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The last few years have been particularly intense for our relationship with Moldova. There are several reasons for this – including geography and the close ties between our people. But there is one reason in particular I would like to focus on – and that is the kind of relationship that we have proposed to Moldova.
A partnership with the European Union is not about spheres of influence and geopolitics. We do not ask our partners to pick sides. They don’t have to choose between us and other global powers – this is not how our partnership works.
Our partnership is always about improving the life of our citizens, inside the European Union and of course inside Moldova. It is a partnership for, not against. It is about the economy, and trade. And it is about the democracy, human rights, the rule of law, the fight against corruption. It is with this attitude that we are heading towards our Eastern Partnership Summit next month.
This is the spirit that led to the new Association Agenda that we adopted with Moldova last August, setting out the priorities for the implementation of the Association Agreement in the coming two years.
And this is also the spirit that leads us to speak out when we see new challenges emerge for democracy in Moldova. This is what we did last July when a new electoral law was adopted.
My dear colleagues Commissioner Hahn and of course High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said many times very clearly that the new legislation contradicts the recommendations of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Both these institutions had pointed at the importance of broad political consensus on the reform, and of avoiding a system that would expose candidates to the influence of business interests. These suggestions have not been addressed by the new electoral law.
Since then, the law has not yet been implemented. The effects of this law on multi-party democracy will depend on how it is implemented. From our side, I can assure you that we will continue to closely monitor developments, particularly on the definition of single-mandate constituencies.
I know that you have discussed the electoral law within the framework of the decision on a macro-financial assistance programme for Moldova.
This decision has been adopted in agreement with the European Parliament, and entered into force on 23 September. Any payment, though, will depend on the respect by Moldova of political pre-conditions and by the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding that we will sign with Moldova.
These conditions will include reforms that are necessary to guarantee macro-financial stabilisation, together with the implementation of our Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
A healthy economy requires transparency in the financial and public sector; it requires a strong fight against corruption and money laundering; it requires a positive business climate. These are the reforms we will be asking for – because these are the reforms that the people of Moldova expect.
As you know, a massive banking fraud was recently unveiled in the country: a comprehensive investigation and the recovery of the diverted funds are also essential to the credibility of Moldova’s economic system.
In 2016 we saw important reform in the energy sector, including on the use of renewable sources: it is now crucial to complete this reform process, with the swift adoption of the energy law.
But a strong economy also needs to be supported by a strong and functioning democracy. For this reason, we will continue to monitor how Moldova implements recommendations of international partners regarding the new electoral law.
A healthy democracy does not only depend on a good electoral law. It also needs a strong judicial system, a serious fight against corruption, and of course a free and open space for civil society organisations.
These are the issues that matter to the people of Moldova, and so these are the issues we care about. Our budget support aims precisely at supporting good reform in these fields. For instance, we have a budget support programme to support reforms in the justice sector: and for the moment, we will not transfer any funds related to this programme, since there has not been sufficient progress to justify these payments.
There are also other pending budget support payments, that are linked to democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
This is how our partnership works. If you look at our package of assistance for 2017 to 2020, it has a strong focus on projects directly benefiting citizens – for instance on rural development, infrastructure and women empowerment. Our assistance aims at supporting the reforms that will move Moldova forward, particularly towards the goal of political association and economic integration with the European Union. The more Moldova does to address its citizens' needs, the stronger our assistance and support.
When we discuss budget lines and reforms, it may sound like we are talking technicalities. But everything we do has a very concrete impact on the lives of many, in the European Union and in Moldova. It is a partnership for our people, with very practical benefits for both sides.
Take visa liberalisation, that allows our citizens to travel freely between the European Union and Moldova, or the reforms that were adopted last year after our Council Conclusions on the Republic of Moldova of February 2016.
The European Parliament has been very active in shaping our partnership, and making sure that we always focus on what truly matters: helping Moldova become a stronger country, with stronger democratic institutions, a stronger economy, a country that can truly address its citizens’ needs.
Thank you so much for your attention.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I144193