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It has been really a pleasure to welcome you Madam Prime Minister [of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu] and meet you again here in Brussels. Let me also thank you for the large ministerial delegation you have brought with you for this 5th meeting of our Association Council.
We take your presence here as a sign of the importance that you attach to our partnership and I can assure you that the European Union attaches the same importance to its relation with Moldova.
The depth of our links has been confirmed today in our very intense and very positive meeting.
We had the chance to discuss the important reforms started under your leadership to reinforce democracy and the rule of law in Moldova.
It is a path that you have been following in these three months with determination for the sake of your own citizens. It is a path that is also essential for our partnership, to make the best out of our Association Agreement to the benefit of our peoples both in Moldova and the European Union. Because indeed our citizens are always at the heart of our partnership.
That is why it is so important that the Republic of Moldova delivers on the commitments it has made.
Making sure that our partnership evolves with time is also important, and this is why we have agreed today to start to work on updating the Association Agenda and set new priorities to guide the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area implementation in the coming years.
As in the past, our support will remain conditional on reform progress. But also as in the past, we will stand by you with our support and advice – and let me say, even more than in the past.
As you know, the European Leaders in June tasked the European Commission and myself to work on a set of concrete measures to support Moldova, based on Moldova's sustained implementation of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
We had the opportunity today to review our support to Moldova but also Moldova's work.
We resumed budget support payments already in June this year. We also signed with the Government financing agreements to implement programmes on sustainable local development and the rule of law, with already some tangible results.
We are ready to increase our financial support and advice in response to the Government’s ambitious reform agenda. We hope to release the first instalment of macro-financial assistance soon. All this – I believe – is a clear sign of our appreciation of the reforms already undertaken and of our expectations for the next steps.
When it comes to electoral reform, we have seen positive progress and we expect that work will continue along this path also by addressing the remaining international recommendations. Local elections of 20 October will be an important test for the electoral process to show it is in line with international democratic standards.
With the Prime Minister and the Ministers we also discussed the importance of comprehensive reform of the judiciary and the prosecution service. It is a vital issue in itself, but it will also enable a stronger business climate and incentivise investments.
We also agreed that to enhance the resilience of Moldova and rebuild the trust of the people it is crucial to depoliticise and strengthen the independence of state institutions, and to improve the living conditions of citizens.
A key factor in rebuilding trust is active participation of the people. We share the view of the need to involve civil society more in the decision-making process and to promote free and independent media through a swift and thorough reform of the media environment. Traditional and new media could allow us also to explain effectively how and why we work together for Moldova and the European Union’s people alike. That is why we agreed to strengthen our cooperation in strategic communication.
People to people contacts are also vital. The visa-free regime has brought important benefits: more than 2 million Moldovans have benefited from it over the past years. There has been progresses in the trade area as well as in economic and sectoral cooperation.
Our long and friendly meeting also gave me the chance to confirm to the Prime Minister and her delegation the European Union’s continued support for Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and a special status for Transnistria within Moldova’s internationally recognised borders. Recent progress in the 5+2 talks needs to be built on, particularly during the round that will be held in Slovakia next week.
I would like to thank you once again, Madam Prime Minister, for being here in Brussels today. I am looking forward to my visit to Chisinau in just a couple of days’ time [Thursday 3 October], when we will meet again and continue our discussions that we have started so fruitfully today.
And let me finish with one message: I believe that this is the time for the Republic of Moldova and the European Union to look forward to renew their engagement and to seize the opportunity for a real structural change that would finally enable growth and solidity in your country.
The European Union remains committed to continuing to accompany and support you and your citizens on this difficult but also exciting journey.