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At the meeting with NGO community hosted on March 22, the President came up with the initiative of a permanent dialogue with the civil society and called it to sincerely and honestly voice its position on issues of public interest, so that later on authorities could take them into account. In fact though, one may find that authorities tend to turn to NGO community only afterwards, when nothing could be done. This happened on several occasions. Let’s take the case of the draft on public control over the state activity. The Presidency developed it without being asked by the NGO community. Surely we could all agree that this is good initiative, the question is — would it be of any use? Firstly, the draft simply reiterates certain provisions of the Constitution, international acts, or laws in force. Secondly, some of the draft provisions are rather ambiguous. For instance, paragraph 5 of Article 4 reads: “The option to live is the basic principle of the civil society vitality in the Republic of Moldova. In this respect, the state guarantees to everyone the right to exercise the rights and freedoms they are enjoying”. By reading this paragraph, we could only wonder what happens to those unsatisfied with the rights they are entitled to, or what if they want some additional rights? Or, this paragraph refers only to those inclined to suicide, as they may not contribute to the vitality of the civil society, consequently, after death the state does not guarantee them the rights they enjoyed during the lifetime?
Right from the beginning the draft defines the civil society as “a structured, non-governmental, and autonomous entity of the Moldovan people, including political parties, public associations, and other citizens’ associations”. Further, the draft provides for the certain rights civil society enjoys, however it’s not clear whether ordinary citizens, who are not members of a political party or public association, may enjoy them as well.
If we are to admit that there are structured entities, such as the journalist NGO community, or the NGO Council, which represents at least 120 non-governmental organizations participants to the Forum, or even the Permanent Round Table established by the political parties in line with Council of Europe recommendations, than how their interests have been taken into account when the Presidency developed the draft? One wouldn’t be wrong when saying that their opinion has been simply ignored.
In fact during the 11 years of independence of the Republic of Moldova civil society organizations have asked nothing but access to information of public interest, access to public media outlets so as to voice different opinions, and access to justice against abuses of public bodies. However, the draft law developed by the Presidency makes no reference to the Law on Access to Information or the Law on Administrative Litigation, which if perfected might prove to be more useful to the civil society that the series of phrases and principles taken from various documents and incorporated in the Presidential draft.
Or let’s take another example, when the journalist NGOs proffered a draft on transforming the Teleradio-Moldova State Company into a public institution. Here, deputies again gave preference to the draft developed by the Presidency, ignoring the criticism of the Council of Europe. The journalists’ draft provided for the most adequate representation of the interests of “structured entities of the Moldovan people” in the Coordination Council, rather than mere interests of the parliament majority, which elects both the President and Government.
In a related note, it’s worth mentioning that recently the Parliament, Presidency and Government appointed new members to the Certification Commission (certifying the public benefit of the non-governmental organization) without even consulting the former members of the Commission or the NGO Council. Indeed, the said institutions have all the right to act as they wish, and nobody doubts the quality of the newly appointed members, the only thing is that the later are unknown to the Moldovan NGO community and cannot represent its interest in the Commission. Further, continuity in the Commission activity and learning from the experience of the previous membership might have been very useful. Or, is the permanent dialogue conceived as a mere mechanism by which authorities show their illuminist generosity when they enlighten civil society with all kinds of initiatives, and it responds to them by kneeing in satisfaction?