Madame Secretary General,
Mr. Secretary General,
It is an honour for me, to be back in this Hall, as President of the Republic of Moldova, and to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting me here to share the views and the recent developments in my country.
At the outset, I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Daems for your election as PACE President and to wish you energy and success in the new endeavours of such an important mandate.
Last year, our organization, the Council of Europe, celebrated 70 years since its establishment, a time that made us get focused on historical reflections and common achievements. Over the last two decades, our continent faced more and more challenges. The system of international law is constantly subject to risks, whereas Europe has undergone essential geopolitical changes.
In this context, in which the contemporary world order is changing, the future of this space depends on us, on the contribution of each member country and of every European citizen. From this perspective, I believe that the Council of Europe and its artisans, as catalysts for change, have necessary expertise and levers, including legal ones, to continue the European project.
In the case of the Republic of Moldova, the impact of belonging to the Council of Europe for 25 years has been an important step in strengthening the cause of democracy.
This has been felt through a whole series of significant transformations – from the reform and adjustment of the constitutional normative framework, to the creation of institutions and the formation of a new mentality. The accession of the Republic of Moldova to the Council of Europe has played an important role in initiating and carrying out, sometimes difficult, the transition process towards the consolidation of the rule of law: a state based on the rule of law, on respecting, guaranteeing and promoting the fundamental human rights and freedoms.
With your indulgence, I will point out some important chapters to inform you as eloquently as possible about the current situation in the Republic of Moldova and about our vision on internal politics, external priorities, major agenda reforms, interethnic relations, and progress in solving the Transnistrian problem.
1. Situation in internal policy
Over the whole period since the proclamation of independence, elections as a basic institution of democracy have become a matter of pride for the political system of the Republic of Moldova.
I can safely say that Moldova is among the countries where the state power passes from one political force to another only within the limits of legal and democratic norms and procedures. Over almost 30 years of independence, 5 presidents, 8 legislatures, over 15 heads of government have changed in Moldova. Of course, like any country, we are not immune to political crises and challenges. In 2009 and 2019, the citizens of the Republic of Moldova witnessed the so-called coup attempts. Fortunately, they did not destabilize the political system and did not throw the country into the chaos of civil conflict, as it happened in other countries where similar events took place.
The year 2019 was a very difficult one for the Republic of Moldova – we had three governments changed. We managed to avoid destabilizing the political situation, mainly due to the internal political consensus and external support.
In last June the Party of Socialists and the electoral bloc “ACUM” (“Now”) formed a coalition government, with an ambitious agenda of saving the country from oligarchs. We hoped that we would overcome the existing contradictions and implement a series of important reforms to stabilize the economic situation and restore constructive relations with our external partners in the West and East. We have succeeded in many things together, but unfortunately, the Government was not a stable one, which led to his resignation and the appointment, in November 2019, of a new Cabinet of ministers.
All these events represented a test for the entire political class and for the citizens of our country. Despite the difficult times, the political class, civil institutions, and the entire Moldovan society have shown their maturity and commitment to the rule of law. Overcoming the political crisis and the peaceful transfer of power gave a new impetus to international cooperation and allowed the Republic of Moldova to follow firmly its path of democratic development.
2. Priorities of foreign policy
Since gaining its independence, the Republic of Moldova has always been divided between different geopolitical currents, most often created by politicians to obtain electoral capital.
We have had pro-European parties and politicians who had compromised the European course of our country. The geopolitical struggle between Moldovan parties has created confusion among citizens and has often blocked the country’s progress.
All of us who are involved in political activities must acknowledge their responsibility for this situation, learn from it and make necessary changes so that our country would be no longer divided between pro-Europeans, pro-Russians, pro-Americans, pro-Romanians and so on.
The priority of the President and the new Government in Chisinau is the balanced foreign policy course. This implies efficient implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU, the restoration and development of the strategic partnership with the Russian Federation, with our neighbours Romania and Ukraine, with the USA, Turkey, and other countries.
The principle of balanced foreign policy offers openness to all international partners, both from the West and from the East. The Republic of Moldova is a European country and we support the idea of creating a united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
We are firmly committed to building a developed, prosperous, modern rule of law, which will have its rightful place not only in Europe, but also in the entire world.
I wish Moldova would no longer be classified as pro-Russian, pro-European, pro-American, or pro-Romanian. We have citizens who can support all these directions, or none at the same time. It is important not to generate geopolitical stereotypes, but to embrace democratic values. My goal and my greatest desire as president is to unite the people, to combat this false geopolitical division, created by political parties in their pursuit to obtain an electorate that they can control exclusively.
That is why I am asking you: do not support parties, but support the citizens of the Republic of Moldova.
If we were to review now the names of the pro-European parties and the leaders of the Republic of Moldova for the last 10 years, who have enjoyed trust among European leaders, we would all leave our eyes in shame. To be pro-European does not just mean being politically attached to a European political group, but first of all, having the ability to take over and implement European values in the Republic of Moldova. As President, I wish the important support that the EU countries give to Moldova could reach the citizens directly, be properly appreciated and promoted, but not used for the benefit of parties or politicians.
I would very much like the European institutions not to give blank checks to any political party in the Republic of Moldova. Past experiences showed how strongly some political leaders managed to compromise the European assistance given to our country, and they took advantage of the trust the European leaders gave them. I assure you that in this way the citizens will be able to appreciate at fair value the important support provided by EU countries.
3. A strong need to implement reforms
Continuing reforms and transforming the Republic of Moldova is an irreversible process, necessary, first of all, for the country and its citizens. Building democracy has no simple solution. It is possible only under conditions of political and economic stability, through the proper functioning of democratic institutions, a number of them created with the support of the Council of Europe. At the present stage, it is important for politicians and partners to show tolerance, seriousness, in order to achieve the proposed reforms.
The process of reforming the country is based on the Government’s Activity Program for the years 2020-2023 and the provisions of the Association Agreement between the Republic of Moldova and European Union. In this context, the recommendations of the PACE and of the monitoring committees of the Council of Europe are also taken into account. At present, the main efforts of the President, Parliament, and Government of our country are aimed at implementing several reforms, but I would like to highlight in particular our efforts in justice reform and the fight against corruption.
Through the complex justice reform we aim to eradicate corruption among the magistrates, to ensure a professional and integrity judicial body, to restore the citizens’ confidence in the judicial system and justice in Moldova. This reform must be taken out of the political debate.
In this context, I would like to thank the Secretary General of the Council of Europe for the immediate decision to establish an ad-hoc Working Group on Justice Reform and for the first visit of the Council officials to Chisinau last week. We do not want a reform for the sake of reform or a copy of it at any price. We want a process based on trust and support.
The justice reform is in fact one element of the overall reform of institutions. Here I must recognize the reality as it is – the state institutions are extremely weak after so many years of political control over them, after a period when there was created a functioning model based on political subordination. That is why, the justice reform is one of the most important challenges we face. Institutions must be reformed and function in the service of the citizens.
This is the area where the support of the European institutions is crucial for us. Frankly speaking, the rule of law practically eroded over the last years in the Republic of Moldova. I think you have felt this many times, but we have felt it directly.
Through the justice reform, we will overcome the deficiencies concerning the respect of human rights, which have been declining in Moldova in recent years. We have had hundreds of cases when people had been imprisoned, their right to defense or to a fair justice being violated. And this happened even during the period of time when the so-called pro-European parties ruled the country. They, in fact, abused this pro-European umbrella to take benefits for their group interests, even their criminal interests.
The recent events, however, have shown how strongly the situation in Moldova degraded and that there has been no geopolitics behind, nor any fight between Moscow and the EU, despite the oligarchic regime’s allegations as it had been trying to cover up its abuses in the country.
It is really bad what happened over the last years in the Republic of Moldova in terms of human rights. The state institutions must reveal the cases and bring those responsible to justice.
While some politicians try to highlight geopolitical issues such as uniting with Romania, fighting against Moscow, fighting against Americans and other false issues, for me and the government team, the real threat to state security is the internal one. A real, not a geopolitical one. It’s the one against which no government has really fought up till now: corruption. Hundreds thousands of Moldovan citizens have left the country under previous governments not because of the geopolitical orientation, but because of the corruption that led to poverty, social inequity, and injustice. This is why the issue of corruption is on the agenda of every meeting of the Supreme Security Council, which I lead as the country’s president. That is why we have asked the government for deep reforms in the domain of justice, in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and in close collaboration with the experts of this institution.
We have some important developments in the fight against corruption. We have started learning the truth about the bank fraud and its beneficiaries. The state institutions are finally heading for their referral to justice. We have important progress in clarifying the illegal concession of the airport, but also in other resonance files.
And this is possible because the politicians have let the free justice start working.
4. Interethnic relations and cooperation with regions
The Republic of Moldova is a multi-ethnic state in which more than one hundred ethnic groups live peacefully. The Russian language in the Republic of Moldova has the status of a language of interethnic communication.
The situation in this area has improved significantly due to the 2017 Strategy for the Consolidation of Interethnic Relations in the Republic of Moldova for years 2017-2027.
Changing the regulatory framework in the field of governance of local public authorities is based on respect for the principle of local autonomy and decentralization in accordance with the provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the Recommendations of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
An example of this kind could be the development of relations between the central public authorities of the Republic of Moldova and the regional authorities of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia. In this context, I should note the active cooperation between Members of the Moldovan Parliament and local Assembly of the Gagauz Autonomy on drafting the legislative initiatives related to the further improvement of Moldovan legislation in terms of the autonomy status. Despite some difficulties, Gagauzia is successfully developing and acquiring the features of a modern European-style autonomy.
The Moldovan leadership will continue to pay major attention to the residents of Gagauzia, to support the socio-economic development of the region and its cultural diversity. Such a policy with respect to Gagauzia will certainly contribute to the consolidation of a multi-ethnic society of the Republic of Moldova.
5. Settlement of the Transnistrian problem and confidence building measures
The problem of the Transnistrian settlement and confidence-building measures are one of the top priorities of the Moldovan leadership.
Over the three years, I have held seven personal meetings with the leadership of the Transnistrian region, where we discussed issues aimed at solving the problems faced by citizens of the Republic of Moldova on both banks of the Nistru river.
We support the progress achieved in 2017-2019 in implementing confidence-building measures in the so-called “Berlin +” package in the “5 + 2” format.
I would like to note that out of eight confidence building measures, six have been implemented or are under implementation.
Among the most important ones are the issue of neutral license plates for cars on the left bank of the Nistru river, the recognition of diplomas of educational institutions of Transnistria, and the solution of mobile communication problem.
Legal, economic and humanitarian issues of human rights and freedoms in the Transnistrian region remain the subject of attention of the Presidential office, Parliament, and Government. We believe this issue can be discussed more actively in the 5 + 2 format with the help of the OSCE and Council of Europe.
Another important task in progressing the dialogue on the Transnistrian problem is elaborating the main parameters of the special status of Transnistria as a part of the sovereign, independent, unitary, and indivisible Republic of Moldova within internationally recognized borders with an adequate mechanism of guarantee of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
One of the key factors of a positive impact on the Transnistrian settlement process, in our opinion, is the implementation of the Strategy of contributing to international recognition of the permanent neutral status of the Republic of Moldova, which, of course, will strengthen the security in this region of Europe. In this context, we welcome the initiative of the Russian Federation, announced in August 2019, on its intention to resume the process of destruction of ammunition on the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
One of the most important features of civilized countries is remembering the events that pushed the world to the edge of the abyss, brought us closer to disaster. We must remember evil in the name of good. Our task today is to prevent the repetition of past wars, the Holocaust, genocide and other disasters, to prevent new forms of slavery, discrimination, and oppression of people. It is our collective responsibility to prevent any manifestation of violence based on ethnic criteria.
A few days ago, on January 27, we all together marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army. In 2015, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova decided to officially declare January 27 as the Holocaust Remembrance Day – of a terrible crime against humanity. Our country at the legislative level supports the efforts of the international community in the fight against terrorism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has not yet been fully overcome, and we should all be vigilant.
I want to remind you today that this year on May 9 we celebrate an important historical date – the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Large-scale events dedicated to the Victory Day will be held in the Republic of Moldova, and this will be another impetus for strengthening national unity, will help society to unite, live together, be friends and work for the benefit of people, in the name of peace and justice. I really hope that this important date – May 9 – is remembered and honored in other countries that have gone through that terrible war.
This year we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, which has taken care of maintaining tolerance and peace in the entire world. This is not an easy task, but we know that thanks to the UN many large-scale wars were prevented and that over the past decades human rights provisions took a strong position in the constitutions of most countries.
May these anniversary dates serve as a reminder for us that goodness needs our protection!
Over time, the Council of Europe has become a catalyst for democratic change in the Republic of Moldova. We consider that, despite all the difficulties that our country encounters in forming a modern rule of law, the Republic of Moldova can count on support to achieve the objective of concluding the monitoring procedure by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of the Europe. I assure you that the time has come to take this step and identify the arguments that support this natural desire. We want to be treated as a country capable of taking responsibility for its own actions and decisions.
I would like to emphasize that from a political, economic and humanitarian point of view, Moldova as a state has been and remains a European country. We are ready to make serious changes in the Council of Europe as a full member of this respectable pan-European organization.
We are entering a new decade. It is a good opportunity to think again about the reasons why the Council of Europe has been created.
I am sure that, despite the uncertainties, the European project of the Common House remains a project that inspires and mobilizes.
We must be aware that, whatever the national specificity and the languages spoken, we only must act together, for the values that we share and for stability based on cooperation, human rights and the state by right.
This is the way to strengthen European stability and security.
Thanks a lot for your attention.