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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with the Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Ponta, and the Prime Minister of Moldova, Iurie Leancă

Press point/Brussels

15 November 2013

Good morning ladies and gentleman,

It is a pleasure to welcome the two Prime Ministers of Romania and the Republic of Moldova, Victor Ponta and Iurie Leancă, to the European Commission today.

The reason for our meeting is to broaden our cooperation and interconnections, both political and in terms of infrastructure, between the European Union Member States and our close neighbours and partners in the East.

Let me say, as I said during our meeting, that I think today is a great première. It's the first time - since I can remember - that we have a meeting between the Commission, the government of one of our Member States and the government of such a close partner and friend that we are expecting to become politically associated and economically integrated with the European Union.

This is a première, and I'd like at this occasion to give a special word of thanks to Romania, and to you personally, Prime Minister Ponta. I think that your strong support, not only to the European path of Moldova but also to the Eastern Partnership is very much appreciated. It shows that Romania, not only is benefiting from the European integration but it's also giving a very important contribution to our common European projects and common European values. I thank you for that.

I also thank you, Prime Minister Leancă, for your strong European commitment. And I think the quality of our exchange today just confirms how much we see each other eye to eye in these matters about the values and about the European path of your country.

The objectives of our policies do not stop at our borders. This is the case of the strategic issue of energy interconnections, which was the main focus of our meeting. Commissioner Oettinger also participated in the meeting.

Energy security and diversity of energy supply is of the utmost importance, for our Union and our neighbours. Every European citizen should have access to safe and affordable energy. No European nation should be an energy island – isolated from European networks. And Moldova, as a member of the Energy Community, should be free to choose the same rights of access to the energy internal market if it wishes.

This is a general principle that is worth underlining ahead of the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit in two weeks. We support and engage deeply with our neighbours and friends, and their free and democratic choices must be respected.

Today, we have made significant progress on identifying a priority list of joint energy interconnection projects and how we can make these a reality on the ground.

We took in fact some concrete decisions as well. And we have identified two main priorities in the short-term:

Firstly, the gas projects which will enable gas deliveries from Romania all the way to Chisinau.

The Iaşi-Ungheni gas interconnector is already underway. This project represents the first direct interconnection of Moldova with the EU gas market and the first step into a wider project to eventually link Chisinau with the EU gas market. It will greatly enhance Moldova's ability to diversify the sources and routes of its energy. It will be good for businesses and citizens alike.

This infrastructure development should of course go hand in hand with the introduction of the necessary market reforms and regulatory measures in Moldova. It will enable undertakings to purchase gas from different sources and transport it via various routes. Its successful implementation will therefore be looked at as a reference for further infrastructure projects.

Secondly, we have identified the most important electricity project, the back-to-back station on the Vulcanesti-Isaccea grid, which will allow Moldova to increase electricity imports from Romania to up to half of Moldova's yearly power consumption.

Both projects can significantly increase the energy security of Moldova, by stabilizing its energy supply and by reducing the risk of increasing prices.

I have committed today that the Commission will continue to provide both political and financial support. The EU has already provided €7 million towards the Iaşi-Ungheni gas interconnector project, which is currently under construction, and we are also financing the feasibility study for Moldova and Ukraine's connection to the ENTSO-E electricity system.

We will continue to extend our support to all parties in moving these projects forward. We have also discussed the potential of the EU Neighbourhood Investment Facility to provide significant support by leveraging loans from International Financial Institutions, not only the European Investment Bank but also the EBRD and the World Bank.

From a wider perspective, I have also urged both Romania and Moldova to engage actively in the European Union's work for gas supply diversification in South East Europe, by developing a reverse gas flow corridor across South Eastern Europe from Greece to Ukraine.

All this shows the importance of our cooperation. And the Commission is strongly committed to ensuring that all neighbouring countries that wish to be connected to the European energy system, can be. The close cooperation that Romania and Moldova have demonstrated on these issues is a very positive step forward, and I would like to thank once again the two Prime Ministers for their vision and leadership. In the Commission, we continue to stand behind our friends.

On this note, I'm extremely pleased to announce today that after considerable efforts by the Moldovan authorities over the last three years, the Commission's report on Visa Liberalisation which we are publishing this morning concludes that Moldova meets all the benchmarks set. Following the Eastern Partnership Summit, the European Commission will present a legislative proposal to lift visa requirements for Moldovan citizens holding a biometric passport. This is very good news for citizens and a very tangible element towards a closer political association and economic integration with the European Union, because we are also speaking here about people to people contact. We are making this European path a reality.

I thank you for your attention.

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