Iurie Leanca: Moldova knows where it wants to get to and what it has to do

The Republic of Moldova reached the 22nd year of independence. The IPN Agency decided to present the accomplishments and failures in the country’s development in a number of articles. Representatives of the current government, experts, former and current politicians stated their views on the steps taken by Moldova after August 27, 1991.

Article No. 18 of the IPN series “Moldova-22. Steps forward and steps backward”, on the occasion of the Independence Day

  - What results in the political, economic and social spheres did Moldova achieve during the 22 years of independence?

  - Moldova’s course from the historical declaration of independence saw both positive events such as the implementation of laws and reforms aimed at creating viable state institutions, and negative events. With the return of the Communist Party to power in 2001, the state was subdued to the will of one person – the party leader – while the institutions became paralyzed.

At 22 years of independence, Moldova is close to initialing the Association Agreement with the EU, which envisions the creation of a free trade area. Thus, we will associate politically and will integrate economically into a market with over 500 million people. We will yet have a lot to do to integrate politically into this bloc.

  - Has Moldova a clear view as to where it wants to get to and how it can achieve this goal after 22 years of independence?

  - Moldova knows where it wants to get to and what it has to do: to become a fully-fledged member of the EU by doing internal reforms and by promoting the same values and institution functioning models so that the people have confidence in Moldova’s European future.

  - How did Moldova’s capacities to achieve its modernization goals evolve, at the level of the political class and in society in general?

  - If we remember the first years of independence, the political class was then dominated by sincere people with good, even noble intentions, but without sufficient experience in governing an independent state that is a subject of international law. Only at the end of the 1990s, the European integration was set as foreign policy priority and I’m glad that even if I was among the first diplomats who started to promote the European integration, there is now consensus in the political class and in society as to the way that we must follow.

As I said, a dull period of eight years followed, during which the ruling Communist Party, which changed the course from the Russia-Belarus Union and the policy of all azimuths to the declaration of the European integration as strategic objective, did nothing to achieve the announced goal. On the contrary, the power took steps to take over institutions, to institute monopoly and to control entire sectors of the country’s economy and used such institutions as the prosecutor’s office, the anticorruption center and the Ministry of the Interior as a political cudgel for intimidating the opposition, disloyal and inconvenient parties or journalists.

The year 2009 brought changes in the Moldovan politics. The tragic post-electoral ‘April 7’ events left a powerful imprint. That’s why the parties that are ruling now have a moral debt towards the young people who were beaten and tortured in police commissariats to reform the law enforcement bodies and to enforce the law so that the people feel safe, not in danger at home.

The current capacities differ much from those we had several years ago: civil society and the public pressure manage to influence governance, even if sporadically, and this means that the jump was made and we are able to have civilized interaction between the authorities and the people.

  - What are now the main trump cards and the main dangers faced by Moldova on its path to European integration?

  - I will start with the dangers because it is very important to realize them and to take measures.

Unfortunately, we cannot speak about the irreversible character of the reforms as we didn’t yet reach the stage when they are so deep-rooted that they can bring about changes in society and can modify the mentality so that the people are immune to the political fluctuations.

Even if we have many professional and correct judges in the legal system, justice remains the weak ring in the democratic construction of the state. During the last few years, we were witnesses to loud decisions that allowed taking a number of institutions under control by fraudulent ways. If these decisions had been implemented, they would have emptied the state’s treasury and would have threatened the national security. Not in vain, the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor General’s Office created a working group, with the assistance of European experts, which will soon propose a prosecution service reformation strategy, while the European Commission provides considerate support to us in this field.  

We can find recipes for transforming these institutions at the Baltic States, in Bulgaria or Romania, where, even if things are not ideal, we saw many accomplishments. The reform of our police is in full swing. It is a complex change: some of the new elements work, while others are waiting to be put into practice. There is no alternative and we must continue the changes started in the autumn of 2009!

The trump cards reside in the fact that we have prepared people, with dexterity, who are ready to devote themselves to these reformation processes. Furthermore, we are supported by important European and international organizations.

  - What actions will be taken first of all before the Vilnius Summit in order to have a positive result for Moldova there? What steps will be taken after the Summit so that the country signs the Association Agreement as soon as possible and implements its provisions?

  - We are first to initial the Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit of November 29. Before it, we have a series of commitments to fulfill so as to convince the European Commission that Moldova meets the conditions to initiate the discussions on the liberalization of visas with the EU member states.

The Summit is a significant event, but it is much more important what we will do afterward and how accelerated the pace of reforms will be as we must sign the Association Agreement as quickly as possible.

  - What areas will develop in Moldova most intensely, to your mind? Which should be developed now, as a priority?

  - The economic policy on which the long-term development strategy is based is aimed not at promoting ‘priority areas’, but at removing the critical constraints that hinder economic growth. I assure you that the Moldovans have different talents and aptitudes and have entrepreneurial skills, while the Moldovan economy, which was allowed to breathe freely, discovers competitive advantages about which nobody thought. Who would have said in 2009 that Moldova would develop an industry of electrical and electronic components for vehicles? Today we have such an industry that attracts new investors and develops the technological competences of employees. I’m sure that in time it will lead to the appearance of fully local connected industries.

The information and communication technology is another very promising sector that developed practically independently, without support from the state, making a contribution to the GDP almost equal to that made by agriculture. I’m sure that it has a very high potential. Agriculture is certainly a very important sector for the Moldovan economy because it supplies several other competitive industries with raw material and provides employment opportunities for the residents from rural areas. We satisfy the requests of the farmers to support this sector, but I think that everyone understands that we cannot subsidize a certain sector by punishing other sectors. Agriculture can be developed easier by developing technological competences and post-harvest infrastructure and by removing market failures by providing massive subsidies, as in the developed countries. We must admit that we will not have such generous subsidies in the near future. That’s why, in accordance with the National Development Strategy Moldova 2020, we have seven priorities for developing the economy: the roads; training of the labor force; access to financing; security in supplying and efficiency in consuming energy; a durable pension system from social viewpoint; clear and simple game rules for the business and justice in which everyone believes. These are our main ‘priority areas’.

Reforms were launched in the vocational education sector and in justice. We are working on a roadmap that will remove the most serious regulatory constraints in the business activity. We count a lot on such electronic public services as e-criminal record and e-apostille, on the digitalization of all the documents of the Civil Status Office, switchover to an Electronic Register of Inspections, and simplification of business regulations so that different authorizations, licenses and documents are paid and obtained online, without intermediaries or without coming into contact with functionaries.

This way, we will get rid of the suffocating bureaucracy and will enable the entrepreneurs to do business without facing the already symptomatic pressure on the part of the state.  

  - You have an impressive diplomatic experience. How did, in your opinion, evolve the perception of Moldova of those from abroad in the 22 years of independence?

  - The appearance of the independent state Moldova, after the dismemberment of the USSR, was welcomed with enthusiasm. We were encouraged, but were also criticized when we deviated from the European spirit. The 22 years of independence showed that when you know what you want and have will and you admit that you have problems and ask for assistance, your efforts are supported. The realities of the last few years proved this.

  - What are the distinctive features of this 22nd year of independence, compared with the previous years?

  - We officially started the construction works on the Ungheni-Iasi gas pipeline, on the occasion of the Independence Day, together with Romanian Premier Victor Ponta and European Commissioner for Energy Günther H. Oettinger. We thus took an important step towards ensuring the country’s energy security. However, I dare to say that the initialing of the Association Agreement with the European Union and the taking of the decision to initiate the discussions on the liberalization of the visa regime at the EU Eastern Partnership Summit of Vilnius will represent the events of this year.

Mariana Galben, IPN
August, 2013

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