Pavel Filip: I’m proud that Moldova ultimately found its way, to the EU, IPN interview

IPN interview with the Prime Minister of Moldova Pavel Filip on the occasion of 26 years of Independence

– The Republic of Moldova celebrates the 26th anniversary of the declaration of its Independence. How would you describe this period and what did it mean for citizen Pavel Filip and for your family?

– I remember well that I was then a young engineer. I was only 25 and had all my life in front of me. I started a family and happiness came with my two sons. I built a career and started to give back to my country by the work I do in the Cabinet. I’m proud of the last 26 years at personal level and I’m proud of the fact that Moldova ultimately found its way and now knows that the rapprochement with the European Union is its project and future. We grew older as a country and strengthened our democracy and each day work for the living standards of everyone, starting with those in need, to improve.

– What are the biggest concerns of the people in Moldova at this stage of existence of the state, in what way is it different from the other stages and how much can the people count on state support now?

– The people want what they always wanted, legitimately: higher incomes, jobs, better hospitals and better equipped schools with sufficient and well-trained teachers. In general, they want a state that would solve their problems, but would not create new problems. During the last few years, as we know very well, many Moldovans left the country because they lost hope that everyone has a chance and can have a decent life near the family at home, in Moldova. There is yet a big fear of the future. The people do not trust each other and optimism is absent. The way in which the people behave towards the politicians and those who hold posts of public responsibility is what makes a difference now. The people are very critical and have bigger expectations of those who they elect to public posts. This is normal.

My message to the citizens of the Republic of Moldova is that the Government is on their side. We understand what they want and it is our first responsibility to transform Moldova into a functional state with a modern economy and with a quality of life similar to that in the European states. In exchange, we ask for a minimum investment of trust based on the internationally recognized accomplishments of the past one year and a half of government.

– Currently, the geopolitical situation and the situation in the region where the Republic of Moldova is situated seem to be the tensest ones compared with the previous period of Independence. What risks does this imply for the Republic of Moldova and can we speak about chances of solving particular problems in this new context? How should the country behave in these new circumstances?

– There are powerful forces that want the Republic of Moldova to remain in a gray area, not to strengthen itself democratically and to be weakened by internal and external disputes. I think the biggest risk at this moment is to believe that there is another project besides the one that centers on the European integration idea. No, there is no alternative and this thing can be easily seen if we look at our history of the past 26 years. There are enough decision makers who looked at the East without ensuring the expected changes. While some brought electric power from the East, an increasing number of Moldovans left the country to Western Europe.

An honest dialogue inside the political class and in society on what went wrong during the past 26 years and what should be done is necessary. This can be a precondition for reconciliation, for leaving the old problems aside and stopping to create vulnerabilities ourselves. If we assume the condition with dignity and are serious in the relationship with the Western partners, we would be able not only to resist in our region and to resolve such conflicts as the Transnistrian one, but could also grow at an accelerated pace. My hope is that we will not believe in chimeras and will prefer to work seriously and to have a predictable behavior at national and international levels.

– Which is the biggest chance for the Republic of Moldova to distinguish itself as a state when a part of the political class and society pleads for the European model, while the other part pleads for the Eastern model?

– I do not believe in an Eastern model, in the meaning in which it is related to the development of the country and the inclusive improvement of living standards. The European model brings peace and prosperity and this was proven after World War II and after the Cold War. The countries that joined the EU after 2004 provide an example. They all benefitted from investments, growth, substantial European funds. Romania is a very good example. It was hard for it at the beginning, but now this country has one of the highest growth rates in the EU. I was, am and will remain an active and engaged supporter of the return to Europe. We do not rediscover the wheel. We should only be able to determine where our place is according to the used and shared values and where there is an authentic interest for Moldova to succeed. I often go to Brussels and I see support for our country there and such support can probably be seen also in Washington only. In other capitals, Moldova is regarded as a pawn in a strategy that combines military force and the price of natural resources.

Furthermore, I don’t believe in models imposed by force, by blackmail or by corrupting leaders from the political class and from particular areas of civil society. Europe offers not only a better life, but also respect. There are no people in Europe who would like to humiliate Moldova, as it happens in other regions. I know that the Moldovans are sufficiently attentive and can assess, in the upcoming elections, who are those with whom Moldova goes on at home and in the EU.

– For the first time in its history, the Republic of Moldova transmits, through its authorities, distinctly different messages inside and, especially, outside. What stage of existence is this?

– The cohabitation between the Government and the President is a reality. One the one hand, we have the Executive’s legitimacy that is based on the confidence of Parliament, which is the fundamental institution of our state. On the other hand, we have a President who was elected directly by the people at the end of last year. As many others, I also notice this cacophony and this dual narrative. Certainly, the unity and coordination would have been preferred, at least as regards very important issues, such as the European integration, defense and external policy. It is not the case and this is not the Government’s blame.

However, we should never forget that we are a parliamentary republic and the legislature is the one that has the last say. The cohabitation cannot lead to decisional paralysis. We have instruments to efficiently manage the state and to adopt those measures that are necessary. As a democracy and as a state, we strengthen ourselves and daily learn to use the separate powers in the state. This is not the happiest scenario, while President Dodon’s deviations in terms of narrative and public action arouse concern.  As I mentioned, we are in power and will wisely prevent this cohabitation from becoming toxic for Moldova and its people.

– In this period, did the country’s people have and will they have “a President of everyone”? Is it possible? Is it necessary? What about a “Government and a Parliament of everyone”?

– Regrettably, the President didn’t leave the biased attitude aside and continues to represent first of all those who share his opinions. He didn’t manage to, and I don’t know if he at least tried, to come closer, to build ties with those who voted for him and had other values and preferences. The democratic system does not work based on unanimities. It would be unhealthy as diversity of opinions is normal. As I said, I would be glad consensus to exist on important issues, but Moldova is yet a country with many tensions and cleavages where it is hard to achieve a consensus on key matters. I yet hope that the reform efforts we make will consolidate the positive results and the pro-European majority will increase substantially. The Government is “of everyone” given that ensuring the people’s welfare without discrimination is its top priority. There is an English expression I like - “to lead by example”. This means to speak based on the achieved results and on the public behavior you impose. This is how we understand the purpose of our Government and we work to make sure that we have a Government of all the citizens of the Republic of Moldova.

– During the period of Independence, Moldova also witnessed other periods of tense relations between the President and the Parliament and Government. Is this normal or not? Is it a curse or an opportunity that enables to move on?

– Ancient Greeks said the struggle of contrarieties brings progress. Evidently, this thing has limits. It is hard to see the full part of the glass when the President becomes the key opponent of the efforts made by the Government and Parliament. We take a decision and he hurries to invalidate this, often in a symbolic way. The attitude to Mister Rogozin is the most recent example. The possibility of cohabitation is related to the constitutional architecture, but we evidently analyze how much this serves the long-term interests of our state. I will reiterate that even if we have to sometimes work two or three times more to implement the plan, we ultimately manage to impose our perspective, as the Government and as Parliament. We have to be disciplined and to obey the law and rational decisions.

I would like the tensions and incompatibilities that definitely exist to affect the people to the smallest extent. The political struggles should not cause victims in society. We continue on the path of European integration and cannot be hindered by the traps set by the President.

– After 26 years of independence, society in Moldova remains divided ethnically, politically, territorially, linguistically. Why is it so and how this state of affairs can be overcome, if it can be overcome?

– We are a diverse country that is looking for its way to development and welfare. There are structural aspects that define many of these differences. They can be alleviated in time, but I don’t think they will disappear. What is important is the economic, social, cultural and even political foundation on which they are based. We govern for everyone and want all the people to benefit from the results, starting with those who need an intelligent state the most. It is essentials, in my opinion, to be together in Europe, in a context where welfare brings pacification in Moldovan society.

– Why did separatism appear in the Republic of Moldova and why this cannot be overcome? Do internal or external motives prevail?

– Separatism has two main causes. On the one hand, there are players, including institutional ones, who profit from and encourage such tendencies in order to exert disproportional and even dangerous influence on the Republic of Moldova. For them, the sovereignty we enjoy as a state, in virtue of the international law, is rather an optional aspect. The respect for Moldova was replaced by the wish to control us. On the other hand, there are fears among the population in these areas, sometimes legitimate, as to the protection of identity and achievement of the economic and social development objectives.

We can now assure those who have such fears, starting with those from the Transnistrian region, that their rights and freedoms will be protected and respected by the Government and Parliament of Moldova. We have equal responsibilities towards all the citizens of this state and thus work to swiftly identify a solution for the Transnistrian region, which would be in agreement with the international law principles and would preserve sovereignty.

– The electoral system change is presented by its promoters as a point from which a new stage in the development of Moldovan society and the independent state Moldova can start. What institutional and personal guarantees can you offer to those who hope that the given transformations will lead to a better life and to those who speak about possible unfavorable consequences?

– The change in the electoral system was justified by the massive dissatisfaction with the political class and benefitted from consistent public debates in the country and abroad. It is one of those laws that were edited in the most transparent and participative way possible. Finally, we formulated a balanced law that respects the people’s wish to have a closer connection with the elected officials and the need of balanced representation. The guarantees we offer are those that were seen in last year’s presidential elections: we will organize free and fair elections where each candidate or party has chances to present their electoral offer. Our electoral system will actually be similar to that of Germany, which has one of the most consolidated democracies on the continent. During the debates, we implemented all the technical recommendations of the Venice Commission and intervened there where the arguments showed that changes are needed. I do not share the opinion of those who want to gain electoral benefits based on a law that, to my mind, is correct and well-defined. I would like these energies to be consumed by constructive criticism of the actions of the Government and Parliament. We need the opposition’s contribution over key issues that define the European integration process.

– How will the 27th, eventually, the 28th and 29th anniversaries of the declaration of Independence differ from the current anniversary? How can the Prime Minister contribute personally to the differences?

– I think that if we remain consistent and serious, each year will find us closer to the implementation of our country project – improvement of the living standards through European integration. This is the main objective of the Government and, alongside the colleagues from the Cabinet and the government, we work for this to be achieved. Moldova deserves to be a developed and respected state.

Elena Nistor, IPN

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