March 12, 2003
10:00 - 13:00 CEST/CET
“The European Option of the Republic of Moldova”
Speech by H.E. Mrs. Natalia Gherman, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova in the Republic of Austria (Diplomatic Academy, Vienna, 12 March 2003)
‘Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
Allow me to first of all express my gratitude for the organization of this event, for your presence here and for your interest in the Republic of Moldova. Today I have the special honour and pleasure to speak in front of you about a subject of vital importance for my country – European integration.
The well known prestige of the organizers and hosts of this event, the depth of their analysis and prognoses in various fields, their impact on Austrian political thinking, give me the confidence that the problems of the young Moldovan state present interest to the political circles and public opinion of Austria. The young democracies of the Eastern Europe are a constant priorityontheAustrianforeignpolicyagenda. Ibelieveanopendiscussion on the situation in the Republic of Moldova serves the interests of my country and could provide food for thought to Austrian political strategists.
Europe’s present transformation, the reflections on its future, equally concerns all actors on the continent, regardless of their institutional membership. Before moving to the main topic of my presentation, I would like to briefly touch upon a few issues concerning the Republic of Moldova.
The history of the last few centuries was cruel to my country, whose destiny placed it at a dangerous crossroads of great interests. Without being asked for an opinion, our predecessors have alternately found themselves under empires and countries, political and social systems, sometimes diametrically opposed ones, while staying on the same territory, speaking the same language and maintaining the same customs and traditions.
Now a decade ago, the same History presented us with a new opportunity – the chance for freedom, independence and European integration – one we strive to fully achieve. During the twelve years of transition from a totalitarian system to that of democratic values and fundamental freedoms, my country has managed sufficient progress to prove we are on the right track, even having committed some mistakes.
By adopting a new Constitution with a European inspiration, we have created the basis for a state, where a multiparty system is in place and a civil society is taking shape. Free elections have taken place and representatives of right, center or left political forces have shared power. Throughout independence, no Moldovan president has taken office twice, a proof of the fact that the last word was for the electorate to say.
Regardless of internal political movements or the political composition of governments, the development of relations with the European Union has constantly been at the top of Moldova’s foreign policy agenda. We have remained faithful to the firm desire to give them a new consistency, to get as close as possible to this politicaleconomic structure, to fully integrate ourselves in the great European family. The idea of European Integration became the national idea of the Republic of Moldova, and the policy of its implementation – an official one, massively supported by the population and the political structures as well.
The implementation of socialeconomic reforms has been and remains a priority. Over the recent years we have witnessed an economic growth of 56%, the inflation rate stays well bellow 3%, the national currency is generally stable. Moldova pursues an accelerated judicial reform, enjoying great support on behalf of various international organizations in this respect. The process of upgrading national legislation, including by the adoption of a series of new codes, the civil code in particular, the abolition of capital punishment confirm our attachment to modern democratic values.
During its independence, Moldova has promoted a foreign policy of openness, aimed at ensuring a strong cooperation both on a bilateral level and with international organizations. A member of the UN and OSCE, the Republic of Moldova was the first among CIS countries to be accepted to the Council of Europe in 1995; in a few months we shall take over chairmanship of this European organization’s Council of Ministers. The membership of the WTO offers us new possibilities to extend international cooperation. Moreover, my country is an active participant of various regional cooperation processes, of which I will mention the CIS, BSEC, CEI, Danube Cooperation Process, Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, etc..
More than 20 years ago, Chancellor Bruno Kreisky said: “There will be no Europe until we realize that it is everywhere, to the east and to the west, as well as in the center”. Today we have a unique opportunity to make these words a reality by putting an ultimate end to political, economic, social and psychological barriers that used to divide our continent for more than 50 years.
What do we understand by European integration, besides the fact that it is an objective of vital interest for my country? While referring to a recent speech of President Vladimir Voronin, I would say that the Republic of Moldova conceives European integration as a threedimensional process.
First of all, it is the road to the reintegration of Moldova itself, on the basis of universally accepted democratic legal standards. We do not wish to invent something new in finding a solution for the transnistrian problem. International practice shows that success can be ensured only through a diplomatic and democratic path, avoiding the persisting radicalism and intolerance.
That is why for us the European option means, most of all, a model of democracy and political stability, a set of recognized values. For us to be in Europe means to identify the solution to the transnistrian issue, which will grant the broadest democratic rights to the population on both banks of Nistru river.
It is this approach in particular that has been chosen by the leadership of my country. In particular, I refer to the recent initiative of the President of the Republic of Moldova V. Voronin concerning ways to speed the overall political settlement of the transnistrian conflict that was made public on February the 12th of this year. It foresees the establishment of a joint constitutional commission, which will comprise representatives of both Chisinau and the transnistrian region of Moldova that will draft a new Constitution, laying the ground for a federal state. The main obstacle in this regard, however, continues to be the nonconstructive position of the separatist regime.
The negotiations will soon enter their 11th year. During this time, Chisinau has offered a number of unilateral concessions that, unfortunately, have not been accepted by the transnistrian administration. The explanation of this phenomenon is simple: while taking advantage of the lack of any constitutional control over the transnistrian segment of the border between Moldova and Ukraine, a great share of this region’s administration has and continues to profit from illegal smuggling activities, including trafficking in human beings and weapons. Thus, the speedy resolution of this conflict became a problem of the entire continent. Apart from the mediators in the settlement process – Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE, I would like to underline the increasingly active role of the EU towards this issue, especially in the light of its recent decision to introduce a visa ban for 17 representatives of the Tiraspol administration. This decision is aimed at determining the separatist leaders to adopt a constructive attitude both in the context of negotiating a political settlement and in that of withdrawing foreign military troops from the territory of my country – another issue that is a challenge to Moldova’s security, the completion of which, despite a number of relevant OSCE decisions, is hindered by the separatist regime. We are confident that the initiative of President Voronin, accompanied by targeted measures against the separatist regime, offers acceptable solutions to the problems I mentioned and will, eventually, ensure the reintegration process.
Secondly, the European option for Moldova is the necessity to modernize its economy in conformity with market mechanisms that function in Europe and the whole world. Only with a competitive economy, a stable growth and a decent quality of life we can join the European family. We also have to upgrade our legal system and to remove the economy from the influence of certainpersons. Thelegalframeandtheeconomicinterestmustremainthe only authority for the economic agents.
Thirdly, European integration also means institutional reforms, development of our political structures, reform of public administration, with a clear division of functions and powers appropriate to a democratic and prosperous state.
Taking into account the above, I would state that the European option for us is not a circumstantial vector of foreign policy, but a fundamental objective ofthecountry’sdevelopment. Toachievethisgoal,werecentlyestablished the National Commission for European Integration that should soon submit for the approval of the country’s Parliament the Strategy of Accession to the EU and an Action Plan in this regard. The Foreign Ministry comprises a Department for European Integration and the Parliament has already created a special Integration Commission.
While keeping track of this objective, we shall not ignore the great transformations that EU is presently undergoing, and their impact on partner countries, including Moldova, which tomorrow will be part of the socalled belt of friendly nations. The European Council of Copenhagen has encouraged the identification of a status these countries could benefit from. So, it is natural for you to know our opinion about the new neighborhood initiative of the EU. I have to recognize that it is not easy for me to formulate a clear position on this issue, which is still under elaboration, only on the basis of some general elements with which we are familiar, especially since the EU does not have a common vision on this issue either.
On the issue of neighborhood: I believe it should first of all comprise the necessary stages and conditions the respective countries have to fulfil in order to advance from the level of cooperation to that of association. The example of the candidate and Western Balkan countries has clearly shown that a promised offer of EU accession generates a truly positive dynamic, encourages political, economic and legal reforms.
On the contrary, refusing Moldova a European perspective and rejecting its integration aspirations could shake the process of reforms and endanger the development of the still vulnerable democratic society. We welcome the fact that such a point of view is shared also by Austrian politicians, whose position is highly appreciated in Moldova. In this context, I would like to mention my contacts on the issue with the Federal President, the leadership of the Parliament and officials from the Foreign Ministry.
For us, it is important that an eventual neighbor status does not negatively affect Moldova’s relations with Southeast European countries that participate in various regional projects and initiatives, and our timely admittance to the Stabilization and Association Process. In our view, time should be the factor that determines the future EU borders, while Moldova shall be offered a chance and hope of a full EU integration.
In the meantime, the Republic of Moldova will continue to consequently and insistently promote its policy of European integration as a Southeast European country. After being accepted into the Stability Pact, my country became involved in most regional initiatives and projects. This valuable experience offered us an unique chance to expand relations with beneficiaries and also the framework and certain instruments necessary to facilitate the rapprochement with the EU. In this context, Moldova has associated itself to the Memorandum on the Facilitation and Liberalization of Trade in Southeast Europe, which follows the objective of establishing a Free Trade Area in the region and will include countries like Bulgaria, Romania, the Stabilization and Association Process countries and the Republic of Moldova. Recently, my country has been accepted as observer to the Memorandum on Regional Electricity market in Southeast Europe and invited, along with the five countries of the Stabilization and Association Process, to implement the European Charter for Small Enterprises and to sign the Ministerial Declaration of the eSoutheast Europe Informational Society Development.
We welcome the fact that EU, in spite of certain hesitation, has shown lately a creative approach in discussing Moldova’s admittance into a number of important EUsponsored projects in Southeast Europe. In order to continue and extend cooperation established within the Stability Pact, we require a treatment similar to that offered by the EU to other countries in the region. Otherwise, after all undertaken efforts, Moldova could find itself gradually excluded from Southeast European regional processes once the other StabilityPactbeneficiariesjointheEU. Inordertoavoidsuchapessimistic scenario, the next declared objective of the Republic of Moldova is its acceptance into the Stabilization and Association Process. In our opinion, this is a realistic objective, which could combine in an acceptable manner both the offer of a European perspective for Moldova, without any concrete dates so far, with a gradual and conditioned strategy of timely integration of my country into the EU.
This represents Moldova’s vision of its future relations with the EU – consequent, realistic and hopefully acceptable for the EU. Anyhow, the new neighbor status would be welcomed and accepted by the Republic of Moldova only if it will not widen, but close the gap between now and the time we could join the Stabilization and Association process while clearly establishing the conditions and stages to be passed.
All of the above represent issues of utmost priority in our bilateral dialogue with EU members, including Austria. The importance my country attaches to strengthening relations with this country is obvious: Austria has initiated the concept of eastward EU enlargement and, at the same time, is one of the very few European states that understands the best our European integration aspirations. Sharing borders with 4 candidate countries, developing dense network of economic, social and cultural relations with Central and Eastern Europe, Austria is one of the few current member States which will experience the biggest impact of the enlargement process. We believe that the valuable expertise gained in this sense will help us avoid unnecessary errors in the context of integration.
The development of the political bilateral dialogue is one of the most important dimensions of strengthening cooperation between our countries. At the same time, of no less importance are the economic, social and cultural dimensions of the relations between Moldova and Austria. Moldova is not yet very well known in Austria and my Embassy has the greatest role to play in changing this situation. However, without a great deal of support on behalf of the Austrian society, this task is “Mission Impossible”. It is in this very context that I want to mention in particular the good relations established between my office and the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe and its serious attitude towards the problems of this region. The upcoming visit to Moldova under the auspices of the IDM will offer the participants, some of whom are present here today, the possibility to closer acquaint with my country, its people, traditions and aspirations. I hope that that experience will determine you to be the impartial messengers of the truly European vocation of this small Southeast European state.
I could go on and on about various internal or external issues my country is dealing with. Instead, I prefer to answer your questions on the topics I raised and invite you to comment and provide any suggestion you deem appropriate.