminated groups (sexual minorities, some ethnic groups, persons with HIV-AIDS, persons with disabilities).
The Russian Orthodox Church and pro-Russian politicians are the most active supporters of the traditional values in Moldova. On the one hand, they are against the human rights when it is about sexual minorities. On the other hand, these act against emancipated women (denigration of Maia Sandu in presidential elections of 2016). At the same time, these promote the concept of large families, which shows their paternalist attitude to the women and their role in society.
The competition between the European and traditional values is very dynamic and even stiff. Thus, on the day of the solidarity march “Fara Frica” (“Without Fear) this May, which was staged by promoters of human rights and non-discrimination of sexual minorities, the Socialists and President Igor Dodon carried out activities dedicated to the traditional family (IPN, May 2017). The latter refuse to admit that the non-discrimination of sexual minorities is an expression of human rights. On the contrary, the Socialists and President DodoDodon demonize this group, transforming it into an internal enemy. Besides making reference to the Russian Orthodox Church, President Dodon justifies his actions by making connections with anti-LGBT activists from the West, such as Brian Brown (Presedinte.md, May 2017), who were accused in a number of states of inciting hatred against sexual minorities. President Dodon intends to step up the anti-LGBT activities in 2018, planning to organize the World Congress of Families in Chisinau (Presedinte, May 2017).
The traditional values find reflection in the ideological essence of Eurasian ideology. This enables Russia and the pro-Russian forces in Eastern Europe to put the European integration and European values in a negative light. The Eurasian ideology combines the traditional values (traditional family), Christian values (Russian Orthodox Church) and patriotic values (inheritance of Soviet history), which were gradually introduced into Moldova through the Office of President Igor Dodon and with the support of the pro-Russian forces of Moldova.
The difficult transition to functional democratic institutions, low living standards (Free Europe, May 2017), widespread corruption in the political parties associated with the European agenda, frauds in the banking system and failure of the anticorruption policies negatively influence the pro-European feelings of Moldovans. To improve the situation, the EU should be critical and principled, but also objective in relation to the government ensured by Vladimir Plahotniuc’s Democrats.
The restoring of the Moldovans’ interest in the European integration will automatically stimulate positive feelings towards the European values, in particular the most sensitive ones, related to human rights. The more tangible the results of the European integration are, the more unclear the rhetoric of the pro-Russian forces about the Eurasian integration and traditional values will be.
Instead of conclusion…
The perpetuated disappointment in the pro-European political parties (2009-2017) and the high poverty level at which many Moldovans live make the European integration and, respectively, the European values, to be associated with something elitist or imaginary, for now inaccessible.
With or without the involvement of the Russian-Eurasian factor, the popularization of the European values in Moldova requires time, considerable effort and patience, exactly as in the case of the EU member states, where there is yet opposition to particular facets of the European values.
Ultimately, the reanimation of the European course in Moldova, which embodies the European values, necessitates authentic civil society, credible pro-European political alternatives and intelligent external conditionality that would maximally narrow the maneuvering area of the government and would stimulate reforms.