What do Romanians think about modern Romania and what event set modern Romania on a new path of evolution? Why is there in Romania the only Merry Cemetery in the world? What unites and what separates the Republic of Moldova and Romania at the present stage? On whose voice does Romania “sing” in the Republic of Moldova? What can Romania do for the Republic of Moldova and what can the Republic of Moldova do for Romania? Why are there three times more Moldovan investors in Romania than Romanian investors in the Republic of Moldova? Why will Romania's assistance to the Republic of Moldova be conditioned? How can we distinguish between the political and social aspects within the idiom "desire for unity"? In which supermarkets in Romania can you find Moldovan products? Why and whom does the transition to the European gauge depend on and when will the new gas pipeline become a reality? What must Moldovan citizens know in order to be able to work freely in Romania? How does Romania ensure that the money allocated to the Republic of Moldova is spent according to the destination? About these and other important things for the relations of the Republic of Moldova with Romania - in the video interview of Valeriu Vasilică, which occurred on December, the 2nd, with the Romanian Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, Daniel Ioniță.
IPN: Because we are one day after the National Holiday of Romania and of the Romanians – the 1st of December, and because on this occasion so many beautiful and important words have been thought, written and spoken, I think it would be useful to try a make a quintessence of these words and thoughts - what does the 1st of December represent for Romania and for the Romanians?
- Daniel Ioniță: Thank you very much. I have accepted with great pleasure your invitation, particularly since it takes place in the context in which we are still celebrating the National Day of Romania and of the Romanians everywhere. The 1st of December, 1918 was that astral moment in our history, when all the historical provinces returned to the Motherland. The process began, as it is known, with Bessarabia on March the 27th, 1918, went on with Bukovina on November the 28th, 1918, and was completed in Alba Iulia with Transylvania, the last historical province, which were all united with the Kingdom of Romania at that time.
101 years have passed over modern Romania. At this moment, in the second century of its existence, we can say without mistaking that we look with confidence and hope, and also with pride, if you want, to our modern Romania, the democratic one, the stable one, our dear Romania, which is member of the European Union and NATO. Romania, which has managed to establish a distinct profile on the international arena and which every year succeeds, through its deeds, in conveying confidence, hope, in becoming, if you wish, a model for other states in the immediate and in the extended neighborhood.
There have been difficult moments, there have been difficult times, there have been moments loaded with a special symbolism, if we only refer to the last decades. Also this year, and I think it is extremely important to mention this, we will celebrate 30 years since the revolution of December 1989, which was that turning point that put current Romania on a new path of evolution. A European evolution, a Euro-Atlantic evolution, is a path where human rights are fully respected, the rule of law is ensured, democracy is at home. And I think it is a great opportunity to thank all those who made these moments possible.
You asked me to make a quintessence. It is difficult to make a quintessence, because it is said that wherever there are more Romanians living, there is also a small Romania in that area. I think every Romanian feels his own Romania in his soul, in his thoughts. Why is this day important to me? Because, unlike, perhaps, other people, who celebrate their National Days at significant historical moments, which are linked either to the date of a great battle, or to the adoption of the constitution, or to the independence - there are many states, as you know, that celebrate their own independence, which in essence represents a rupture, a separation from another entity - well, Romanians celebrate their Union. This is, if you wish, the joy of being together and I think this joy of being together, beyond its epic relevance, beyond the associated mythology in the Romanian folk ethos, made us who we are - confident, hopeful, with a pronounced sense of balance, including also the ability to laugh even in the face of death. In Romania, let's remember, there is the only Merry Cemetery in the whole world. So, here the Romanians are able to laugh even when facing death. Well, how then should we not enjoy the happy moments in our life, such as when we all celebrate a National Day of Romania?
You can't escape history or geography...
- IPN: What you said is somehow about the past, which is in many respects common to the citizens of the Republic of Moldova and Romania of today. In addition to these perennial values, what do you think unites us most now? Is there something that somehow separates us at the same time?
- Daniel Ioniță: The Prut still separates us. What unites us - our language unites us, our history unites us, our habits unite us, our way of being unites us. I believe our wish to contribute together to a better life for all citizens on both sides of the Prut unite us as well. We are united, I hope, in a large proportion, by our common desire to keep the Republic of Moldova oriented on its European path and, in this respect, by our wish to carry out a number of projects with a pronounced pragmatic character for the benefit of all citizens.
- IPN: The next question is on the same level and it comes to some extent as a continuation of the previous one. Which do you think is the most important thing in the relations between the Republic of Moldova and Romania? Please, don't mind, for example, I would try to answer my own question the following way: The fact that we have a massive, active, complex communication, at all levels - unimaginable 30 years ago ...
- Daniel Ioniță: I think I also have my answer, because this time I would put the respect at the foundation of the relation between Romania and the Republic of Moldova. Because we must not forget, Romania was the first state to recognize the independence of the Republic of Moldova. Romania grants special respect to the concerns of the Republic of Moldova and pays close attention to the developments here. And, when appropriate, it also has the ability to convey messages, which we hope will be understood, listened to, and why not, be followed by those who are responsible to do this. Romania has always acted in the Republic of Moldova with a deep respect for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova and in full compliance with the legislation of the Republic of Moldova, because we really wanted to be serious partners and, you know, we were able to be advocates for the European course of the Republic of Moldova, position for which we received criticism from some partners either from the West or from the East.
But I always believe that Romania has shown seriousness and responsibility when it approached the relations with the Republic of Moldova, and in our bilateral relation for 28 years there have been better times and worse times. However, no matter the past, no matter the present and no matter the future developments, I think one can escape neither the history nor the geography. And we believe that our common and beautiful language - the Romanian language - a good part of our history, the traditions, the customs lie at the basis of our relationship. There are many inter-human connections that exist between citizens on both sides of the Prut. I have been in Moldova for three and a half years now; I have been traveling a lot, interacting with different people from the Republic of Moldova. I have met true patriots, I have seen examples of rectitude, people who have managed to pass with dignity through this history. I met people who, when talking about their grandparents, had tears in their eyes, as I also met people who are extremely interested in the money from Romania and who, for this money are able to make all kinds of statements, more than that, more sincere, or less sincere.
Romania's support is not a blank check ...
- IPN: We have had almost ten years of bilateral relations under the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, established by a joint Declaration in 2010. What is the strategic character of the links between our countries, which are the basic pillars and the real achievements of this course?
- Daniel Ioniță: Yes, next year we will celebrate the Strategic Partnership. In April 2010, the Strategic Partnership was signed to support the European integration of the Republic of Moldova. The respective partnership provides a whole series of mechanisms, all of which have been designed to help the Republic of Moldova, to better prepare it to enable its association to the European Union. According to the Partnership, we have set up joint intergovernmental commissions for the European integration of the Republic of Moldova. There is also a parliamentary dimension to this Partnership – there are also the parliamentary committees for European integration.
Through the respective Partnership, basically, Romania has committed to transfer to Chisinau all the expertise that the Republic of Moldova needs, as I said earlier, to make this proximity to the European Union possible. In other words, we are committed to supporting the reform processes, because without sustained reforms it is not possible to move toward the European Union. To be clear, this support is not a blank check, it is not, if you want, a wild card that someone offers you and you go with and open the doors of the European Union.
This integration, the proximity to the European Union implies, first and foremost, reforms, reforms and reforms again. Romania knows this from its own experience, knows how difficult it has been for us at times, but we know how beneficial this integration into the European Union, the accession to the European Union and the process of integration was for all the citizens of Romania. The process of integration is longer than the moment you joined the organization as such and you cannot move forward in this process unless you have an effective justice system. You cannot go further to a country where citizens are above the law and Article 1 of the Constitution does not apply to them.
You need serious mechanisms and also competent institutions to analyze, judge and sanction corruption acts and deeds. You need these issues to be felt by the entire population, because it is only on these principles that the trust needed in society can be built. You need a rule of law to enforce the law in a common way. You need encouragement for the business environment, because otherwise foreign investors and not even local investors will come to invest, if they know their money is not secure. So if you want, you need deep transformation processes in the country. And above all, you need institutions capable of managing all these processes, and these institutions must also have the capacity and wisdom to understand both the phenomena around them, but also come up with solutions to strengthen their own resilience. Romania has acknowledged all these issues in the relation with the Republic of Moldova.
There is virtually no single area where we cannot find examples of good practices between the two banks of the Prut, based on this Partnership. There are many twinning projects that have been carried out between Romania, the Republic of Moldova and possibly other partners from the European Union, with European funds. Some aimed at fighting corruption, others aimed at combating money laundering, and others aimed at collecting taxes. I know a twinning project in the agricultural field, which basically gives farmers a handbook that should be used when you want to have, for example, a farm, which is irrigated, and the irrigation in question is computer-controlled. Here are all kinds of such projects.
In addition, there are joint operational projects, which are carried out directly between local authorities, especially in the border area. There were joint operational projects with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. There are still plans to expand these projects. Moreover, whenever Chisinau needed a piece of legislation, a piece of law, they knew that this piece of legislation is in Bucharest, because we have the Acquis communautaire translated into Romanian. So for Chisinau it is relatively simple - you go, ask and the whole solution is offered to you. I do not know that we have refused such requests. But I repeat, we go very fast with these steps and the pace, but this time Chisinau is the one who has to choose. We have made no secret that we support the European path, because we see that this path is the only way to give the citizens of the Republic of Moldova a chance at a better, more prosperous, safer, more stable life in a state which respects democratic norms and principles. And, at the same time, we are not alone in this process - Romania "sings" in the European choir all these topics. The voice of Romania is not a distinct voice, if you will. It is a voice, which is also the voice of the European Union. Please understand the messages that we and other ambassadors and officials of the European Union send here, because these messages, I think, are important.
- IPN: I would like to continue to focus on the Moldovan-Romanian bilateral relations at the present stage, but I would like to first establish a criterion: how do we distinguish the Moldovan-Romanian bilateral relations from the Moldovan-EU ones, Romania being an EU member? When does Romania represent itself in relations with the Republic of Moldova and when does it represent the European Union?
- Daniel Ioniță: I was trying to tell you that, in fact, the previous argument was not a trilateral argument. Romania is part of the European Union, so when you talk about the relations of the Republic of Moldova with the European Union, you must also imply the relations of the Republic of Moldova with Romania, which is an integral part of the EU. It is not a separate matter. And I think this is true even with regard to the multiple projects carried out by the Republic of Moldova with the community space as a whole.
Currently, the community space is the main economic partner of the Republic of Moldova. More than 65%, I think that almost 70% of the bilateral trade of the Republic of Moldova is directed to the community space, and out of this important amount, a large part belongs to Romania. Romania is the main trading partner of the Republic of Moldova. I look forward to this year's figures, but last year our trade exceeded $ 2.2 billion USD in both directions, imports and exports. Which is, if you want, more than a doubling of this statistical data from 2016, when I took over my mandate. To all these issues, first and foremost, the fact that the Republic of Moldova began to apply the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement in a correct manner for its own sake and in full respect of European norms contributed a lot and the Republic of Moldova benefited fully from the facilities offered by the Association Agreement with the EU. Last but not least, the decisions taken five years ago to liberalize the visa regime for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova contributed a lot to this figures. Looking back, obviously you can hear a lot of criticism, especially on this side of the Prut, in the Republic of Moldova, related to the EU. "What do these people want from us too?" - because the good part is forgotten in such a story. Perhaps the citizens of the Republic of Moldova forgot too quickly that six years ago, when traveling to the EU, they had to humiliate themselves at the consulates to apply for visas. Now, simply, with your passport in your pocket you travel easily in the community space up to three months a year, you can stay, work, travel, do whatever you think is appropriate.
At the same time, the EU and Romania as a whole have always come out with outstretched hands to the Republic of Moldova. What this means - beyond the multitude of bilateral projects carried out, all these have been directed for the benefit of the citizens. For example, the Roşu vilage in the Cahul district, in recent years, has benefited from European funds and through funds donated by the governments of some EU member states, in this case the Romanian and German ones, has European living standards. Neither Romania nor Germany asked for anything back. Basically, there are projects that have been made for the benefit of local communities.
Moreover, the EU has allocated over time substantial amounts of non-refundable money. There is the macro-financial assistance offered with great generosity by the EU in recent years, which represents free money, non-refundable funds. The EU member states, Romania in particular, have carried out a whole series of social projects for the benefit of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova. Already kindergartens have become a registered trademark for Romania because over 930 kindergartens have been renovated in the Republic of Moldova with money from the Government of Romania. But many other projects were possible with money from the EU. There are states that have assumed the support of some areas of activity: agricultural, media freedom, fundamental rights and freedoms. Through all these, as a whole, we wanted to help the Republic of Moldova become a better space, a better country, a more democratic, a more stable country, so that the citizens can recognize the benefits of connecting to our European space.
And a small amount of love in everything we do here –
- IPN: Since establishing diplomatic relations 28 years ago, we have become accustomed to their usually unilateral approach. As a rule, it is as if by itself it is understood that Romania supports the Republic of Moldova in whatever it needs. But I do not remember the problem being asked vice versa: what does the Republic of Moldova do for Romania, what can it do and how does it do? In particular, in a strategic partnership.
- Daniel Ioniță: We are partners who respect each other in the international arena. And I say this very seriously. In the sense that when it comes to the problem of mutual support of pending files, of difficult files on the international arena, Romania knew that it could count on the support of the Republic of Moldova. I am not referring here only to Eurovision competitions, where, of course, the votes naturally flow. Moreover, the respective bilateral projects are useful because they are also in our interest. And we have a lot to learn from our interaction with Moldovan experts. Nobody has full knowledge of all things, and from our interaction we have always discovered that there are issues that, for example, you here in the Republic of Moldova, can do better than we are able to do in Romania. We have often borrowed such good practices and models. Moreover, our bilateral economic relations are in the interest of both parties. At present, there are almost six thousand companies with capital from the Republic of Moldova operating unrestricted in Romania. There are about three times less the number of Romanian companies, which are registered in the Republic of Moldova. This economic interaction is useful, first and foremost, to those who work in Romania and in the Republic of Moldova. These investors are working for people, and they also need connections precisely so that people have reasons to stay home, no longer have to live the discontent of leaving their homes and suffer the longing for home.
Of course we should not get drunk here with cold water. Obviously, there are many more things we could do together, if we had the same level of responsibility and seriousness in Bucharest, and in Chisinau in terms of respecting the commitments we made. We will see to what extent these things will evolve, but from this bilateral relationship I think both sides have to win.
I was hurt by a reply from a simple man, mind you, from a village on the banks of the Prut, where many houses were built by the Romanian Government. Effective donations, houses built from scratch. The Prut River took their houses, Romania came and rebuilt their houses and a citizen of the area said: "What do these Romanians want from us? Let us alone! ” No, we do not want anything from those citizens, we leave them alone to remain peaceful. This gesture (house construction) was a gesture for some people we felt close to, people who were facing some problems and if we could help them, we helped them. Thank God, Romania is now in the position of donor and of official development assistance, and the Republic of Moldova represented the main recipient state of this assistance. Before we were integrated into NATO and the EU, we also had been helped by others. But always in the support that comes from over the Prut, you will always find a small amount of love in everything we do here.
- IPN: Let's try to evaluate the Moldovan-Roman relations under all three or four traditional aspects: politically, economically, socially, perhaps and culturally separately. With the mention that to each of them we could return along the way with certain details ...
- Daniel Ioniță: Bilateral relations are in a continuous dynamic evolution and whatever I say now will not be a surprise in the reality as a whole. We recently witnessed a change of Government in Chisinau. In the run-up to the censorship motion, the Government of Romania and high Romanian officials sent a whole series of signals to the authorities of the Republic of Moldova, appealing to responsibility and expressing the hope that any decision that will be taken here will not affect either the European path or the reform path. The decisions that the Chisinau authorities have taken, I hope with full respect for sovereignty, were followed and carefully evaluated. At this stage, we are able to say that any assistance that Romania will provide, including financial assistance, will be carefully evaluated and strictly conditioned by the support of a reform path that is desired not by Romania or European partners, but it is wanted, first and foremost, by the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, because these reforms must meet the high expectations of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova.
- IPN: What is the purpose and efficiency of the joint meetings of the governments of Romania and the Republic of Moldova? It seems that we have an additional reason for evaluating the efficiency of this mechanism of collaboration, if it is true what is said in the public space that a certain slowdown or pause may occur in its operation.
- Daniel Ioniță: Let's not hurry, let’s have patience and see where things are moving, especially in Chisinau. There is an almost perfect similarity between Chisinau and Bucharest. And you know what this is? Governments have changed and at present both government and president of each country are on the same political line. Let's wait for things to evolve mainly in Chisinau and then we'll see what we can do in the future. It is, I think, too soon to venture into random statements that can send inappropriate signals into the public space.
"This social phenomenon called the desire for unity"
- IPN: I fully understand that the status of an Ambassador does not provide too many opportunities for evaluating the political affairs in the country of residence, but I have at least two reasons to ask the following question with political intent: 1. This topic is widely used in the public space of both countries and 2. It is about the special relations, marked by the past, common language and culture, between our countries, incomparably more special than with any other country. The question is the following: You can pronounce yourself on the reasons, the evolution and the quality of the unionist current in the Republic of Moldova (to specify for foreign readers that it is about the current that promotes the union of the Republic of Moldova with Romania), on the one hand, but also about the reasons, the evolution and the quality of the anti-unionist current, sometimes with Romano-phobic nuances, also present in the east of Prut?
- Daniel Ioniță: Please allow me not to comment on the Unionist political movement, which is otherwise opposed to the statehood movement, because this is not about it. But I will refer to a social phenomenon that has existed, exists and will exist. This social phenomenon is called the desire for unity. This desire to unite in both Romania and even in that time the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova, this current as a social phenomenon never died. This year we commemorated 80 years since the odious Pact Ribbentrop-Molotov - and I also welcomed in the speech I gave on the occasion of the National Day reception, organized on November the 29th, the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation published it for the first time, because you know very well that for a long time they denied its existence. So, 80 years ago, when the border was put on Prut, on the one hand, no one asked the citizens, on one side or the other of the river, in which country they wanted to live, and, on the other hand, that revolting decision has produced many dramas at inter-personal level.
When I told you that I traveled a lot in the Republic of Moldova, you should know that I also met such families, who for many years were separated as a result of that decision. Some brothers remained on the left bank of the Prut, others on the right, families were not even allowed to send letters to each other. So, once the barbed wire was lifted off the Prut, which we obviously don't want to ever get there again, these relationships started to develop naturally. But even during Ceausescu's time, even during the Republic of Moldova's membership to the Soviet Union, the unionist feeling existed in the two societies and, again, it will continue to exist. Many see this as the only salvage solution, if you want a sort of universal panacea that fully resolves the whole issue, others consider the work as a political opportunity for closure, reshaping, creating conditions that will allow for a better societal development.
What will be in the future, again I do not know, but I find that there are such feelings on both sides. Of course, as always, as in physics if you will, the plus is always drawn by the minus. As long as there is a strong unionist society, equally, there will be a movement that is opposed to such an idea. What politicians will do is not in my position to comment, what people will do, I also do not know. Because in such situations it is the people who have the last decision, the people are in fact the bearer of sovereignty in the future developments of any country.
- IPN: And maybe the last question in the political field, but not only politically. In contrast to previous periods, in recent years, the Romanian Embassy, and this means the Romanian state, is it much more present in the Gagauz Autonomy and somewhat less in the Transnistrian region? Why is this so, if this perception is true?
- Daniel Ioniță: I think it's a perception. And I will tell you why. We regard both regions as an integral part of the Republic of Moldova. The efforts made by the Romanian Government in recent years, in the direction of creation, the direction of supporting some social projects, have not been limited to a certain geographical area. They were not conditioned by a certain spoken language and, alas, were not conditioned by the support of some or other political factors. Thus, lately Romania has had social projects carried out with equal openness in all regions of the Republic of Moldova, including in the Gagauz Autonomy, where beyond the donation of school minibuses - Romania has donated 196 school minibuses in the last years, and some of these school minibuses also arrived in Gagauz Autonomy. Moreover, in Gagauz Autonomy we have some projects that we want to be implemented. One of these projects concerns the renovation of Mihai Eminescu high school, which is the only Romanian high school in Comrat. Recently, I met with Mrs. Irina Vlah, and Her Excellency even told me that there is a need for more such high schools in the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, because it is necessary to know the state language very well. Because the people there realized that isolation helps at absolutely nothing. You can maintain your cultural autonomy - and it may be natural to do so - but if you lock yourself in your own shell and separate yourself completely from the world, this is of no use to anyone, except perhaps those who from time to time, on election periods remember you and come there for the sake of the votes people can give. Just that, nothing more.
For Transnistria it is clear that Romania, together with the EU member states, is closely watching the evolution of the 5 + 2 format negotiations. This format is the only one we believe in and the only one we support and we want the results obtained in this format to fully respect the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova within its recognized international borders and, furthermore, it is important that the result does not affect in any way the European vector of the Republic of Moldova.
Three things that Romanian investors need and not only
- IPN: The economic relations between states have several basic indicators, including bilateral trade and mutual investments. You have already said that in both areas we have significant growth and it is true. For me, for example, it was a novelty that you said about six thousand investors from the Republic of Moldova, established for business in Romania. But equally true is that both areas are marked by certain disproportions: either in terms of bilateral imports and exports, or in the presence of mutual investments. Is it as good as it is, or is it an economic issue that deserves attention and resolution? Possibly, under the pressure of the interests of other states, which, here, announces their interest in activating in both directions.
- Daniel Ioniță: I would start by telling you, in my capacity as ambassador, that mutual investments are not enough because I know we can do more. In our bilateral relationship, Romania and the Republic of Moldova can certainly do more. At this moment, if you go to Romania you will be surprised to find that in absolutely all supermarkets there are Moldovan products. On the shelf you can find absolutely everything you find in the Republic of Moldova.
Investments are equally important, but the manner you treat Romanian investors will influence the sustainability of that business, and also the possibility that other potential investors may or may not come to the Republic of Moldova. An investor, no matter what part of the world he or she will be, will look very carefully to the existence of two safety nets: financial and legal. You have to have a serious banking system because in today's world business is done through banks, not with the bag, not with the money in the envelope. You have to have a serious justice system because when you need it you have to rely on the fact that an impartial judge, in the most serious way, will do you justice, and that justice is in line with and in spirit of the law. Thirdly, any serious investor looks at how you treated other serious investors. And in the past period we have had good and bad examples in this regard. We know that we had serious investors from Romania who wanted to come here and couldn't. On the other hand, I do not want the Romanian investors who are serious, who fully respect the legislation of the Republic of Moldova, who, through what they have done here, had invested significant amounts of money and created jobs, to be treated in a somehow discriminatory manner.
I watch this very carefully and try to support these investors when it comes to facilitating a dialogue. Because this can be done by an ambassador: he can facilitate their dialogue, he can voice potential problems, situations they have faced, can see to what extent the issues are singular or systemic. If there are systemic issues, a solution must be found to solve all of these. In such a situation we are not in a competition like beauty contest: who walks more gracefully on the red carpet. I think there is a need for seriousness, I think there is a need to fill some needs, it is necessary that the investors coming to the Republic of Moldova fully respect the principles of social-corporate responsibility, the legislation, they must represent good examples of models and practices. We sent these messages to investors in Romania, who are gathered in the Association of Investors from Romania in the Republic of Moldova in Chisinau.
This association was born at the initiative and with our support. They have elected me as honorary president, for the first time I am president of something and I am very proud of this matter. Each time I told them with full openness and transparency that as long as they will be supporters of the principles in which we also believe, they will benefit from our support, a support that is manifested by facilitating that dialogue that they have to have, at a moment, with the decision makers. For me it is important to have the possibility of direct dialogues with these Romanian investors, because I find out from direct source what situations they face, what are the potential issues that do not go very well, and especially what we can do in Bucharest and Chisinau to keep things going normally. There are not only Romanian investors in the Association, there are companies that have been in Romania, have operated and conducted successful businesses in Romania and from there they crossed the Prut, encouraged by us, and by that practices, mentalities, customs, the language, all the same and it seems somehow easier to come here.
IPN: As a young journalist, I participated in many press events organized in the first days and months of independence of the Republic of Moldova on both sides of the Prut. I was impressed by the general enthusiasm, but also by my own one, when discussing the absolutely new projects for that time regarding the connection of railways in Romania and the Republic of Moldova through "European gauge" - I remember that I perceived the notion as one of the cosmic domain - also about the connection of energy systems, including natural gas pipelines. I am no longer young, the "European gauge" is barely remembered, and the energy systems are not yet interconnected. I understand well: the Iași-Chisinau pipeline is planned to be put into operation in the near future, for the interconnection of the electrical networks something is being done, and yet, almost half a human life is too much for fulfilling dreams that already seemed a reality in the youth of the relations between our countries. Why was that and how safe are we to be otherwise?
- Daniel Ioniță: I can not give you a comprehensive answer to this question, because the answer to this question is not in Bucharest. The move to the European track is a decision that must be taken in Chisinau, not in Bucharest. For the interconnection of energy systems, there are plans that have been jointly carried out by Bucharest and Chisinau, which aim, on the one hand, for an asynchronous interconnection, which means substantial investments because they have to come with a "back to back" station. In other words, the frequency system in Romania is different from the frequency system in the Republic of Moldova. The Republic of Moldova is still associated with the post-Soviet space and pulses energetically as the ex-Soviet space pulses, unlike Romania which is connected to the central and east-European energy space. To put the two systems together, you either live with this asynchronous interconnection, which also involves a transformation station which means a significant investment, or you make a synchronous interconnection, but by passing the whole space to the European frequency system. However, I suppose that for the synchronous interconnection it is important to have a good collaboration, including between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
For the project regarding the Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline, we have good news. The project started, is being carried out, according to the commitments made by the Romanian side. Most likely, in April next year the pipeline between Ungheni and Chisinau will be completed, and by the end of next year, all pumping stations will probably be completed so that, next winter, the gas pipeline will have the projected pressure.
There are many other infrastructure projects that are needed and requested by citizens. From Ungheni to go to Iasi, you have to travel about 50-60 kilometers by road, when the distance between the two cities is less than 20 kilometers. Maybe a bridge should be built there too. Maybe other bridges over the Prut should be built because if we look at what had existed in the interwar period, when there were over 24 bridges over the Prut, we now have only seven functional bridges. On these points we undertook, and also obtained European funds, to modernize them, to bring them to European standards. With all these upgrades, we must admit that you do not physically have the capacity to take over all traffic during peak periods. So, what depended on us we will do and watch with great care. What depends on Chisinau - we hope Chisinau will do it too.
Moldovans can easily find a job in Romania
- IPN: An intermediate theme - between economic and social. And the citizens of Romania, and the citizens of the Republic of Moldova are also required to go to work in other countries to ensure a better profit. I understand why the citizens of Romania would not choose as a work destination the Republic of Moldova, but I know that there are more citizens of the Republic of Moldova who would like to find a better paid place than we do in Romania, it would be even closer to home, other problems would be solved at the level of communication and integration, but it is said that not everyone has this right on the territory of Romania. It is said that there are certain prohibitions for work. That's right, isn't it?
- Daniel Ioniță: No, that's not the case. Here you see, again we enter a news area, I would not necessarily say fake, but rather folklore. What happens? The citizens of the Republic of Moldova, who also have Romanian citizenship, can work without problems in Romania, because they are Romanian citizens. They can be hired, no one stops them. The others, in order to be employed in Romania, must apply for the work permit, which is obtained from the Romanian Immigration Authority, based on a request and a file submitted by their employer. If they want to work in Romania, they have to prove that they have a work contract with an employer, the employer pays them the salary corresponding to the work performed, and the respective citizens have the documents in order. The process as such is neither very difficult, it is not even time consuming, in the sense that such an application, such a visa, such a work permit, usually comes in about two weeks.
So, I would encourage all those who want to ask this question, if they have any uncertainties, to contact us, to explain them exactly at our consular sections, at the consular section of the Romanian Embassy in Chisinau, at the General Consulates of Romania in Balti or from Cahul, or directly to the competent authorities in Romania, or to go to the National Immigration Office, or to any police station, to ask about the procedure to be followed. They can ask this question from Romania, so if they want to work in Romania, they will work in Romania. There are areas where obviously we have also started to feel the lack of a qualified workforce. They also left Romania and there are areas where you really need good arms and minds. This applies to those who want to come to stay legally in Romania, to work legally, and that means having a contract with an employer in Romania, the employer must pay his duties to the Romanian state, so to do things as must be done. If they come to work I do not know where, some places, on the black market, on the one hand, after a while someone looks in the passport and sees that in fact they have exceeded 90 days, so we enter another area.
- IPN: You talked about a lot of projects that Romania is carrying out in the Republic of Moldova on many levels, in many fields. How do you appreciate the attitude of the Moldovan part in carrying out these projects, more precisely I would ask you if certain problems are excluded, which are mentioned in the context of other projects: irregularities, corruption, only to give some examples of concerns.
- Daniel Ioniță: I think for this we would need about a half day, a conference dedicated to having our experts, you, to stand face to face, to discuss. In all modesty, Romania has carried out many, many projects in the Republic of Moldova. I will refer only to some of these projects, in order to understand the mechanisms for judging such matters.
The project regarding the renovation of kindergartens was made possible by the following mechanism: The Government of Romania donated a sum of money, the Government of the Republic of Moldova selected a number of pre-school units that had to be renovated. Why do I say that the selection belonged to the Government of the Republic of Moldova? Because it is important that the decision belongs to the Government of the Republic of Moldova, to the local authorities, because they know best in which villages such kindergartens are needed. We can go and renovate a kindergarten in a village, but maybe in that village there are no more children, or that village is an old village, or that is even a deserted village. So we need, on the one hand, a selection assumed at the governmental level. Moreover, we need a small and modest participation from the local community, because only this way the local community assumes the respective project and takes care of the respective project. The less precious things are the free gifts. In order to value something you have to pay, at least at some point, for that something. Not necessarily a significant financial contribution, but you have to take on the project as a community.
Well, after these steps were completed, the agency for the implementation of the respective projects, the FISM, the Social Investment Fund of the Republic of Moldova, with which we had a very good collaboration in the past, managed all these projects and following each project, sent us audit reports. You had, let’s say, 10 lei that you gave, 1 million lei, 10 thousand lei, 10 million lei, look: that way your money was spent. Yes, the brick cost that much, the windows cost that much, the finishing cost that much, the work cost this way. We took the respective audit reports and checked them with our experts, if there were inconsistencies, because we always check what the left says, what the right says, and there were situations when we asked for either further clarification or the return of money. The same thing happened with the projects undertaken by the Romanian Government, I think for the benefit of all the inhabitants of Chisinau, at the Organ Hall, at the National Museum of Art and here and at the "Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu" Theatre in Cahul. I periodically requested audit reports. If there were inconsistencies between the respective issues, we requested the return of some funds. We have such examples. We pursued and we will pursue this issue with utmost seriousness for one simple reason: it is about responsibility. The money that the Romanian Government donated, it did not donate it from the pockets where it grew from the stars, they are the taxes of the Romanian citizens. We are responsible for the Romanian citizens. We need to demonstrate to them how the respective money was spent.
At the same time, Romania has carried out, this time at the level of local authorities, multiple projects for the benefit of municipalities, for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova. A recent example is the granite staircase from Valea Morilor Park, which has been rehabilitated with a substantial grant from the City Hall of Sector 1 of Bucharest to the City Hall of Chisinau. Also, the two parties signed contracts that provide for the achievement of the objective, also provide the technical project, provide the signs that must be put at a certain time and be visible and associated with the respective project, and other such matters. So, overall, these are the mechanisms. It is not a matter of throwing money left and right and that is, let us see what it will be.
About TVR and about Daniel Ioniță
- IPN: When does the Romanian Television in the Republic of Moldova return to full rights? Why does it last so long? Why do you think we have fewer Romanian radio and TV stations in the Republic of Moldova than in other countries? What to do on both sides?
- Daniel Ioniță: The Romanian television has expressed its interest to return to the possession of an analog national frequency: the frequency that belonged to Channel 2 and the frequency that was taken away a few years ago. There was also a decision at the European Court for Human Rights in this regard, there was also an amicable agreement between the two parties, which involved the simultaneous completion of some stages. The respective license was put to auction. Probably, the Romanian Television will submit a request, will participate in the respective contest because TVR Moldova, I believe, is a generalist post of a high professional standing, which has proven to be an impartial media actor who has demonstrated, including on the occasion of the local elections that offered equal distribution space to all, fully meets the legislative provisions. It is important that there are such serious voices in the media space in the Republic of Moldova.
- IPN: I asked this question to all the ambassadors interviewed during this cycle, so I ask you: Who is Daniel Ioniță outside this official position you hold?
- Daniel Ioniță: When you are an ambassador of your country in a foreign country you cannot be anything else because you are associated with your position. By the way, I am particularly proud because on November the 29th , the President of Romania, Klaus Iohanis, signed the decree conferring me the diplomatic degree of ambassador. In diplomacy this represents the ultimate professional position. Beyond this degree there is no other. This obviously honors me, but at the same time obliges me, because these issues are always together.
I am a normal man, who likes people and who puts a lot of passion in everything he does. Sure, the world we live in is a world where you have to respect various rules, diplomatic customs, but I, beyond that, I like to think that I have done things for the benefit of people and for people and I have done things in which, for as a whole or in principle, I believe. I like simple things, but sometimes simplicity is hard to come by. I am glad and I was glad to be present in the Republic of Moldova, because I had the opportunity of make multiple contacts. Unlike other ambassadors, who have the luxury of having a slightly more normal life, I happen to be stopped on the street, people want to take a picture with me, when going to the market, standing in line ... I can't buy any kilos of potatoes without being recognized. I always use that opportunity precisely to talk to people, to see what their concerns are.
I'm not just going to the very expensive and very exclusive shops. I go to the province, interact with people, I know the pain, I also know the cry and despair of the simple citizens. I feel gratitude for grandmother in the street selling eggs, because I know that from the eggs she can buy her bread. I know that pensions are small, needs high. I realize that these wishes, these cries for help are not only valid in the Republic of Moldova, but also in Romania. I think we are a very special people.
The video interview to the IPN Press Agency by the Romanian Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, Daniel Ioniță, is part of the cycle "Relations of the Republic of Moldova with the development partners", supported by the German Hanns Seidel Foundation