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Fake News, Moldova-Style

An article last month alleged that the EU was planning to destroy Romanian vineyards, and that the Moldovan ones would be next. From Ziarul de Garda. by Lilia Zaharia 27 April 2018

At the end of this March, the website Vedomosti.md, a Russian-language news site, published an article entitled “EU is planning to 'voluntarily’ destroy Romanian vineyards – the Moldovan ones are next.” The piece said that the European Union wants to impose a directive that would destroy the vineyards in several countries, including Romania. Both the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Romania, and the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development have denied the information, which they labelled a fabrication. The reforms that are being implemented on the European level in the field of viticulture have, in fact, the aim of developing this sector to make it more competitive, they said.

 

The article published by Vedomosti.md was quickly reposted by the site Flux.md, as well as by Ya-russ.ru, and was accompanied with an image of an axe with the EU symbol, directed toward a vineyard. All the versions mention information published on obscure sites, according to which some EU member states are in favor of the adoption of the EU directive about the “voluntary” destruction of vineyards covering hundreds of thousands of hectars in some countries, including Romania.

 

Screenshot via Vedomosti.md

 

“This is the result of pressure from countries with centuries-long traditions in viticulture,” read the article, “in particular from French farmers who have suffered from overproduction in recent years, and who believe that their income on the EU market has substantially declined because of the competition.” The text mentions that the destruction of more than 175,000 hectars (432,430 acres) of vineyards has been planned since 2008. 

 

The same information about the “EU’s plans to burn down Romanian vineyards” was also published two years ago by several Romanian sites: Jurnalmm.ro, Alternativenews.roInfoalert.ro, Ziarelive.ro, and others. This year, that post has been republished by Romania100.euEmenti.com, and others.

 

The Stopfals.md website, which exposes online disinformation, asked the Romanian Minsitry of Agriculture about the allegation that the EU might request Romania to burn its vineyards. The official response was that, on the contrary, after accession to the union, Romania has benefitted from EU funds to modernize this sector, and that vine growers have renewed their plantations with competitive vines.

 

The Romanian ministry said that the information made public by some sites about the intention to reduce the area of the vineyards “has no basis,” adding “On the contrary, ... member states grant new authorizations each year for planting new vines. Romania has no knowledge of any project or directive related to the subject that you have been inquiring about.”

 

The Rest is Fiction 

 

Stopfals.md also asked for comments from the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. The committee repeated that the EU has been helping Romania renew its vineyards, and not destroy them.

 

“The EU is supporting Romanian viticulture in other ways as well,” said the committee. “Through a national support program, Romania can spend up to 47.7 million euros ($57.7 million) each year for a series of measures, such as promotion in the EU’s internal market, or in other non-EU countries; the restructuring and the reconversion of vineyards;  and investment and innovation in the vine and wine sector …” read the answer. “There is no such directive asking for the destruction of vineyards, and no request from France to do so. The situation is as we have told you, and the rest is fiction.” 

 

The article published by Vedomosti.md said that the EU might impose certain measures on the vine and wine sectors in Moldova as well: “It seems that vineyards in Moldova would have the same fate. Starting on 1 April, certificates permitting the production of champagne, cognac, and cahors will no longer be issued; the producers would have to use the words 'sparkling,’ 'divine,’ and 'pastoral’ wines. This measure is part of the EU association agreement signed in 2014, and the politics of large EU member states aim to destroy the industry and agriculture in all the countries that are their competition.”

 

Economic expert Veaceslav Ionita says that this information is severely distorting the truth, given that the conditions, which come into effect on 1 April, are meant to help Moldova sell its wine products in the EU under its own names, and not borrowed ones. “It’s an instance of cheap manipulation. Throughout Europe, the origin of merchendise is protected. That’s why ... Moldova will no longer produce and export alcoholic beverages under Occidental [Western] geographic names coming from their place of origin, such as Champagne, Cognac, and Cahors, which are French regions, but it will use its own, domestic names: sparkling wine for champagne, divine for cognac, and pastoral for cahor. Those are our country’s brands, which we should promote, but without primitively using the names of products from other regions,” Ionita argues.

 

Ionita concludes that the disinformation about Europeans burning vineyards is in the same category as the myth that the EU would prohibit the slaughter of domestic animals by households. He notes that such manipulations are promoted by those who try to denigrate the EU’s policies without presenting well-founded arguments.

 

Note: A few days after publishing the article, Vedomosti.md deleted it, though the text is still available here.

Lilia Zaharia writes for Stopfals.md, which is produced by the Association of Independent Press (API) and aims to debunk disinformation on the internet in Moldova. This article was originally published in Russian on Ziarul de Garda, a news and analysis site based in Moldova. TOL has done some editing to fit our style. Reprinted with permission. 

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