At the end of June three former Soviet countries – Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia – signed Association agreements with the EU.
All three of them hope to become EU members sooner or later.
Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leancă told Euronews correspondent Natalia Richardson-Vikulina about his country great European expectations.
Natalia Richardson-Vikulina, Euronews:
An Association agreement Moldova-EU was just signed. Is it time to drink champagne? Or time to start working harder in the country where roughly only 50 percent of the population supports a deeper European integration?
Iurie Leancă, Prime Minister of Moldova:
I think it is time for both. For celebration because it reflects a period of 4.5 years of very hard work not just on negotiating of this agreement but also on making sure that reforms at home are conducted, that the legal framework has been approximated, that the practices, the standards have been changed. That is the reason why it is a very important event, a milestone in our European agenda. And we need to celebrate.
But of course it is also a very good reminder that now we need to work even harder and to make sure that Moldovan institutions, Moldovan economy meaning Moldovan entrepreneurs are able to benefit fully from the provisions of this agreement association agreement together with its integral part – free trade area arrangements.
Russian officials say that Moldova might face some risks in case of integration with the EU because the country will not be able to combine two regulatory systems – the CIS and the EU. What is your answer to that?
Our answer is very simple. In the first place we have conducted our own analysis on the compatibility of these two agreements. And our conclusion supported by foreign expertise as well was that there is no incompatibilities, that both agreements are in full compliance with a principle of the WTO. Number two: we said to our Russian colleagues that we have nothing to hide. That’s why we already had two rounds of consultations on a technical level. The last one took place in Kishinev (Chisinau) and we were able to respond to all the concerns of our Russian partners. And again I hope that our answers were good enough to show that there are no incompatibilities, that the free trade area of the European Union will not generate any big problems in our trade relations. Therefore what we said and we are committed to this principle that of there are any justifiable concerns let’s discuss them. But not on renegotiating the association agreement with the European Union together with free trade area but to look where specific concerns are and what could be the best mechanism to respond to those concerns.
Are you afraid that Moldova can have a Ukrainian or a Georgian-style scenario?
We of course studied very carefully what happened in Georgia years ago and in Ukraine which is our immediate neighbour, which is our extremely important partner, a country which we share a border with a length of 1240 km. We have very good traditional relationship, active trade, energy cooperation and of course Transnistrian conflict in the eastern district of Moldova which borders also Ukraine. Therefore we think we understand what happen in Ukraine and what were the conclusions for us of the Ukrainian tragedy developments. And the key conclusion is that once you have chosen your path, once you set up your objective you can not show hesitation or weaknesses. You just need to show determination and then the result will be the one that you expect. So that’s why the Ukrainian lessons to us is that we need to be more determined in pursuing the reforms, in showing to our people the results of those reforms and to explain that the European integration is the only existing alternative if you want to create a modern sustainable functioning state. And I am sure that this is the best option to proceed and in this way we will be able to avoid these tragic developments. Because ultimately the European integration means nothing else but making Moldova, Moldovan leadership much more predictable, much more stable. And if we are predictable it is not predictable only for our Western partners but also to our Eastern partners. So it’s a win-win situation and the entire region should benefit from this approach.
So you do not expect this scenario to be repeated in Moldova?
I hope that this reasonable approach will prevail in every responsible capital and in this way of course then we will be able definitely not allow us to enter a new phase of tensions in the region.
You already mentioned Transnistria and your country still has to resolve this problem. But how are you going to convince people in Transnistria that European choice is good for Moldova whilst both local politicians and population support joining Russia?
I think you are right, it is a matter of communication in the first place. Because the difference between us and our opponents is that they use a very old-fashioned propaganda, very primitive arguments. Whilst we have on our side facts and facts are extremely clear. If you look for example at the real interest of the business community from the Transnistrian region, 75% of what they produce goes not to the East or to the South, it goes to the West, to the right bank of Dniester, to Moldova – up to 40%, and 35% to the EU market. That’s where the entities from Transnistria. Those who work in those companies earn their money, that’s how they are able to sustain their jobs, that’s how the economy is working. To give you just one example, not to of course to ignore the other extremely important dimensions, where the assistance comes from. Assistance for roads, for social projects, for making our life much better, much more predictable. Again I am very convinced that those who live in Transnistria will look at these very pragmatic aspects. And to give you just one positive example. Since 28.04 Moldovan citizens have the right to freely travel to the Schengen space. What we have noticed that after this visa free regime became reality the interest of those who live in Transnistrian region and who are entitled to Moldovan citizenship their interest to get Moldovan passports has doubled. This is only one aspect that shows clearly that the European integration of the Republic of Moldova is extremely beneficial to those who live also on the left bank of Dniester.
When do you expect Moldova to become a member of the European Union?
We do not have problems with imagination. We were saying that it might happen in 2019-2020. But this is not the real objective at this stage. At this stage the most important objective in first place is to receive very clear recognition of our European prospective from the member states. And I think that we are advancing very well. If a few years ago the enlargement of the European Union towards the East, towards our country was a taboo in most of the capitals, today my own impression and sentiment is that the majority of the EU countries understand that the Association agreement is not the last phase in our European path. Number two: we need to build a strong record on implementing the Association agreement and to show that we are good not just at statements but also we are reliable partners and we do share the same values, we do share the same principles, we do share the same objectives. And the first important test will be for Moldova to apply for membership. And this will be the real objective to become a candidate country as it happened just a few days ago with Albania and earlier with Serbia. And I think that if everything goes in the right direction – and of course we still need to win the elections in Moldova at the end of this year – we might apply for membership at the second half of next year during the Latvian presidency of the European Union.
Is your country going to join NATO?
Moldova according to its Constitution is a neutral country. And despite the recent developments in Ukraine, again very tragic developments which generated losses of human lives and I am very sorry for that, we still believe that neutrality might be our asset and not a liability. Therefore we want to work together with our partners both from the West as well as from the East and to make sure that our neutrality could bring the necessary fruits and the necessary stability, predictability and security which everyone desires to have.
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