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European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner Address to Members of Parliament of the Republic of Moldova
Parliament of the Republic of Moldova
Chisinau, 27 November 2009
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank President Ghimpu and the leaders of the parliamentary parties for their invitation to address this distinguished assembly. It gives me great pleasure to be back in Chisinau and to discuss with you the great opportunities ahead in the EU-Moldova relationship.
For ten years now, we have worked together to strengthen our relationship, increase co- operation on foreign policy and security matters, and bring our markets and people closer together. Our joint efforts have brought many successes, especially since the signature of the EU-Moldova ENP Action Plan in February 2005.
Our relationship has been growing and deepening, and we can see the results in the impact on your society and your economy. Progress is being made, though reforms still have a long way to go, if your country is to achieve the full benefits of a closer relationship with the EU.
Following the parliamentary elections in April, a number of important political meetings between the European Union and the Republic of Moldova were postponed which has set back progress a little. Your country has been through a difficult period, and we understand that it is not easy to pursue a meaningful political dialogue at such times.
As you know, the European Union is a union based on the respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We believe that these are the values that give people the best quality of life, wherever they live in the world; and by unleashing the potential of each and every citizen in a country, these universal values also hold the key to economic success.
That is why we act on these principles in our relations with all other countries, and it is why we insisted on receiving a clear commitment to these values, before we could go ahead with our offer to deepen our relationship, including with the negotiation of a new agreement.
From our side, we are committed to helping Moldova come to terms with the difficult electoral and post-electoral period. This will be crucial for both the social and political stabilisation of the country. Political forces should start developing a culture building on respect between the majority and the opposition, with a fair system of checks and balances in place. Your country needs this capacity of all political parties to act together at times of crisis in the interest of the people. The European Commission was swift to adopt a ‘Democracy Support Package’ for Moldova to support this. We welcome the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry tasked with conducting an impartial, transparent and effective investigation into the events following 5 th April. Through the ‘Democracy Support Package’, we can help the Commission of Inquiry carry out its mandate, if it wishes, by making technical expertise available.
We regret that time was lost during the electoral process. But today, we have a new situation. The repeat elections on 29 July sent a strong positive signal about the state of democracy in Moldova. The commitments that we wanted to see on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law have now been indeed confirmed. And we see the emergence of a promising consensus in Moldovan society as well as in the European Union on strengthening our links. All this encourages me to hope that we can now get back down to tackling the challenges facing Moldova. We need to make up for lost time!
Ladies and gentlemen,
The EU wants to accelerate the development of our relationship with the Republic of Moldova, making full use of all the opportunities offered by the Eastern Partnership.
I am delighted to say that the Moldovan Government agrees with the need to inject a new dynamic into our relations. And now that Moldova has re-established equal treatment of all EU citizens in its visa policy, we are ready to begin serious discussions on our future cooperation.
The first priority is the negotiation of a new agreement to replace, and go further than, the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. That new agreement should include among others the aim of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between Moldova and the EU. Not because it is an end in itself, but because it is the strongest incentive to promote trade, attract more foreign investment, and thus develop your creative potential to offer perspectives and employment to your new generations. The successful preparatory talks with your chief negotiator and the agreement of both sides to hold the first round of negotiations on 12 January 2010, are very important steps forward. If Moldova demonstrates that it is willing and able to comply with the commitments arising out of these negotiations, we will propose to name this new legal basis for our relations an ‘Association Agreement’, as foreseen in the Eastern Partnership.
As I have already indicated, the European Union’s prime areas of concern are respect for human rights and the process of political reform. These underpin our commitment to you through the Eastern Partnership. Consolidating Moldova’s transition to a fully-fledged pluralistic democracy will be a challenge, but will bring many benefits. Your Government's interest in exploring the possibility of establishing a regular Human Rights dialogue with the European Union gives us hope that the Republic of Moldova intends to make steady progress on these crucial issues.
Of course, no efforts to improve the situation of Moldova’s citizens would be called a success, without a clear perspective of economic improvement. Establishing a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between your country and the European Union will entail structural reforms that will not be easy at the beginning – but could, in due course, bring great economic benefits for your people. Last Friday, the Commission discussed with the Moldovan side, at the technical level, the prospects of an EU-Moldova Free Trade Area. They are good, but the pace of progress will depend on Moldova’s ability to implement the necessary measures. In order to advance these preparations as much as possible we agreed on a step-by-step approach. We propose to draw up a roadmap to identify which actions are necessary to help you prepare to take on the commitments that a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area will imply.
We know that freer travel to Europe is just as important to Moldovan citizens. We could take gradual steps towards further simplifying travel conditions with the long-term goal of visa-free travel to the European Union, provided that the conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are put in place. The establishment of a pilot Common Visa Application Centre in 2007, the 2008 Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements and our Mobility Partnership are a good start. We encourage Moldova to intensify its process of reforms in the fields of justice, freedom and security, which are essential for any future discussion on visa-free travel.
Perhaps the most immediate challenge facing Moldova is its severe financial and economic crisis, and we are ready to help, notably through direct financial assistance. The Commission has already committed itself to make available very substantial macro-financial assistance in addition to the future IMF agreement. With our funding to Moldova set to increase further, and other donors also increasing their efforts, we will need to strengthen synergies between donors. The Moldovan Government will have to play its part, by ensuring strong leadership on coordination of assistance. I welcome the efforts that have already been made on this.
Finally, we remain as committed as ever to supporting efforts to find a solution for the Transnistria question, which will continue to undermine Moldova, unless it can be resolved. I welcome the new Government’s efforts to formulate a new policy on the way forward with Transnistria. EU-sponsored confidence building measures, and increased visibility of both the Republic of Moldova and the European Union in Transnistria could play a part in achieving a settlement. Like your government, we believe that ‘5+2’ is the only viable format for a durable solution.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Moldova faces formidable challenges on many fronts - economic, financial, social, and political. But it does not stand alone, as long as it acts in its own interest through continued, determined efforts to stabilise its internal situation. I have every confidence that you will tackle the difficult reforms ahead, because you know they are crucial to your future success.
Let me share my vision with you. I see a prosperous Moldova, its society reconciled and its territorial integrity restored. Europe’s history of reconciliation and unification in the last half century has a lesson to offer. It has brought prosperity and stability to us, and in sharing our experience with you, we hope to see you fully reap the same benefits.
Thank you for your attention.