European Integration and Moldova. Challenges, Obstacles, Perspectives
At the very beginning of his speech Iurie Leanca, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration in the Republic of Moldova pointed out that today’s meeting is so important because of its participants. When Sweden put forward the initiative for the Eastern Partnership, Poland was one of its main architects. Vlad Filat is a Prime Minister changing Moldova in the European direction. It convinces the European Union that it may expand by incorporating such countries as Moldova and Prime Minister Tusk is a politician consequently realizing the program of expanding the EU.
– Moldova is a part of Europe even if it still remains outside of the European Union and we will support your efforts aimed at joining the EU – said the Prime Minister Donald Tusk during the plenary session.
– Moldova, despite all the difficulties, blockages, its harsh history and tight material situation is a country where people adamantly demand a practical realization of their dreams of freedom and becoming a European country in its own right. This determination is your main weapon – stressed Tusk. He assured that Poland “keeps its fingers crossed” for the EU aspirations of Moldova. “We will give you our unconditional support when you act in the name of European values which you are representing now,” declared the Polish Prime Minister. “You are building Europe within yourselves, what matters the most is that you believe in the sense of the changes and that you need Europe as much as Europe needs you. Great history is being written in Moldova” said Tusk.
He added that one of the priorities for the Polish presidency in the Council of the European Union will be “hard work on the benefit of those countries which take very seriously their dreams about a Commonwealth of Free Nations”. The Polish Prime Minister also admitted that solving the problem of Transnistria is one of the conditions for the international public opinion to acknowledge that Moldova is a fully stable country. “We will help you achieve it,” he declared.
The head of the Moldavian government Vlad Filat argued that the Wednesday “EU-Moldova” Forum is further proof of intensifying dialogue and cooperation between Chisinau and Brussels. “The EU support is a great motivation for Moldova but we do realize that this credit of trust must be proportional to the implementation of necessary reforms in our country,” he pointed out.
“Achieving European democracy without establishing a state of law is impossible,” stressed Filat. He assured that his government is very much involved in fighting corruption and bureaucracy. In his assessment Moldova is operating effectively within the Eastern Partnership program, which, according to him – brings the country closer to EU membership. “We will continue to act consequently for the sake of integration with the European Union, we are a European country, we have the right to take advantage of European values” declared the Prime Minister of Moldova.
The Prime Minister of Moldova pointed out that the funds received for modernization of the energy sector will be assigned to integration with the European grid. “Agreements with the European Commission will allow us to reach our goals by the end of 2012. We want to more effectively use natural gas,” said Filat. According to him, an important element in the dialogue with the European Union is liberalization of the visa obligation. “We hope for a fast improvement in this area,” he stressed. The head of the Council of Ministers assured that Moldova will be consequent in its actions but he pointed out that his country is facing immense internal challenges. “We have to remember that we are a European country and that we have the right to take advantage of European values as quickly as possible. We want to bring Europe to us. Moldova has only one future – a European one – and for this reason we have to do our “homework”. We have partners, such as Poland, who support us on our way towards Europe. We count on them a lot,” declared Filat.
Bruce Pitcairn Jackson, President, Project on Transitional Democracies, USA, stated that the activities undertaken by the Prime Minister Tusk prove that he supports democratization in Europe. “Today Montenegro and Serbia are candidates for joining the European Union and where is Moldova now? It has a pro-European government, a free trade zone is opening here,” enumerated Pitcairn. According to the expert the challenges include combating corruption, crime and also increasing competitiveness. “Nobody in Europe invites communists to Europe. You have to define the direction in which you are headed and the Prime Minister Filat should receive tools he needs to implement his plans. A government implementing European standards is of utmost importance,” he said.
Making a reference to separatism issues Bruce Pitcairn Jackson noticed that the Transnistria problem is difficult to solve but there is no conflict in that area now. “However, in the aftermath of the events in the Southern Caucasus in 2008 we have to solve this problem.” The European Union is a history of success and Moldova has taken the right steps to join the European Union. The Eastern Partnership is an important stage on its way,” he concluded.
Nicu Popescu, European Council on Foreign Relations, noticed that for many years the European Union was perceived as a consolidated and united body. However, the community is very much differentiated and Moldova is still in a transitory period. According to Nicu Popescu Moldova is now the only participant of the Eastern Partnership which is more democratic than five years ago. The more for more concept means more for more reforms. The European Union intends to support these countries which realize more reforms in a better way. The European Union is planning to offer them support based on budget cycles. Another cycle will decide about the aid volume. It is important to get involved in this policy now. Popescu emphasized that Moldova has to make a transition from a post-communist country to a European country and that right now this country is at the end of the first phase. A few goals the EU is facing include democratization and freedom of the media. Moldova has to come back to the international arena.
“The Prime Minister Tusk said that Moldova is interesting for its neighbours but Ukraine had a better position in negotiations with the European Union earlier on,” said Popescu. According to him Moldova has to catch up with Ukraine, the government should conduct reforms to enter another stage of integration.
When talking about the countries from the former USSR area Popescu pointed out that Ukraine had not implemented the second stage of reforms and that Georgia had lost its international support because of too high level of centralization of power. When it comes to democratization index Moldova is on the 65th place and Albania on the 67th place. “We need to strengthen what we have managed to achieve and I hope that we will be able to say soon that we are entering the third stage of integration,” stressed the speaker.
Transition to democracy: 20 years of the independence of the Republic of Moldova
The panel was opened with the remarks of the moderator, Ion Struza, the President of GreenLight SRL who underlined that the changes in the Republic of Moldova had just started and it was a crucial time for this country. What were the mistakes and successes of Moldova throughout the last 20 years?
Emil Constantinescu, President of Romania (1996-2000) said that the transition from the former totalitarian regimes had been a very long process. The coalition and alliance within the government and consensus of all the political parties is crucial when a difficult process of transition is taking place. Such coalitions were successful in many countries – Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, etc. For Moldova the experience of Romania can be very useful. Mobilizing the whole nation and all the political parties should be strengthened in Moldova.
Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland (1995-2000), who last time was in Chisinau eight years ago, can see that nowadays Moldova is much more pro European. Poland is very interested in developing and strengthening the Eastern Partnership. Poland’s democracy is based on the notion of solidarity and that is the motive that leads Poland to support Moldova’s effort to integrate with the European Union. The future of a united Europe is related to two important processes – deepening the EU’s institutions and a further enlargement of the EU. Those processes should be carried out at the same time. Enlargement is crucial. The EU, to compete on the global scene, should be open to new members. This is a pragmatic thinking and it should be implemented. Europeans should respect the decisions of Moldova and support its decisions. Also, first and foremost, it must be Moldova that wants to be in the EU. Its aspirations are extremely important. From the Polish perspective it is important to move further east with the eastern borders of NATO and the EU. The willingness to join the EU should help Moldova to form an internal political consensus.
Petru Lucinschi, President of Moldova (1996-2001) said that Moldova had to start from scratch. Creating the state of Moldova was a great spiritual and cultural project. It had to follow examples of different states’ policies and systems. Moldova wanted to become an associate member of the EU but it heard it needed to be a WTO member. Maybe the Polish presidency will bring some changes. So far, Moldova has managed to start building a democracy, referring to the experiences of other countries.
Igor Botan, from ADEPT said that in 2005, after the parliamentary elections, the parliament of Moldova voted in favor of the declaration to integrate with the European Union. Regardless of the internal political conflicts, most politicians understood that integration with the European Union was the only reasonable option. In 2007 the situation changed a bit, for about two years, and there was some retreat from support for the integration with the EU. Now, again, Moldova is focused on it and moves forward with integration with the EU.
Carmen Claudin from CIDOB underlined that democracy required freedom. Lasting stability doesn’t come from the strong governmental control over society, it comes from legitimacy.
Florent Parmentier, pointed to the fact that democracy is about the independence of media, institutions and the respect of minorities. It is about dialogue between the government and society.
Where and why is it worth investing in Moldova?Dorin Dragutanu, Governor of the National Bank of Moldova, concluded that in assessing the investment climate one has to take into account the existing risk, possibilities and profits. „We must talk about where and why it is worth investing but it must be business and not politics that decides where and how much it is worth investing. For investors it is important to recognize what is worth investing in, to know the market,” Dorin Dragutanu pointed out. According to him, in the present situation we must find an answer to the fundamental question – is the crisis over in our country? „We ask when and how the crisis got started. Today we can see that the crisis is already over and that there is no threat for foreign investment. Moldova’s problem is a low level of internal consumption, which did not, however, deter investors from investing here and staying in this country,” said the Governor of the National Bank of Moldova.
The new political situation in Moldova translates today into a growth in consumption and internal demand and causes that we have opportunities for economic development. The crisis in Moldova was relatively quickly overcome. According to the available data Moldova’s deficit amounts to 1.9% of GDP but despite this foreign investors are in no hurry to invest in this country. Why? Drangutanu mentioned a few reasons: problems in investors’ own countries but also the situation in Moldova. „However, today we are asking how Moldova can be of assistance? First of all, Moldova has to introduce reforms which have never been implemented here. Reforms have not been completed and we are not talking about one particular reform but about an entire package,” he pointed out.
Wolfgang Lerke, President of the Moldavian-German Business Association, reminded that Germany is the eight largest export market for Moldova. He pointed out that the reorientation process is now noticeable in Moldova – people are willing to open new companies. „It is very important for everyone who comes to invest here. Everyone who wants to find a place to deposit his money is looking for the best possible conditions for investment and here there are people waiting for it,” Lerke pointed out.
As the President of the Moldavian-German Business Association stressed, investors want to earn money here and people will get jobs and acquire new skills. According to him Moldova has to understand that it is part of global competition. „Administrative barriers have to be removed and it needs to be done fast. Moldova has a favourable political system. It is a democratic country with a good climate for foreign investment. As Lerke noticed, Moldavians are learning foreign languages and they want and will work for themselves and their families. They like their country and these are the values that should be appreciated. „We must help offer these people a decent life.”
Summing up, Lerke directed attention to the fact that Moldova is a good place for investment, that it is attractive but has to be more active in attracting investment. It needs a more determined political will to draw investment into this country.
Stefano Mercuri, President of the Association of Italian Entrepreneurs in Moldova, pointed out that Italy is the third largest market for Moldavian export and that in Moldavia itself there are about 600 Italian companies.
Mercuri reminded that Italian investment appeared in Moldova several years ago. „In Italy 95% of companies are small and middle-sized family companies. It is a great risk for them to invest abroad. Big companies do not come to this country. According to him the image of Moldova is created by ambassadors but, as he stressed, Moldova needs a promotional office abroad. „The country itself should, in the first place, take care of its promotion. Moldova is not doing that,” he pointed out.
Jean Francois Myard, President of MobiasBanca Group Société Générale and French Investor Association noticed that the French are the leaders on the Moldavian market, accounting for 11% of investment. In his opinion it is worth investing in Moldova because, firstly, it lies between the EU and Commonwealth of Independent States (CSI), thanks to which it has agreements with both sides and offers investors a favourable labour market – cheap and qualified workforce. „The tax system is favourable too. There are free trade and industrial zones. The government is trying to stop young people from leaving the country. „Investors should have a positive perception of this country. Last year it recorded a considerable growth in production. Investment in infrastructure is crucial. What matters is knowledge and experience, which is very precious here. Today, for instance, there lacks middle management in Moldova,” said Myard.
Oleksiy Plotnikov, a deputy of the Supreme Council of Ukraine, reminded that on 4th February 2011 the Chairman of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek announced that it was no longer Ukraine but Moldova that was the priority for European politics. Investment is not only an economic matter but also a political one. Political decisions play an important role in economic development. Cooperation with the European Union helps develop foreign investment. European experience shows that prospects for membership or association facilitate investment. Investment in Moldova is important for Ukraine but it is not a dominating direction. It seems that Ukrainian business may develop here for many reasons, among others because of the proximity of both countries and their common experience.
Vitale Arvinte from Banca Comerciala Romana Chisinau said that his bank had decided to help Romanian business which invests in Moldova and Moldavian business which invests in Romania.
After the acquisition of the Romanian bank by Erste Bank, Erste bank investment amounted to merely a few dozen million Euro, for according to the bank, the country was unstable and it lacked economic policy. This needed to be changed quickly. This however is a long and difficult process. „Today the challenge for Moldova is how to be attractive for small and medium business,” pointed out Vitale Arvinte. According to him people in Moldova want to work and they are well educated. It is possible to develop IT products here. This should facilitate investment. Asked about Moldova’s advantage he replied: the human factor and its location. „It makes the country attractive. Young people are trying to fulfil their ambitions and to secure their families. This is business, it is risk, it is joint profit. That’s why it is worth investing in Moldova,” he stressed.
Sergiu Cioclea, Corporate Finance Department, France asked a question about who and why invests in Moldova. In the context of global changes and risk analysis for the region he showed what financing streams look like in the region. Moldova has received 240 million dollars worth of investment. Big investment companies from China or other countries have immense possibilities to investment but they don’t take advantage of them. They could buy everything but such a market is not interesting for them. The government’s task is to wisely attract investment to Moldova.
„Of course, Moldova is not the largest production market; however it gives an opportunity for development of stable business. It is a country with great resources for investment in the agricultural and processing sector. In these sectors investment may reach even a few hundred million annually. At present we have opportunities for different kinds of investment, both for direct investment and for mixed capital. In Central Europe there are stock exchanges which could finance investment in communication, infrastructure and agriculture.
How to overcome a standstill: Transnistria and the Prospects for the Region
Marcus Meckel, former German Foreign Minister, opened the discussion with the remarks that Germany pushed forward the visibility of the problem of Transnistria and underlined the importance of citizens who live there, as the most crucial element of the entire issue.
Philip Remler, Head of OSCE mission in Moldova pointed out the fact that, according to the opinion polls, more than 60% of Moldavian citizens believe that Transnistria should be an integral part of the Republic of Moldova. The process of strengthening the public support for this idea is growing. The policy needs to be consistent – for too long, too many people concentrated on the goal and were lacking the strategy. OSCE recognizes the positive role that Germany plays in the negotiations. Germans show how the international community can act to increase Moldova’s effort to be successful.
Cristian Diaconesu, Vice President, Senate of Romania said that perhaps the whole situation was not that complex and complicated as it looks like. The absence of cultural and religious conflict proves that there are big chances for a peaceful solution. Respecting international values is crucial. The transatlantic component can add great value to solving the problem and it shouldn’t be underestimated. The political and military regulations and the implementation of decisions undertaken in 1992 are very important. In this period of time we are facing bigger opportunities related to international regulations on human rights.
Ihor Kharchenko, Special Representative of Ukraine on Transnistrian Settlement stressed that a number of external politicians tried to push the issue forward. How to overcome the standstill? The answer is not easy. Nobody argues that international consensus is a prerequisite. But talking about and understanding each others’ arguments is as crucial as the external factors.
Eugen Caprov, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration in Moldova started his remarks with underlying that Moldovan integration with the EU was crucial for solving the Transnistria conflict. A sustainable and efficient reintegration of Transnistria must eliminate the possibility of renewed conflict in the future. The lack of religious or mental difference within the population of Moldova and Transnistria is a good prerequisite for solving the conflict. Modernization of Moldova and increasing the social and economic standards are crucial from the internal point of view. From the external point of view, the engagement of the EU and the US is extremely important. Solving the problem must be based only on peaceful measures. The problem of enforcing human rights is very important at this point, as Moldovan citizens need to feel safe throughout the entire territory of the Republic. Creating working groups, task forces is good, but not enough. The involvement of local authorities would have a positive effect. In conclusion, 2011 opens some good prospects and we are receiving positive signs from external actors.
Daniel Nord, Deputy Director of SIPRI tried to present the Russian perspective on the conflict. According to him the term “conflict” is perhaps not the right term. We have conflicts in Caucasus but not in Transnistria. If we manage to make a deal with Russians, the situation will be automatically solved. But by focusing on Russia as a key actor, we forget about Moldova itself. The boarder assistance missions must be strengthened. Civil society organizations must be more active.
Slawomir Pichor, Deputy Head of Mission, EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova stressed that in general, the integration process is extremely difficult. But European integration proved that integration was a good way to overcome the conflicts, both existing ones and post conflict problems. What are the consequences of having a frozen conflict? Lowered economic capacities, disruptions of movement, poor road infrastructure, etc. How to help half a million people who are in a geopolitical trap? Transnistrian economy should be more integrated with the economy of the EU and Ukraine. As a result, it will be more integrated with the economy of the Republic of Moldova.
Economic Reforms in Moldova: Current State of Affairs and Possible Scenarios
Valeriu Lazăr, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy of the Republic of Moldova presented the current state of affairs in Moldova’s economics and formulated the strategies for the future. He began with pointing out that the country’s GDP needed 2 years to recover after the crisis that started in the last quarter of the 2008 and continued throughout 2009 and it was followed by a steady recovery growth. The crunch fell on the half of the 2009 but Moldova managed to find a way through with use of the recovery programme. Moldova strives to achieve a stable economic growth that is distributed among the different sectors. The country has so far managed to recover half of fixed assets loss.
Minister Lazar stated that the public services sector in Moldova is overpopulated in the structure of the GDP. We have to fight with the purely consumption driven economic patterns which destabilize the economy. The evolution of the export structure depended to a great extend on the food industry since over 50% of trade in Moldova comes from agriculture industry. The textile sector has recently been developing significantly and therefore reshaping the character of Moldovan export structure. The main destinations of Moldovan export have been very static, regardless of Moldovan ambitions to extend trade ties with the EU. EU remains at the same level of around 50% and Russian Federation at around 40%. He made some macroeconomic forecasts for the years 2011 and 2014 in which the processing industry will increase its share in the GDP, agriculture will remain important and public sector spending will decrease.
Gunnar Due–Gundersen, Project Director, Entranse Business Incubator Programme, Norway stated that national programs toward SME would influence the economy and can be seen as a real reform. He related to his business background and hands-on experience in doing business in Moldova. Policies are important but practical business usage is critical. The three main elements are: entrepreneurship, growth, innovation. It’s important for Moldova to get people starting businesses, with innovation content which will lead them into the growth process.
Bob de Groof, Honorary Consul of the Netherlands, emphasized the problem of a lack of perspectives of highly educated people who are intelligent, communicative and open. He reminded that the Netherlands is the biggest investor in Moldova. He argued that corruption does not exist for foreign investors and compared Moldovan economy to China. However, there is a lack of initiative among young people.
Silvia Radu, Chairman for Moldova, I.C.S. Red Union Fenosa S.A., presented the view of a foreign investor which has achieved a success story in investing in the country. Fenosa had very clear definitions of the company’s investment plans, new technologies and applied know-how. She emphasized the role of efficiency in achieving success in Moldova. She would like to see a state led liberalization of the Moldovan economy.
Pablo Saavedra, pointed out that jobs have not been created, production has not increased and consumption patterns have not changed in spite of foreign remittances. He underlined that Moldova needs competition. It will be achieved by getting rid of numerous barriers that entrepreneurs face and make the country more investment friendly. Not only bureaucracy needs to be removed, but many other obstacles as well. Efficiency of government spending has to be improved, not only in terms of the amount but also the manner of spending.
Moldova’s Place within the Eastern Partnership. What progress has been made?
Bogdan Aurescu, Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romania underlined that the Eastern Partnership was launched as a response to the interest of the eastern EU partners who expressed willingness to come closer to the EU. He repeated that Romania is a strong supporter of the Eastern Partnership. He analyzed that the present evolutions and events regarding the states under the southern neighbourhood are immense and nobody knows how they will develop and shape the future of the partnership. He called not to miss this momentum because what happens in Africa now opens a window of opportunity to promote democracy and the socio-economic process with the Eastern Partnership. The State Secretary underlined his opinion that the Eastern Partnership is needed to ensure the balance between the south and east dimensions. Romania is in favour of the enlargement and open-minded neighbourhood policy and it sees how successful the current Moldovan government is in advancing the European integration ambitions and is witnessing the fact that this country is becoming a forerunner.
Mr. Aurescu made a reference to Romania’s experience, and wished Moldova dedication and self confidence. He said that Romania and Moldova are the closest neighbours. Romania is its closest ally. Provided that Moldova pays great attention to EU objectives, it will find ways to fulfil them, he believes. Romania will urge finding the solution to the transnistrian conflict and we will be a catalyst in solving it.
Andrzej Cieszkowski, Plenipotentiary for the Eastern Partnership, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poland summarized the very ambitious Polish plans concerning the Eastern Partnership in the view of the coming Polish presidency and the fact that it is one of Poland’s priorities. He explained that Poland wants to invite the eastern partners to participate in EU plans, institutions, etc. He said that Poland plans over 20 meetings concerning the Eastern Partnership on different levels to take place during our presidency. Transport, finance, agriculture, customs can be named as some of the most important thematic areas to be covered.
Mr. Cieszkowski urged Moldova and other Eastern Partnership countries to provide Poland with good progress reports that would allow the Presidency to advance the EU offer. The Eastern Partnership summit in Poland, which is to be held in September, is a good point in time to prepare that. He also expressed his confidence that Moldova will be among the front runners.
Igor Corman, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Parliament of the Republic of Moldova stated that using all existing instruments, including the Eastern Partnership, is the sensible way of getting closer to the European Union. He underlined the importance of the interparliamentary dimension of the cooperation and the fact that it’s necessary to use other experiences to advance its efforts. He appreciated the fact that today Moldova enjoys unprecedented support from the EU members. In his opinion, Moldova is not yet a success story, but it has a chance to become one in future. In order to achieve that Moldova needs political stability stemming also from good cooperation between the parliament and government.
Natalia Gherman, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Republic of Moldova said that the process of modernization and reconstruction opened up Moldova. Some of the best examples are the conference in Brussels and last September’s ministerial meeting in Chisinau. Eastern Partnership tools include stability. She informed that Moldova is preparing for the 11 April sixth round of negotiations to be held in Chisinau. In her point of view the multilateral track seems to be quite static. It has insufficient dynamics in comparison to the bilateral relationship with the EU. The pace and speed of the reforms performed in Moldova are different than in the other EP countries.
She admitted that Moldova still faces unsolved conflicts. Financial resources unfortunately cannot sufficiently back its political ambitions. As Moldova progresses, it is becoming more and more selective in picking up initiatives, bearing in mind its limited capacity and resources. She said that Moldovans know exactly what to do: improve the systems of justice, law enforcement and board control, energy efficiency, etc. In some areas Moldova can hope to become a leader among all the EP countries.
Mrs. Gherman stated that Moldova is in favour of the differentiation approach, “more for more” EU principle. If Moldova delivers more, EU should support it more. Need of mid and long-term deliverables does exist. EU should leave the opportunity of accession open to all those states who have this ambition and back it up with real results in reforming itself. She expressed her appreciation of the institutional reform programme and all the help Moldova received to improve its institutions. She insisted that Moldovan civil society is very vibrant and deserves to be included in the EU area and become an equal partner.
She also pointed that the Business community component is lacking and that EU should welcome the idea of including it in the partnership. In order to advance the Moldovan reform agenda, it is ready to use all the tools because Moldovan future is inside the EU.
Evaldas Ignatavicius, Vice–Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lithuania noticed that Moldova is changing very rapidly and that it is great to see that Moldova preserves its traditions. He continued by saying that the “Old Europe” has to discover the spirituality of the European history and culture by venturing to learn more about the EP countries. Horizontal networks of cooperation between Lithuania and Moldova exist. He referred to the fact the two states share many values, historical conditions and cultural features. He said that Moldova is a success story in the region and the whole neighbourhood project. Lithuania supports the pro-European Moldovan government. He explained that Lithuanians singled out some specific areas of cooperation and priorities such as law-making, agriculture, transport, inclusion of women in social activities, etc. The Vice-Minister also remarked that Lithuania plays a very important role in the 5 plus 2 talks.
Ojars Kalnins, MP, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Saeima, Latvia. Kalnins appreciated the format and substance of the conference that serves as an example of European standard and a sign of real enthusiasm. He also mentioned that the direct flight connection Riga-Chisinau is symptomatic. These planes are full of Latvians that are involved in what is happening in Moldova.
Moldova is Latvia’s foreign policy priority since it joined the EU. Latvia financed many different projects, the cooperation is very intensive. Unfortunately, the crisis and the recovery required a substantial cut in this funding. Latvia is now striving to establish closer parliamentary cooperation with Moldova. Due to EU funding, Latvians are involved in NGO development processes in Moldova. There must be people to people contacts and grassroots cooperation to enforce Moldova’s ambitions. Without true involvement of civil society, the government will never succeed in achieving its ambitious goals.
Mr. Kalnins expressed his belief that Latvia and Moldova have a lot in common: they have a similar soviet history, comparable size and, most importantly, mutual understanding. There is a great amount of enthusiasm on Latvia’s part to support Moldova’s efforts. He concluded by saying that Moldova has always been a European country and now faces the challenge to become an EU member.
Borys Tarasyuk, Chairman of the Committee on European Integration, Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine, expressed his appreciation of undertaking the initiative by the Eastern Institute and APE in organizing such a conference. Moldova and Ukraine share the same ambition and very close visions of the Eastern Partnership. Ukraine, just as Moldova, doesn’t see it as a single activity toward European integration. Moldova and Georgia are very quickly catching up with Ukraine in advancing their efforts.
Mr. Tarasyuk pointed out the great success of the new Moldovan administration in approaching EU goals. He advised to enlarge the club of friends it has. Participation in GUAM, trade relations, shared borders, etc. bring Ukraine and Moldova very close together. He also regretted that the funding for the project is inadequate to its real needs. In comparison, similar financial resources are devoted to only one country – Turkey.
Janos Terenyi, Ambassador–at–Large for the Eastern Partnership, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hungary said that EP is a program based on norms and values and at the same provides structures and instruments to implement these values. He claimed that Moldova should do its best to continue its efforts to access the EU. Hungary recognizes that the EU has to be actively involved in the southern partnership but it cannot neglect the EP and not hurt EU interests in the long run. The value-based approach, clear benchmarks, strengthening civil society and many more actions present in the EP have not been included in the southern dimension – which now gives serious results.
Agriculture and Food Processing Industry as Moldova’s Asset
Roger Cozenas from Greenacers Consultancy in Great Britain said that at present agriculture is perceived globally as a very important aspect of the economy as well as being vital in terms of security. Agricultural policy is equally important for all countries, indeed there has been an observable growth in food prices worldwide. He noted that demand for food by 2050 will grow by 70% as the population of the earth increases and went on to enumerated the five fundamental agricultural resources:
a) Natural – land, water
b) Physical – roads, electricity, amelioration, food processing
c) Financial – access to banking and investment
d) Human – level of qualifications, access to new technologies
e) National – aid received from the government and professional organisations.
According to Viorel Gutu from the Ministry of Agriculture in the Republic of Moldova agricultural production accounts for 17% of GDP in Moldova’s economy. Agricultural business includes production of fruit, vegetables and wine. These products are mainly exported to the Russian Federation and to the EU. The government’s main priority is to ensure that society has enough food. The market plays a regulatory role here and it should be developed in different directions. The aim of the country is to build such a market which would enable the buying and selling of agricultural products. Another priority is the state’s administrative help in the agricultural production process.
According to Viktor Cotruta, Regional Environmental Centre, Moldova, agriculture is an important branch of production. According to him the fundamental resources enumerated by Roger Cozenas are not sufficient. All of them require reform and support. The even land reprivatisation which divided previously well-operating farms was a mistake. At present there is no financial aid for agriculture and the needs are enormous. However, the biggest problem facing Moldavian agriculture is the low level of education among farmers. If Moldova is to join the European Union it has to solve agricultural production problems as otherwise it will have to import food as Romania has to now. He also noted that there is a need to focus on sustained development in agriculture.
The president of Krajowa Spółka Cukrowa, Marcin Kulicki, stated that a lot was said about investment in Moldova during the forum. It was also mentioned that it is currently a developing country. He stressed that his company had chosen Moldova because the sugar business in the EU is subject to strict regulation and also due to the fact that he wants to share his experience and new technologies with Modlova. He emphasised the great determination of the present government to create a favourable investment climate. Despite formal and legal difficulties investors can count on the government’s helping hand. According to him, in Moldova there are very good physical conditions for cultivation of sugar beet and he is convinced that doing business in this country will be profitable and will set an example for other investors from Poland and other countries. Moldova is a good country to invest in also because of its persistent efforts aimed at European integration and due to the fact that it is a door to the Russian market.
Waldemar Sochaczewski, Adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry in the Republic of Moldova, reminded attendees that before Poland became an EU member one of its achievements was the obtaining of high-quality agricultural products. Moldova cannot export all its products because it does not fulfill production safety regulations. He thinks export could be increased through the modernisation of the agricultural sector and the improvement of standards throughout the agricultural production process. The first step in the restructuring process should be implementation of adequate legislation and this element is now being worked on by the Ministry of Agriculture. A marketing programme for Moldavian agricultural products is being prepared too, including promotion of Moldavian wines. According to Mr Sochaczewski, Moldova is able to achieve high quality agricultural production and that this process is taking place right now. He thinks that Moldova shows a greater determination to restructure its agriculture than Ukraine.
Civil Society. Local Self-Government and Reform of Administration. The present condition and directions of changes
Maris Sprindzuks, Public Administration Expert, Corporate & Public Management Consulting Group from Latvia, reminded attendees that within he last 2-3 years we have seen a big turn towards the democratisation of Moldova. Integration in the EU is, however, not an integration of countries but of societies. A civic society builds democracy yet it is necessary to use administrative measures in the process of its restructuring and development. In Moldova there are a number of social organisations but, very often, they are merely consulting centres operating thanks to grants. They do not serve as a link between society and government. An important factor in the development of local social structures is Internet access and so-called E-information.
Rainer Holtschneider from Germany mentioned that there is no precise definition of a civic society. It can, however, be perceived as a society the point of reference for which is the society formed in North America in the 19th century. It has the right to vote and to unite. It cannot be subject to the influence of central authorities. He emphasised that self-governance rules were only adopted for the first time in the European Union. An effectively operating civic society expresses itself through local and focused activities.
Jelena Drapenko from the Russian Duma reminded attendees that, for many years now, Russia has been a member of the Council of Europe and that it has passed many laws on civil freedoms. Valid local law fosters development of a civic society, which is the only body that can stop the oligarchs’ appetite for making their surroundings subordinate to them. Lack of precise law meant that there were many scandals in Russia connected with the limiting of civil rights by capital. In the Russian Federation people speak 150 languages and limiting their usage is an infringement of civil rights. She points out that in her country there is a visible lack of patience in implementing law fostering the creation of a civil society and not enough tolerance. Using the Russian experience Drapeko advised Moldova to create conditions for competitive local authorities before implementing reforms.
Sándor Köles, Senior Vice President, International Centre for Democratic Transition (ICDT), from Hungary, stressed that an important factor for civil society development is the building of trust based on regional cooperation. An example of such cooperation is the Transnistria region, including northern parts of Moldova, two Transnistria regions and parts of Ukraine. A common factor for all the groups was a low level of economic development and multi-ethnicity. Their common development fosters integration. Ecology also plays an important role, as does the prevention of floods, and the building of new road connections and bridges. This region has great potential for the development of tourism.
Mihail Formuzal, Governor of UTA Gagauzia, reminded attendees that after obtaining independence Moldova first wanted to integrate with Russia and then it made a pro-European turn only to reach the conclusion now that it has to build “its own Switzerland” by itself. He emphasised that as a matter of fact it has already manager to achieve its goal as in Moldova you can speak in three languages: Romanian, Russian and Gaugazian. However, in Moldova it is clear that local society and local authorities do not operate in a proper manner. This is due to its heritage from the Soviet Union where everything was centralised. At present, as he stressed, Gaugazia is the foundation of a strong Moldova. However, there is a noticeable regression in the development of tolerance, which takes its toll on the Gaugazian minority; Chisinau gives cable TV licenses instead of local authorities and local traditions are not observed.
Geopolitics and its implications for Moldova. Chisinau between Moscow, Brussels and Washington.
Oleksandr Chalyi: Moldova, similarly to many other countries, is going through a difficult period, but it is important that Moldova not only survives, but also becomes a fully prospering country. As was said earlier on, Moldova could be the Switzerland of this part of Europe. Moldova has made a very wise decision to conduct neutral politics and foreign diplomacy should accept Moldova’s position in this regard. Chalyi himself thinks that the state’s neutrality should be stated in the Constitution. Then the important position of Moldavian diplomacy will be acknowledged on the international stage: by Russia, Washington, and so on. It is also particularly important that international diplomacy acknowledges Moldova’s borders. Austria confirmed its borders in 1998 but, for 20 years, no agreement has been signed with Romania, which causes anxiety in international relations towards Moldova. Romania should take part in confirming Moldova’s borders and in solving the Transnistria issue. At the same time the European Union should do its utmost to give Moldova a real opportunity of joining the EU structures by signing an association agreement with this country as the first stage. Unfortunately, not everybody shares this point of view. When it comes to relations with Ukraine both countries should cooperate with each other and head in the same direction; they cannot fight each other.
Grigory Trofimchuk: Often Russia is not well seen in the world, which means that it is not perceived in the right way. Moldova should follow the example of Russian reforms conducted in 1991, and which let it adopt a pro-European attitude. According to Trofimchuk the situation in the European Union itself is far from easy. The USA is cautious as regards EU expansion policy, and the EU itself should precisely define its boundaries and decide in what direction it is headed. A much more difficult task than defining geographic borders is defining the geopolitical borders. Is it possible that Kazakhstan is a part of Europe? Today Moldova should define its position between Moscow, Kiev, Washington and Warsaw. Moldova should also pay more attention to its policy towards neighboring countries.
Vladimir Socor: Due to its geopolitical position Moldova could play a balancing role in this part of Europe, in the meantime because of its past this has not so far been possible. The history of this country shows that it remained under Russian influence for a very long time interrupted by short periods of European influence. This fact does not make it any easier to define Moldavian identity, which is influenced not only by Russia but also by Romania.
Iulian Fruntasu, Prime Minister’s foreign policy advisor, presented his personal opinion: current Moldavian politics are based on what society wants, namely on European integration. Heading towards Brussels is the priority of Moldova. It is true that because of their history Moldavians find it hard to define their identity and so the Republic of Moldova is a kind of project which is currently under construction. Moldavians care about stability and prosperity, which can be achieved. In our opinion putting Moldova on the political world map is a process which we started a few years ago when we laid great emphasis on diplomacy, direct contact, and a presence among international diplomats – this is how we are building our position (I am proud that the head of the European Diplomacy Ms Ashton knows our constitution by heart). At the same time we must translate diplomacy into internal reforms, concrete steps aimed at increasing the quality of life. At present the geopolitical situation is very positive as there is no single outstanding super power. The European Union is continually strengthening its position and is equal to America. Even if the post-financial crisis situation is still unstable and nobody knows where Europe will be in seven years’ time and what direction it will be headed in, the European Union is still a priority for Moldova.