‘More EU in Moldova’: witnessing the impact of EU support for young Moldovans
Author: Jules Bigot
In the first weeks of February, together with a couple of Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) from the EU and the UK, I travelled to Moldova for a joint kick-off event with Moldovan YEAs called “More EU in Moldova”. As the title suggests, the main idea of this event was to bring the EU to Moldova and to stress the importance of Moldova for the EU and vice-versa. This was reflected in the different activities we took part in, which ranged from brainstorming sessions with our fellow Moldovan YEAs, to school visits in different districts of Chisinau or a day trip to the start-up city of Cahul. All these activities made us realise the extent and the diversity of EU investments in the country. In this blog post we will investigate some specific EU investments related to the economic development of the country and the creation of new opportunities for the younger generations, using our YEA trip as a guideline.
A background to EU investments in Moldova
Since joining the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in 2009, the Republic of Moldova has become an important recipient of EU investments and financial aid aimed at creating “the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration”, as the joint declaration of the EaP Prague Summit states. Over the last couple of years, the EU and its different institutions have strongly supported Moldova in addressing the economic and social crises created by COVID-19 and the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. As early as June 2021 the European Commission announced the rollout of a €600 millionEconomic Recovery Plan for Moldova. A year later, the European Commission announced that €52 millionwas allocated to Moldova as part of a long EU 4 Recovery and Resilience plan. To help and support the country cope with the Russian invasion of Ukraine the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced a record €525 million loan, and recently the European Investment Bank (EIB) said it was preparing a scheme of around €160 million for the country. All of these investment projects (which do not include Member States’ bilateral support), make the EU one of the most important partners of Moldova. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this is to see what these numbers mean for Moldovan youth.
Investment in the IT sector and in education
Our trip to Moldova allowed us to better understand the key motivational factors of European investments in the country, and how they are directly benefiting the youth of Moldova. One of our visits was to the Liceul Teoretic “Mihai Viteazul” in the east of Chisinau. There, our group presented to the students the EU, its work in Moldova, the Eastern Partnership and the opportunities for Moldovan youth in the EU. In return, they showed us the robots they had built in their technology lessons. We saw the robots moving and fighting, which showcased the high level of programming skills possessed by the students. We were then taken to the IT classroom where 8-year-old pupils were having a coding lesson, something truly impressive for us Western Europeans. One of the students showed us an automated circuit he had built with his classmates, where vehicles were programmed to carry out specific tasks to serve the city (waste collection, wind turbine activation, car transport, etc.). These amazing demonstrations were supervised by the IT teacher, an experienced lady who was very keen to show us her students’ capacities, and the numerous prizes she had won with them at national and international competitions.
The importance of IT and digital education was also displayed during our visit to the Liceul Teoretic “Petr Rumeanţev” in Cahul. Our small group of Young European Ambassadors entered this quintessential Moldovan school building, where framed pictures of model students and their teachers hung in the entry hall. We were then guided to the “old IT classroom” – as the IT teacher called it- where desktop computers were placed on old wooden tables arranged in a circle in the room and coding exercises were written in chalk on the blackboard. Not a very suitable setting for an IT lesson in 2023, the teacher pointed out. They wanted to show us this “old classroom” before presenting us the brand new “Digital Lab” which opened its doors in September 2022. With its colourful tables, its Wi-Fi connected laptops, and its smartboard, the school’s “Digital Lab” is a much better environment for students to develop their IT skills. A couple of students showed us the work they had been doing throughout the semester, which ranged from digital art to website design or providing digital services. When describing their work, they all focused on the benefits they could bring to their community. One of the websites, for example, was created to help a local business sell its products online, while another helped citizens of a municipality to find waste collection points. As such, this “Digital Lab” project, partly financed by the EU, enables students to acquire the necessary skills to lead to better opportunities when entering the job market, which is increasingly shaped by digital professions. By investing in such projects, the EU invests in the future of the youth of Moldova.
Investment in SME and business creation
Our trip to Cahul also brought us to the city’s Business Incubator, a building in the city centre which helps local entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. The Incubator currently hosts 22 resident companies, which will benefit from various types of service and mentorships for three years. This will enable their sustainable integration into the Moldovan and European economic landscape. The idea of such a structure is to foster a positive environment for the business sector and participants by giving them the tools to succeed, while providing them with the necessary infrastructure for their development. Cahul’s Business Incubator was launched in August 2017 with a strong financial support from the European Union, later accompanied by the EU4Moldova “Start-up city Cahul” programme, bringing €7 million to the city over the 2020-2023 period. According to its website, the Incubator has already created 80 jobs, and almost half of them belong to young people. The “Digital Lab” from Liceului Teoretic “Petr Rumeanţev” is just 100 metres from Cahul’s Business Incubator, across the Central Park. One can therefore hope that the circle of European investment can be completed, and that the talents developed by students in the EU-funded “Digital Lab” can be nurtured in a start-up nurtured at the EU-funded Business Incubator. By investing in the digitalisation of the country and in its local businesses, the EU is creating opportunities for Moldovan youth, giving them the tools to forge a bright future for themselves and their country.
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