Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
thank you for attending this press conference today.
We are very happy to be visiting Moldova, yesterday and today. This visit is an opportunity to discuss our strong EU-Moldovan relations and in particular to assess the implementation of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement.
Later this year, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament will draw up, debate and vote on a parliamentary report on the state of the implementation of this agreement. Our work, this week, in Moldova, is part of the preparation of that report.
Our delegation is made up of 9 Members of the European Parliament, representing all of the 5 largest political groups. 5 Members are from the Foreign Affairs Committee, including myself and the Rapporteur on Moldova, Mr Auštrevičius.
Yesterday, we started with meetings with the civil society (business representatives, NGOs, human rights activists) and international organisations. We then met with Prime Minister Filip, President Dodon, a number of ministers as well as the Heads of the Central Electoral Commission and of the anti-corruption agencies.
Today we met with the majority and opposition faction leaders, then with Speaker Candu and several committee chairs. This afternoon we will travel to Varnita to visit a medical centre renovated with the support of the EU. It also provides medical assistance to patients from the Transnistrian region.
We are here with a clear message: we want to support Moldova in the implementation of the Association Agreement. We want to see progress in terms of democracy, the Rule of Law and the defence of Human Rights. This we expressed most recently in the European Parliament resolution on the Eastern Partnership adopted last November. We understand there is progress in some areas and still much to be done in others.
We want to see further increase in trade, but also better transport links and energy interconnections with the EU, to support economic and social development in Moldova, for the benefit of all citizens. We are pleased to see that the EU share in Moldova's exports has been increasing steadily since the entry into force of the Association Agreement. The EU is now Moldova's main trading partner (55% of Moldova's total trade). At the same time, some key reforms are pending. Other reforms have been adopted, but still remain to be implemented. Let me be clear: where there is a will to deliver on reforms, the EU, including the European Parliament, will be there to support Moldova.
We support in many ways to improve the life of citizens but our assistance is based on strict conditionality - my colleague from the Budgets Committee will likely address this. We also help by delivering on our promises, notably to allow Moldovan citizens to travel without visa to the EU (except the UK and Ireland) for up to 90 days - this is what we call “visa liberalisation”. I understand that more than 1 million Moldovan citizens have benefited from this scheme so far. So I encourage the authorities to make the necessary efforts to keep fulfilling the visa liberalisation benchmarks.
But it will be no surprise to you that we are also holding frank exchanges about the challenging issues such as the new electoral law, the media sector reform, the justice reform, some questionable cases of prosecution, the fight against corruption and – last but not least - the investigation of the bank fraud. These are issues that are of particular concern - not only to us but also to the Moldovan citizens.
Yes, there are important elections coming up in Moldova later this year. Time is short to deliver on commitments, to pass more necessary reforms and start implementing them. But in the end, to gain the confidence of the citizens, of voters, there needs to be visible improvements, improvements with tangible results. Elections – be it at local or national level – need to be fair and transparent. Cracking down on corruption and delivering results in the bank fraud investigations is of utmost importance. Reforming the Judiciary and ensuring an independent media are also key.
I mentioned the elections - we, in the EU, pay great attention to what the Venice Commission says about the latest reform on the mixed system. It will be no surprise to you to hear we were disappointed that some of the main recommendations of the Venice Commission were not addressed. It is key that the concerns on party financing and on the implementation of the electoral law are addressed ahead of the next elections. We reminded our interlocutors that the respect of democratic mechanisms is a political pre-condition for the EU granting Macro Financial Assistance. We will remain very much engaged on this issue and we are ready to observe the elections in Moldova - as well the post-electoral phase when the new Parliament is constituted.
At this point I would like to say a few words about an issue on which the European Union has been unequivocal, time and time again. We fully support Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
So when it comes to Transnistria, we are glad to hear about last year’s progress. We support the work of the OSCE Chairman in Office. We provide financial assistance to build confidence between the two sides of the Nistru river and to help manage the Transnistrian segment of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. We look forward to more positive developments this year.
Finally, let me mention another point of importance in the European Parliament's relations with Moldova. I am referring to the Comprehensive Democracy Support Programme with the Moldovan Parliament. Though this, we aim to assist our Moldovan partners in boosting the legislative capacities of this Parliament and enhancing its oversight over the executive’s actions. It is also important for the Parliament to increase transparency and adopt more effective working mechanisms. We salute the efforts to develop new Rules of Procedures and a code of conduct to improve public trust in this institution.
The EU also offers support in the process of legal approximation with EU, for example the Audio-visual Services Directive. In this context, we urge our colleagues to swiftly adopt the new Audio-Visual Code.
In the European Parliament, together with the other EU institutions and international organisations here in Moldova, we attach great importance to what is done in this Parliament and we will continue to do so in the months ahead.
We count on you, Mr Speaker and you can count on our support.
Thank you very much.