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We have had many debates about Moldova in this hemicycle in the past years and they have very few times – if ever – been encouraging or positive.
The people of Moldova have asked for change and for reforms that would bring their country forward. Very recently, this was very evident. The European Union has followed the situation in these recent months, but also in the previous years, step by step – as neighbours, as partners and most of all as friends of the Moldovan people.
We are glad that Moldova has now a government, with a bold programme to tackle corruption and reform the country. Obviously, after the programmes, reforms need to happen for real and implementation has to come.
I want to recall where we stood just one year ago, when I met the previous [European] Parliament for an urgency debate on Moldova. At that time, the situation was really critical. The mayoral elections in the capital Chisinau had just been annulled by dubious court decisions. It was a difficult moment for our relations with Moldova: we had to take unpleasant but necessary decisions, for instance when we put on hold our macro-financial assistance because Moldova was not sticking to its own commitments.
In June, after the elections, a short but very profound institutional crisis unfolded. Together with Commissioner [for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes] Hahn, we made clear our position that we expected the democratically legitimate government to be allowed to take office and the rule of law to be respected. We were all, I believe, relieved that the new government could finally start its work and that the institutional crisis was solved in a clear and peaceful manner.
The new government's programme has at its core many of the priorities that are clearly spelled out in our Association Agreement with Moldova. It is good to see that their agenda talks about structural reforms to fight corruption more effectively, but also the independence of the judiciary, and improving the electoral framework.
These are not demands that come from the European Union. These are the demands that are coming from the people of Moldova and that the European Union is ready to support.
I am also glad that in these very first weeks our contacts with our new counterparts have been very intense and very positive.
Commissioner [Johannes] Hahn visited Chisinau in June and Prime Minister [of the Republic of Moldova, Maia] Sandu was in Brussels at the beginning of July. And just yesterday in Brussels, we hosted the new Foreign Minister, Nicolae Popescu, at our Foreign Affairs Council for a discussion on how to move forward with the implementation of our Association Agreement.
We are preparing a set of concrete measures to support the country, based on the implementation of reforms under the Association Agreement. The package we are working on also includes the release of assistance that had been put on hold.
Yesterday, we also confirmed that the next Association Council with Moldova can take place next autumn.
The Foreign Minister yesterday confirmed that the new government intends to tackle corruption decisively and to address the politicisation of state institutions, including the judicial system. He also confirmed to us that Moldova has a strong interest in its partnership with the European Union, both politically and economically.
I want to add once again that our partnership has nothing to do with geopolitics or spheres of influence. I think that recent events have demonstrated very clearly that what truly matters for the people of Moldova is reforms and positive change – not really geopolitics or geopolitical calculations. I also want to make this very clear: we see all the good intentions, we see all the good arguments; but what will really count is the implementation of these intentions and the real capacity to put in place changes in the country.
In this spirit, what we want to do is keep accompanying and supporting reforms in Moldova. We do not do politics and we do not do internal politics in countries. We relate with institutions on the basis of content, policies, programmes and concrete reforms put in place. This moment, I believe, represents an opportunity for the country and we will be there to accompany this opportunity so that they can succeed.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-176098
I think it is clear to all that there is a window of hope, of opportunity and that we have a responsibility to help and support the government [of the Republic of Moldova] to deliver on these good intentions and goodwill.
You can count on us to do all we can to accompany this process in the best possible way. The final responsibility obviously is in the hands of the Prime Minister of the Government [Maia Sandu]. But, obviously, we have all the interest in making her task a bit less challenging than it looks and is.
Let me also say that our statements, our moves in Chisinau during the critical hours of the institutional crisis in June have been decisive. I also have to say that yesterday, during the Foreign Affairs Council, I found unanimity on this point. We did not face any problem with Member States. I often say that in the Foreign Affairs Council the major problem we face is normally not unanimity to reach decisions, but the consistency on the day after for the implementation of the decisions we take. But this is another story which relates more to the political will back in the capitals.
I thank you for the support and I count on our joint work, European Commission, European Council, and European Parliament, to accompany this new phase for Moldova.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-176100