Daniel Ioniță: Backing of Moldova is an objective shared by whole Romanian society. IPN interview

Where does the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the Republic of Moldova come from? What presents and assistance does Romania provide for strengthening the home called “Republic of Moldova” and why namely these? Why and how Romania plays it voluntarily assumed role of advocate of Moldova’s European course? What is the connection between the “childhood diseases” of the Republic of Moldova and the “strategic patience” shown by its development partners? How do some of the emphases and special words heard in Chisinau give special charm to the Romanian language? How does the hybrid war manifest itself and how we can protect ourselves from this? These and other themes were discussed in an interview given to Valeriu Vasilică by His Excellence Ambassador of Romania to Moldova Daniel Ioniță on the occasion of the anniversary of Moldova’s Independence and the Romanian Language Day.

- Romania is the first state that recognized the independence of the Republic of Moldova following the dismemberment of the former Soviet Union 27 years ago. How did Moldova distinguish itself in the period?

- Indeed, 27 years have passed since Romania on August 27, 1991 recognized the independence of the Republic of Moldova. Since then our relations witnessed spectacular developments. There were better and worse periods, ups and downs, but I can assert with firmness that after the two Presidents signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement on the support for the European course of the Republic of Moldova eight years ago, our relations entered a new stage that is much more predictable, transparent and clearer for all the involved players. Since then, regardless of the political color of the governments, of the Romanian one in particular, the Republic of Moldova was included in all the government programs for the purpose of having its European course supported. This support is a broad objective shared by the whole Romanian society and everything we do in the Republic of Moldova matches this strategies partnership between Romania and the Republic of Moldova under its generous umbrella.

- Romania helped build and maintain the house “Republic of Moldova” often gratis and disinterestedly. Which are the main directions of the provided assistance and why these, and how it convinced itself that the assistance is used for the correct purpose?

Our relations are special and this is not an exaggeration. These are based on the common language, history and traditions. This is a general truth recognized on both sides of the Prut and I will not insist on this matter. The assistance provided by Romania to the Republic of Moldova was massive, disinterested and unconditional in time and was primarily intended for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, regardless of ethnicity, the language spoken by these, their domicile. There were many such moments when Romania offered generous support to the Republic of Moldova, especially when this faced less favorable situations. Humanitarian assistance was provided when the Republic of Moldova experienced natural disasters. Assistance was also offered to the Republic of Moldova within the Lending Agreement  to offer non-reimbursable assistance to the value of €100 million of which consistent sums have been spent so far. There are the projects in culture implemented annually in the Republic of Moldova and the so-called areas of excellence where we tried to focus punctually so as to achieve the mentioned desideratum that is extremely important: for the assistance to really reach the citizens.

Let’s give an example in the education sector where I would say Romania also made a substantial contribution. We have a program of financial and technical assistance for the preschool education institutions of the Republic of Moldova within which €26 million has been allocated so far. This money was used to renovate over 840 kindergartens of the total of about 940 such projects. Recently, the Government of Romania decided, encouraged by the success of this program, to provide another 3 million lei for this program. As far as I know, in the Republic of Moldova there are about 1,500 kindergartens and more than 2/3 of these will be ultimately renovated with the funds of the Romanian Government. Also, there were donated 196 school minibuses intended for all the districts, depending on the needs identified by the competent ministry of the Republic of Moldova, so that all the children, including those from the most distant villages, have the primordial access to education ensured.

Year by year, the Government of Romania allots a substantial number of places in summer camps to meritorious Moldovan students. This year, which is a special one because we celebrate the Centenary of the Great Union, the given number was raised. The last series of students left recently, this time for the summer camp in Sulina of Tulcea County, the number of those who benefitted free from places at summer camps in Romania rising thus to 1,146.

The scholarships provided to students from the Republic of Moldova who are interested in studying in Romania form part of the same educational sphere. Last year there was simplified the procedure by which those interested can access these scholarships and the number of such scholarships during the last few years rose to 5,000 a year, including for those who want to apply for doctoral or post-doctoral studies. The scholarships are offered as part of a cooperation agreement signed by the ministries in charge. Based on the same agreement, a number of children from Romania took part in the summer camp in the Republic of Moldova and we recently visited 100 lucky Romanian children who told us joyfully that they spend the time in Vadul lui Vodă wonderfully.

It is important that, and you should know that we insist on this necessity at the governmental level, all those who take part in such training programs in Romania return to the Republic of Moldova and bring the experience gained by the multiple interactions with their Romanian mates and mates of other nationalities back home as the Republic of Moldova needs intelligent people who would be ready and able to appropriately follow the Republic of Moldova’s, we hope, European destinies.

- Romania has one more declared and assumed role in relation to the Republic of Moldova, of its “advocate” in the European integration process...

We are probably one of the best and, definitely, one of the most vocal advocates of the Republic of Moldova. We often prefer to do and not to necessarily boast of what we do, but I can tell you, as a diplomat and as a person who during the past few years had access to many of the internal decisions of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that our diplomats outside receive permanent instructions to support the cause of the Republic of Moldova whenever necessary, either in bilateral format or in international formats. The adoption by the UN of the resolution on the withdrawal of the Russian troops that are illegally stationed without the consent of the Republic of Moldova on the territory of the Transnistrian region is a recent example. This resolution was evidently promoted and actively supported by the Romanian diplomatic service as well.

- But we now witness different understandings of things in the European integration process by Chisinau, on the one hand, and by Brussels and many of the European capitals, on the other hand. What did the “advocate” do and what it can yet do for the “sides” to be able to find an amicable solution beneficial to the people from the Republic of Moldova? Moreover, Romania will soon take over the Presidency of the European Union...

Paraphrasing the eminent Romanian diplomat Nicolae Titulescu, who said: “Give me good internal politics and I will do remarkable external politics”, I would dare to say: “Give us the necessary arguments to further support your cause at European level, as we did until now, when the abolition of the visa requirements, the signing of the Association Agreement and the implementation of its free trade component and other issues were raised.”. In other words, the Romanian diplomatic service is normally synchronized with the analyzes carried out at European level as we should not forget that Romania is a NATO and EU member state and our position is implicitly reflected in the positions of the organizations of which we form part.

At the same time, we try to believe that we have more profound knowledge of the realities here. We know that the evolution to an irreversible democratic path further necessitates broad support from the citizens and commitments, responsibilities and deeds from the rulers. If we look at things from historical perspective, we will see that a lot of progress was made in the Republic of Moldova in a very short period of time. At the start of our discussion, we spoke about the celebration of Independence. So, the Republic of Moldova is in essence a young state that can go through the childhood diseases at a certain moment and its evolution should be understood. This is the reason for which the European Union, together with the member states, now entered a period of strategic patience in relation to the Republic of Moldova. Positions were taken when particular things that do not fully match the values and principles assumed by the Republic of Moldova through the Association Agreement with the European Union were signaled.

So, it is a contractual relationship which the Republic of Moldova assumed and based on which, I would very clearly emphasize, a lot of progress was made in strengthening the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, promoting human rights, the freedom of expression, the freedom of the media, etc. Evidently, from another perspective, you can at a certain moment find criticism or be unpleasantly surprised by particular developments that do not precisely meet the expectations. It is important to learn something from each of such situations and to have the power to go on. It is thus important to follow how things will develop further. We believe the given lessons are close for being learned by all those who should learn them so that we together work to strengthen Moldova’s European road.

Why is this road important and why you probably wonder is Romania so vocal in this regard? First of all, we have a recent experience. We know where we were 20 years ago and know what we achieved during the last ten years. We know that all the good things that happened in Romania, including higher pensions and salaries, freedom of movement for persons, goods and others were due to our seriousness in the process of preparing for our entry into NATO and the European Union. The given benefits came after Romania proved that it can reform its institutions so that these could appropriately cope with the internal and external challenges. In this regard, it properly organized its public policies, acts openly and transparently and contributes to building an educated and vocal society. I will give you an example: what was the situation of NGOs in Romania 25-26 years ago and what is the situation now? Under communism, one could not even speak about the existence of NGOs in Romania. Now these are very powerful and, evidently, contribute to strengthening the rule of law even when they criticize. So, this is the reason as we want all the citizens of the Republic of Moldova to enjoy the benefits of the membership in the European Union. We are fully convinced that to achieve this objective reforms should be further done in sensitive areas and areas of maximum interest not only for the state, but also for the citizens.

- Can you assess the state of the Romanian language in Romania and in the Republic of Moldova? Did the proclaiming of the Language Day as a bank holiday almost 30 years ago help it somehow?

I would like each day to be dedicated to the Romanian language and we should not speak about Romanian only on the occasion of the Day of August 31 when, by the way, we celebrate our beautiful Romanian language on both sides of the Prut concomitantly. I think this is also an important signal.  During two years since I came to Chisinau, I admit I had diverse experiences and I will tell you only a recent one. I took part in the inauguration of a kindergarten close to the bank of the Nistru and had the happy occasion to interact with ordinary people there. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that these people spoke a very nice and correct Romanian language. You should know that some of the emphases and special words that can be heard in Chisinau give special charm to the Romanian language. I think those who speak Romanian here speak it nicely and with attention and respect for this language.

Evidently, I also experienced situations when citizens who seemed to be permanent inhabitants of Chisinau either didn’t know the Romanian language or didn’t want to speak it. I think greater attention should be further devoted by everyone – including the authorities – to this minimum necessity of knowing the language of the state you live in. Knowledge of several foreign languages helps the brain to develop multilaterally and offers more possibilities. Moreover, we should not forget that the Romanian language is one of the official languages of the European Union. By the Romanian language, the Republic of Moldova as well, can take a step to come closer to the European Union faster as it is much easier to use the documents that were already translated into a language you know and is already an official language in the EU. I think the Romanian people survived the vicissitudes of history owing to the Romanian language as well. This is the reason for which, as I said above, I want each day to be devoted to the Romanian language. I think we should be all proud that we speak a beautiful language that, based on a Latin pillar, had Slavic, Turkish influences and French and English words grafted onto it. So, our language has a very nice vocabulary.

- The next question is not only about the Romanian language in the Republic of Moldova. In fact, I heard it when it was put by a guild mate to a Romanian high-ranking official, who is specially interested in the state of affairs in Moldova, and ascertained then that this didn’t fully understand the essence of the problem. My mate said: “All the children in the Republic of Moldova have free, unlimited and permanent access to TV and video products intended for their age, including international, through Russian TV channels and the Russian language and almost no access through Romanian TV channels and the Romanian language. And this is not because someone in the Republic of Moldova does not want to ensure this access, but because almost all these products in Romania are thus restricted to the general public. How can the young generation in the Republic of Moldova, assimilate together with the mother’s milk, as it is normal, the Romanian language, the national and European values, avoiding the fate of the elder generations that were influenced including by propagandistic methods from other areas of values?”. Do you have an answer to this bothering question given the current capacities of the Moldovan state?

- The issue raised by you can be easily integrated into the post-Soviet historical inheritance of the Republic of Moldova because indeed any mass media product that comes from the area of the former USSR is almost gratis in the Republic of Moldova and any TV channel is interested in broadcasting this product at minimum costs, compared with the media product that comes from Romania or the Western area in general, which evidently works according to other rules. So, on the one hand, there is the necessity of separating yourself from the past. Let’s see that the world is wider, more modern already and is much ahead of our past experience! On the other hand, Romania not long ago had the idea of creating a common communication area between you and us so as to offer the journalists from the two banks of the Prut the occasion of interacting directly. We also need more high-quality information from the Republic of Moldova in Romania so that we are not only hostage of news items that are often formulated tendentiously by sources interested in fake new or propagandistic news that are part of the hybrid war in which we are all engaged. The Romanian journalists should come and inform themselves directly in the Republic of Moldova and vice versa.

This common information area would imply broader access for the Romanian TV channels that would be retransmitted in the Republic of Moldova. And I will give an example that continues to be on our diplomatic agenda, even if there is a solution, which was provided by the ECHR as well years ago. This is the example of the Romanian Television that has a channel here - TVR-Moldova – and that, based on the ECHR decision, should be broadcast freely all over the Republic of Moldova. I recently found out that there are yet several localities where cable operators that are principally private operators didn’t include this TV channel in their broadcast schedule. So, there is the necessity of having high-quality information from the other side of the Prut. We have the instruments needed to do this, but there are situations when such matters are not fully finalized.

On the other hand, in the 21st century the young people widely use the Internet and there is high-speed Internet access in the Republic of Moldova. That’s why I think visiting the websites that hold interest to you, in Romania and in other parts, so as to take information from a direct source and watching the films in which you are interested and others should no longer be a problem. My impression is that we will devote more attention to this digitization area and, in this case, it is important that those interested should look for information and have sufficient knowledge for not being easily manipulated because manipulation is indeed a problem and manipulation, for its part, forms part of a hybrid war in which we are all engaged, either we like or don’t like this reality.

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