Johannes Hahn - Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations
Statement in the European Parliament Plenary on the Association Agreement with Moldova (Austrevicius report)
President, distinguished members of the European Parliament.
Let me first of all thank Austrevicius, Member of the European Parliament, for his excellent report which contains many important recommendations and shows that we have a high degree of consensus on our policy with the Republic of Moldova.
The people of the Republic of Moldova are aspiring to benefit from the same freedoms and stability we enjoy and which are not self-evident for everybody on our continent. They wish to move closer to the European Union, to our unique community. And the aspirations of the people of the Republic of Moldova remind us of what the European Union has achieved over the last decades: we enjoy democracy, rule of law, prosperity, peace and absence of major threats to our sovereignty.
Focus on the Republic of Moldova is important. The Republic of Moldova is showing determination to bring its European agenda forward. For this reason, in cooperation with High Representative Vice-President Federica Mogherini, I have chosen to make my first visit as Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations to Chisinau. The Republic of Moldova is often called the "frontrunner" of the Eastern Partnership, for it has achieved so much in a short period of time in its bilateral relations with the EU. We have negotiated in record speed the all-encompassing Association Agreement including its highly complex Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. The Republic of Moldova is the first country of the Eastern Partnership that has a visa-free regime.
I am proud to be here today so that we can together take a key step in Moldova's political association and economic integration with the EU. Our Association Agreement represents a fundamental intensification and elevation of our relations - our ties now go far beyond what they were under the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement. But the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area are instrumental to enhance transparency, foster economic growth, support stability and prosperity. Let me emphasise again that in this process we are guided by our core values, which we put at the service of all citizens – citizens who deserve improved life standards which can be achieved only through sustainable and inclusive development in the country and in the region.
With the upcoming Parliamentary elections on 30 November Moldova is facing an important moment in its recent history. The holding of free and fair parliamentary elections is a key event in the country's democratic life. The EU stands ready to continue its close cooperation with a future democratically elected Moldovan government that wishes to pursue this path. Moreover, we are looking forward to a new impetus to the ambitious reform agenda after the elections. Corruption needs to be fought; the justice and law enforcement systems need thorough modernisation and the business and investment climate needs to be improved. Only these key reforms will allow the Country to unfold its full economic development potential. The EU will support Moldova in these endeavours. During my recent visit to Chisinau I signed a Financing Agreement for a new EU programme supporting DCFTA implementation, for a total of € 30 million, supporting small business, development of national legislation in line with EU quality standards and promotion of export and investment opportunities.
Let me stress that the Association Agreement is concluded with the whole Republic of Moldova but it cannot be effectively implemented yet on its entire territory. We hope for the possibility of applying the Agreement, and in particular the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, to all of its territory provided the Republic of Moldova ensures its full implementation and enforcement. This and visa liberalisation plus our confidence building measures across the river Nistru underpin our commitment to help Moldova overcome the division of the country.
We have also shown to Moldova that the EU is a reliable partner when it is faced with unjustified external pressure.
We have increased our tariff free quotas for the import of specific Moldovan fruits and vegetables. In August, we have inaugurated the gas interconnector between Iasi and Ungheni and we stand ready to support the construction of the pipeline to Chisinau. Moreover, Moldova is the country receiving the highest EU aid per capita in the Eastern neighbourhood.
Let me conclude that today´s ratification of our Association Agreement with the Republic of Moldova represents a major achievement for the people of this country, wanting to benefit from the same values, security and prosperity as us, but also for the EU´s foreign policy in its Eastern neighbourhood. The Association Agreement is a milestone on Moldova´s path towards the EU.
President and distinguished members thank you for your attention, and I look forward to hearing your views.