Angela Ganninger: And it's not true that things have been better before ... IPN interview

Why has the German Unity Day been elevated to the status of National holiday? What are the lessons to be learned by the Moldovans from Germany's reunification process? What is the difference between Germany and the United Kingdom in terms of their desired place in the European Union? Why does Germany "need" the Republic of Moldova? Why do reforms take time and patience? Why does Germany choose to support Moldova's democracy and economy, which are the social effects of German projects? What was the turning point in Germany's attitude towards Moldova's projects? How do German investors feel about Moldova, which is said to have "insufficient justice"? What are the differences between Moldovan and German politicians? What do the Germans know about Moldova and the Moldovans? What are the roots of nostalgia about the past for Germans and Moldovans and what can be done about it? One can find more on these and other topics important for Moldova's relations with Germany - in the video interview of Valeriu Vasilică, conducted with the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Republic of Moldova, Angela Ganninger. .

- Excellence, welcome to the online platform of the IPN Press Agency for this interview from "Relations of the Republic of Moldova with development partners" cycle which takes place on the eve of the National Holiday of your country - the German Unity Day, that you have been celebrating for 29 years already on October 3. I consider it a special occasion for special questions, but also for special analyses on what this period of 29 years was like for Germany and the Germans on the one hand, and for the Moldovan-German relations, including relations between states, between societies and individuals, on the other.

I made this last remark about the relations between people, particularly because this cycle of video interviews, unlike other formats, is addressed not only and not as much to specialists in different fields, as to the general public, for in the Moldovan society there is less understanding of and less information about the role, purpose and essence of the relations of the Republic of Moldova with its external partners than we would have liked to. This is why I will ask you to accept, along with concrete questions on specific topics, some more general questions that I would call cognitive or educational.

The first question could serve as an example: What is German Unity Day and why does it matter so much to the Germans that it was elevated to National holiday?

- Thank you for the opportunity you gave me today to have, here, the chance to talk about the relations between Germany and the Republic of Moldova. On October 3rd the completion of a process is being celebrated, after which the Democratic Republic of Germany and the Federal Republic of Germany which have been separated after the war for 40 years became the same country. Formally, the GDR joined the FRG because the GDR's freely elected parliament decided so in the year 1990. Henceforth Germany has had 16 provinces instead of 11. In addition, Berlin has been reunified, because the status of a city divided between the four powers which had won the war, effective since the end of World War II, ended. For us the Germans the 3rd October is a day filled with joy..

Accomplishments, issues related to Germany’s reunification and lessons for the Moldovans

- It has been almost 30 years since the „German reunification”: what are the accomplishments and failures as compared to initial expectations ?

- By the unification act of October 3, 1990, there was created the same legal space, which was very important for the GDR citizens. Since then, fundamental rights: the rights to free opinion and media, the right to the free movement of citizens are enjoyed throughout Germany. The internal secret services spying on their own citizens have been abolished. Obviously, in the new lands of Germany, originally from the GDR, much was invested in infrastructure, roads, bridges and communications. As a result, in the east, things are partly more modern today than in the west. Certainly during the unification process there have been problems. The eastern economy was not competitive after the political changes, and many people left the east to find jobs in the west. In the rural area only the elderly remained, the living conditions in the east became more difficult. Things are not simple for many citizens.

- Which are the lessons of this period that could eventually be useful to the Moldovans who by the way have an almost similar history as a modern state and a part of territory separated from the motherland ?

- I believe that before 1990 the situation in Germany was much more complicated than the one in Moldova today. Germany was actually physically divided. There was the wall, a wide strip of land with surveillance facilities, people could not leave the two countries to be able to meet, there were people who died trying to go west. Fortunately, things are simpler when it comes to exchanges between the two banks of the Dniester. But if it is to draw some conclusions out of our experience, it was important for Germany to assume its own history, its own past, to have a trusting relation with its neighbours and partners, and to take confidence-building measures between the two Germanies. "We have done this for years in a row".

Why does Germany „need” the EU and Moldova?

- True, Germany helps us build trust between the two banks of the Dniester based on its own experience, but also as a member of the European Union, making it a priority in its relations with the Republic of Moldova. In fact, Germany is considered to be the locomotive of the European Union. Why does Germany need this, when it has the economic potential and not only to satisfy its own interests, why give someone a tow, if it requires extra effort and resources? The question seems all the more natural to us since the United Kingdom has declared that it no longer wants to play such a role.

- The image of "Europe's locomotive" is often attributed to Germany when referring to the German economy. Germany is an export marked country, which results from functional economic performance. The basic conditions for things to work are the existence of freedom, prosperity, peace and opportunities to develop yourself, and for this you need partners. Certainly, Germany is not a small country, but it is not a mega-power either. We need partners when we want to define our interests, our standards, for example, for consumer protection. In this regard, we are closely correlated with our partners, the EU member countries, with which we coordinate our positions. For us they are not a burden, we do not tow them after us, but it is important, rather, to have an active exchange of views in order to take part in this free trade.

The UK has decided to choose another path. This is something we regret, the Federal Government, and also many German citizens. We would like to see Britain stay with us in the European Union and work with us. Yet, they decided to take another path. Let's see if it is economically successful, let's see and wait for what the future brings. From our point of view, it is important to create the future with our partners.

- The term of "locomotive of Europe" is clear, but why does Germany need to give a tow to Moldova, which one can call neither a modern train car, nor a suitable track gauge to move towards where Germany is headed? The assertion about the inadequate track gauge is valid in both the figurative and the direct sense of the word.

- As to the relations with Moldova, towing someone is not the term to be applied. One of our lessons from the two devastating wars of the last century is that we are all doing well in Europe, if every country is doing well. That is why we would like our Eastern partners, that we deem important, with which we do not yet have the same close relations as with the European Union member states, among which is Moldova, with which we have a close relation, to enjoy opportunities for economic development, peace, freedom and prosperity. It's our real interest. It is not a problem for us, it is our wish and aspiration to have a common space of peace and freedom in Europe.

Has the turnaround expected by Germany occurred in Moldova?

- You came to Moldova about a year ago. According to one of your first statements in Chisinau: "The parliamentary elections will represent a turning point for Moldova’s path." The elections in February are far behind - in your opinion, the turnaround has occurred, can it occur, will it occur? Is there any risk of a deja-vu of high expectations that the Moldovan society and the development partners had about 10 years ago, also after elections in which had won forces that called themselves then "pro-European"?

- The government change in Chisinau following the elections marked a new beginning, I believe. The new government set goals to fight corruption, reform the justice sector and establish an equitable state based on the rule of law in Moldova. Of course these are ambitious, major goals. It is a long and uphill path. Also the Government wants to promote economy and prosperity for the people, and this doesn’t happen overnight. But I think that the first steps have been made. They are based on genuine interest, even if there is no guarantee that the current coalition will be around for a long time and that all the goals will be attained during this year. At least the Government tried to achieve these goals, because the alternative was for the state of affairs to remain as it used to be. And I think many people in Moldova were not very happy about how things were before.

In my opinion, the government should be offered the opportunity to demonstrate that it can achieve these goals. If we look back three decades ago, in the GDR reforms took quite a while to implement. Such things don’t happen overnight, we should show patience and I hope the citizens of Moldova will show patience as well.

Germany has two major areas and a distinctive feature in Moldova

- Germany supports the Republic of Moldova, including financially, in several areas. Why is that so, and how do you identify the areas in which Germany provides support to Moldova: according to the possibilities of Germany or according to the needs of Moldova?

- We have two major areas in which we support the development of the Republic of Moldova. On the one hand, democracy, civil society and public administration, on the other hand, the sustainable development of the economy. Both areas have been identified together with the Moldovan partners. There is no point in wanting to change something in this country that is not an area of interest for the people here. We observe what other partners are doing here. We do not want our efforts to overlap. We believe that both mentioned areas are important. In the first area we try to help implement better, more transparent procedures, to support civil society. As to the second area, we aim at promoting dual vocational training, improving the basic conditions for the business environment, so that people have the opportunity to live their lives here, to stay here, to achieve prosperity in their country. Because, unfortunately, many people still leave their homeland, the Republic of Moldova.

- A distinctive feature of the German support offered to Moldova is that, besides the governmental actors, for instance the German International Cooperation Agency, some very active political foundations are involved. What can they do that the German state cannot do in Moldova?

- Germany has six political foundations in all which are affiliated with political parties that are also involved abroad. This is part of our political system. The foundations are autonomous, although they have funding from the Federal Government, they define their own objectives, concepts, programs, without being thoroughly checked by the Federal Government. The foundations cannot contradict our foreign policy, otherwise they have a free hand. They have their own expertise, for example, in political coordination work - usually, governments do not have this expertise. What also matters is the support offered by the foundations to the civil society. We enjoy this wide range of projects and programs of the Foundations that facilitate the collaboration of the Government with its external partners.

- Germany is among the first economic partners of the Republic of Moldova both in terms of exports and investments. How do you explain that and how German investors feel in Moldova? Does the somewhat insecure internal situation, for instance, "insufficient justice" that is said to exist in the Republic of Moldova, affect them?

- Economic exchanges take place when both parties are interested. German investors have been coming to Moldova for the past few years. Last week I witnessed the opening of a few stores by Kaufland. There are also examples in the productive sector, including the automotive industry. Many companies are located in free trade areas, thanks to several functional services they can benefit from, for example, the quick and correct customs clearance services that support the production process. I think German investors do not regret their decision to come to the Republic of Moldova and believe that they have made good investments that make sense. Sometimes it happens that German investors have problems finding qualified labour. As to the lack of justice, alas there are some particular cases in which German investors are involved. Nonetheless we hope that they will be settled in a just manner.

- You have not mentioned among priorities the social type of assistance offered by Germany, but in the public space important examples are known in this regard. Who benefits from this assistance, in what cases, what is its outcome?   

- The two main areas of activity mentioned do not strictly refer to social projects, but many of our activities have social effects. For example, we have projects aimed at drinking water supply, so that people in the southern region of Moldova or in the central one are connected to drinking water supply and sewerage networks. As a result of these efforts, the quality of drinking water increases and this has positive effects on people's health. We also have projects targeting the energy efficiency of some hospitals, so that the costs for heating decrease, and the energy supply improves. The saved money is used for the benefit of the patients. We also have dual vocational training system and our support allows young people to learn a trade in order to be hired by investors. Sometimes, the existing qualifications of young people do not match the needs of employers, so we offer them this opportunity to improve on professional level and, respectively, to have a better social life, a better income. Even if we do not develop social projects directly in the Republic of Moldova, there are many social effects.

So that German taxpayers’ money does not end up in corrupt and dubious deals

- Again about results: Are you sure that German taxpayer funds are used in good faith in Moldova? The question refers to the pandemic corruption which allegedly exists in Moldova according to international institutions too...

- Donors, but also the Federal Government of Germany have learned from the past. I think the 2014 banking scandal was a turning point for re-establishing relations with the beneficiaries of the projects implemented by the German side. Subsequently, no one left the money here without strict control. Donation conditions and controls tightened. We owe our taxpayers to make use of the money the way they intended to, so that it does not end up in corrupt and dubious deals. Today it is common practice for donors to check things and toughen conditions.  

- Again about us as people and societies. How do you think Germans fit into Moldova and Moldovans into Germany? For instance, from a linguistic, social point of view? For example, I know about the existence for many years of a summer school through which many Germans come from your country to learn Romanian in Chisinau, but I do not know many examples of Germans established in Moldova speaking Romanian, rather, they communicate in Russian. On the other hand, I know many cases of Moldovans established in Germany who have mastered the German language.

- There are few Germans established in the Republic of Moldova. Those who settle here try to learn one of the languages used on the national territory. For many of them, things have a practical side and also it depends on their previous language skills. The oldest ones and those coming from eastern Germany, learned Russian at school. They can start from this knowledge and develop it, brush it up here. I think there is a practical reason - you can develop something on an already existing linguistic foundation.

Romanian is less learned in Germany. I, on my part, try to learn Romanian since I am here and I need some time, unfortunately I do not have much time, but I can understand it quite well. It's harder to speak it, though..

What is the difference between Germans and Moldovans, including the politicians?

- What important common features Moldovans and Germans share and what great differences characterize us? For example, Moldovans often say: "punctual as the Germans". What do Germans say when it comes to Moldovans? How many people in Germany really know about the existence of the Republic of Moldova?

- Germans do not know much about Moldovans or about the Republic of Moldova. And this is due to the fact that many Moldovans live in Germany with a Romanian passport, and people cannot distinguish between Moldovans and Romanians, they are taken for Romanians.

I am glad when German citizens come here, as tourists or in another context, because then they can get to know your country in a positive way. I know your hospitality, customs, traditions, the good wine you have. And they come back with a very positive image and impression about your country.

- Do you think  that there are great differences between the politicians from Germany and those from the Republic of Moldova?

- Each country has its own history and political culture. For example, in Germany, political coalitions are something that every politician gets to know very early. There are things that pertain to our political culture. Our institutions are stronger and less politicized, and citizens generally have more confidence in the justice system. The framework conditions are different than in the Republic of Moldova, if we refer to politicians. I think that, in general, in my country the desire to solve a problem is a primary goal. Whereas here in the past, politicians facilitated certain dubious deals and I refer to the banking fraud, which is difficult for the country.

Nostalgia about the past in Moldova and Germany

- Some issues in the contemporary Moldovan society are explained by the nostalgia for the past which significantly influences the present and future of this society. In Moldova, nostalgia is largely explained by the low living standards, by the patriarchal way of life, especially in rural areas. In Germany, however, nostalgia about the past also affects the life of a significant part of the reunified German society. At least, it is often said that the mentality, the behaviour, including the political one, of the people from the eastern regions of Germany that once belonged to the former German Democratic Republic, respectively, from the former socialist camp, differ in some ways from the mentality and behaviour of the Germans from the Western regions. How can one explain this nostalgia in one of Europe's most powerful economies, in a prosperous country as compared to Moldova? And what we, the Moldovans, have to learn from the German lesson?

- As for the nostalgia about the past, it can exist everywhere. It depends on the pace of the changes which are reflected in any area of life today. In Germany there were many such cases in 1989-90, but also throughout Eastern Europe, in the Soviet Union that fell apart. Not all people can face such changes - some manage to adapt well, take advantage of new opportunities, the new order - others need a little more time to adjust to the new situation. I think governments need to react to this, progress will be made, new times will come. These things are obvious.

And it is not true that things were better before when you come to think of it. Politicians need to give all those individuals new opportunities. We need to better explain to people the new policy so as to integrate and co-opt everyone into these new processes.
- What have you managed to see in Moldova in the course of the year, what have you enjoyed most? Is there something that you disliked?

- I have visited many regions in the Republic of Moldova, I have taken many trips, I have many German friends who were here on a visit. We enjoyed the Moldovan hospitality, the good food, the good wine. I saw many beautiful places. But it saddens me that many people are leaving their country and that many people think they have to find their destiny in another country. Of course, you can understand that people want to live freely and have a prosperous life. But I think their expertise, their talents are needed in the country and it is necessary to create future prospects and living conditions for these people.

- Who is Angela Ganninger, beyond her official position?

- I like to travel and not only to the Republic of Moldova. I like to meet my friends, I go in for sports, I am fond of reading. Sometimes, I'm just happy to stay in my beautiful garden and relax a little.

The video-interview is part of „Relations of the Republic of Moldova with development partners” cycle, supported by Hanns Seidel German Foundation.

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