Vlad Filat: We do not have an alternative

{Info-Prim Neo Interview with Prime Minister of Moldova Vlad Filat of the series “Year 2012 in Moldova’s and Moldovans’ life”, article No. 1 of 12, [originally published on December 6]} [ - A number of surveys carried out in different periods of 2012 showed that you are a leader in most of the rankings of Moldovan politicians. If they were correct and sincere, you may be declared the Politician of 2012 by those polls. With or without official title of politician who this year has had the most important levers and the greatest responsibilities for what happened in the country, Info-Prim Neo News Agency asks you to answer a set of questions as to how 2012 was for you. By this interview with you, we open a series of 12 large articles themed “Year 2012 in Moldova’s and Moldovans’ life”. So, what is the state of the Moldovan nation or society at this yearend? Is it better than at the beginning of the year, worse, newer or unchanged, with more or fewer chances of improving life?] - It was an important year for Moldova and for the life of every citizen of Moldova. It was a year in which we continued to move towards the achievement of our European integration objective. It was also a year with serious political and economic challenges, when we were hit by an unprecedented drought and sustained huge losses. But, in the end, I think it was a year with much clearer and better prospects for our lives. I will not enumerate all the political events that took place, but I want to emphasize that we are in an irreversible European integration process that consists of a number of stages. Thus, we have real chances, supported by our European partners, to sign the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement at the end of next November and to fulfill the conditions concerning the liberalization of the visa regime. These are three important agreements that will powerfully and irreversibly anchor Moldova in this European integration process. [ - As a component part of the first question, please speak about the state of the government and of the political opposition this year. Were they able to orientate things to the better in the country and how sincere and well-meaning were their attempts in relation to the needs and expectations of the people?] - The government and the political class in general are the genuine expression of society. Society cannot become angry with the government or vice versa as they are the expression of each other. We have yet a lot to learn, first of all as regards the political culture so that the principle of responsibility becomes deep-rooted in the character and spirit of the politician as it ultimately replaces any personal interest, any group interest and any human weakness. From this angle, the year 2012 didn’t differ much from the previous years, but this year we managed to find sufficient reason and coherence in our activities so as to choose the head of state, ensuring thus political stability and predictability in the political process in Moldova. However, we must bear in mind that Moldova is ruled by a coalition consisting of three parties that have different viewpoints on certain processes, on the way and pace at which they must be managed. This often creates difficulties as a result of inefficient communication. I do not mean the intensity of the process, but the way in which we communicate. I think this is the most serious drawback in our work this year. [ - What about the performance of the opposition. How good or bad or how efficient and natural were the relations between these two components of the political sphere. Did these relations propel things on the path to development and better living standards?] - In a democratic state, the role of the opposition is very important because the opposition is designed to maintain balance in governance not only by criticism and pressure exerted on those who rule, but also by presenting solutions to the problems. In a democratic society, the alternation in power is a natural principle, even something legal. Unfortunately, the opposition in Moldova is represented, as a reference party, only by the Communist Party. It’s true that we now have another several parties that are very active and I want them to become relevant. I do not mean the ease in the communication with them, but there should be certain communication with them if we want the political left to become healthier. I consider that one of the non-accomplishments in the period since the Alliance for European Integration started to rule the country is this incapacity to communicate, which is mainly due to the intransigent and refractory position of the Communist Party. This decision belongs to them, but they should also assume responsibility and realize that this position affects not only them, but the entire Moldova. I say this because all the countries witness actions and processes that represent the national interest and within which the parties and political leaders do not become separated, but unite their efforts. I would like very much that the Communist Party took part in the European integration process as we also took part in it when they were in power. I remember the multitude of decision taken by the Parliament of Moldova by a unanimous vote because we were aware that the given decisions represent the national interest, of every citizen of Moldova, regardless of the political affiliation. These decisions referred mainly to the European integration of Moldova. We have yet a lot to work in this respect. I assume a part of the responsibility for not being convincing enough for ensuring conditions for establishing communication with the opposition, but we will try to ensure this communication. The isolation and barricading are not beneficial for Moldova. [ - As regards the political culture to which you referred earlier. Throughout 2012, Info-Prim Neo held 12 public debates on political culture in society within a project supported by the German foundation Hanns Seidel. Even if it’s in sight, this is a theme whose role for the country’s current and future destiny is not sufficiently studied and appreciated. We had many invitees to these debates, who represented different political organizations and had different political beliefs. In this connection, what do you think about the level and quality of the political culture in Moldovan society in 2012 and which is the contribution and responsibility of the political class for such a state of affairs?] - The responsibility is certainly borne by the political class from this and not only this angle. It does not matter here who somebody represents as besides ruling the country or working in the opposition the political class has the task of helping the people and involving them in the important political and social events taking place in the country. It must not keep them isolated so as to easier manipulate them afterward. The current state of the political culture should be improved by involving the political class in this process. However, we put great hope in the role played by the press, which is not only the fourth power in the state, but also the platform from which one can furnish information and direct energy to implementing national projects. [ - How would you comment on the opinion polls according to which the Moldovans are concerned most about poverty, prices, unemployment and the children’s future? These concerns perpetuate from year to year and even from decade to decade and from generation to generation, risking becoming the national trait of the Moldovans. How much responsibility does the current government and Prime Minister Filat assume for the manifestation of this ‘trait’ in 2012?] - I cannot assume responsibility for this trait of character. I assume yet responsibility for the problems to which you referred and which result from the state of spirit of the Moldovans and it is right to do so. Hiding from responsibility means digging your political grave. In fact, these concerns are not typical only of the Moldovans. As the polls show, the people in the immediate or farther vicinity have the same concerns. It is natural for the people to want to have a home and incomes that would ensure their welfare and are concerned about the security of their families. We should answer these concerns by actions. That’s why the processes to which I referred in the interview – the European integration and the reforms – are aimed at increasing the country’s capacity to answer by actions, not by statements, to these not fears, but demands towards the state. I think that we go along the right path. There is no other path. We have no other alternative than the European Union. The speed and quality of our movement in this direction now count a lot. [ - The main sources for diminishing Moldovans’ concerns at social, moral and psychological levels can be found, as in all the countries, in a developed economy and in appropriate social policies. How much did 2012 draw us closer or farther from the economic and social policies that serve the people’s needs best?] - In 2012 we did a number of reforms, but the international conjuncture and the drought affected the economic growth potential. As a result of the drought alone, we lost 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product. This is a great loss that makes us to review a series of actions planned for the immediate period. However, I think that by budgetary and fiscal discipline we will manage to fully implement the initiated projects through the 2013 state budget that was already approved, while the measures taken in 2012 to strengthen the capacity to fulfill the budget will enable us to ensure economic growth. Together with the International Monetary Fund, we forecast an economic growth of 4% for the next year, based on a number of investment projects that will produce results at social level too. [ - Representatives of businesses and trade unions complained again this year about the increasing underground economy that suffocates the chances of improving the situation in economy, financial sector, social and other spheres. Did the authorities have political will and ability to reduce this phenomenon in 2012?] - I will not speak about governance in general, but about the Government and me, as Prime Minister. I cannot be accused of lack of political will in this and other respects. In order to obtain results in this field we need to concentrate the efforts of all the state institutions, which are either under parliamentary or governmental control. There are many institutions that are not managed by the Government, including the National Financial Market Commission, the Commission for Competition Protection, the National Anticorruption Center, the Security and Information Service, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the National Bank and others. It does not mean that I want to shift the responsibilities. I only want to say that all the efforts should be joined if we want to achieve results. The third power, the justice, should not be taken out of context here. Unfortunately, it is the weakest ring in this chain and a lot will depend on the reform in this sector, including the speed and quality of our European course. The justice sector reform strategy and a number of laws were approved. We now must act and implement what we adopted so that we have a functional legal system and ensure additional grantees for the investment activity. The investors do not come to a country whose justice they do not trust as the legal system ensures the security of investments. [ - Besides being two serious requirements of the EU, the quality of justice and the diminution of corruption are an internal necessity for improving the living standards. What was done in 2012 to reduce corruption?] - In 2012, we took measures to adjust the normative and legal framework. At institutional level, the Center for Combating Corruption and Economic Crime was transformed into the National Anticorruption Center. There was instituted the National Integrity Council that is a very important institution. We will step up the measures aimed at reforming the prosecution service. The necessary legislation is in place and these institutions should do their job. Together with our foreign partners, we will monitor this process. The given actions are designed to combat corruption, not to satisfy the interests of an oligarchic or political group or to contribute to the settling of economic or political accounts using these instruments. For me, it is very important that those who break the law be imprisoned. But, for this to happen we must remove the preconditions and destroy corruption. [ - The authorities presented optimistic reports on the results achieved in the European integration process and the European organizations and personalities highly appreciate this process. But did this process become more irreversible in 2012? Several years ago, Ukraine was a leader in the Eastern Partnership, which is an antechamber of the EU as I understand. After the last democratic elections, it’s no longer a leader. During a period, they spoke about Georgia as about a success story, but stopped speaking about it after the last parliamentary elections, also democratic. Now Moldova is a leader in the Eastern Partnership, but new elections will take place in 2014 and the current development course may change after them? Does the ruling alliance realize this risk?] - We should not connect Moldova’s position within the Eastern Partnership with the elections that took place in a certain country. Every country took definite steps. Moldova is appreciated not because the given countries did not make progress. It is appreciated for the actions done. The irreversibility of the development course depends on us. Anything is possible and I would like all the responsible Moldovan politicians to understand that the European integration process does not depend on statements, but on work and commitment to implementing the Euro-transformation agenda, with the imminent risks confronting us. We should assume responsibilities as the people appreciate this. They want the rulers to show character and surely reason. We must strengthen our capacity to communicate, to explain to the people and, first of all to the politicians what are the advantages and risks in a certain situation. I state my opinion: Moldova will not resist another change of course. We have been carried by waves in different directors. I think that at least the alliance colleagues realize this danger and the fact that we have enough time until the next ordinary elections to make this process irreversible. There is enough time to tie the people and the country to the European area of values by signing the abovementioned agreements and by making internal changes at political and economic level. [ - Are you concerned about the euroskepticism as a phenomenon and trend among the Moldovans, as the polls show? How coherent and efficient is the government’s capacity for European communication and what adjustments are needed?] - It is evident that this communication was inefficient. I believe that the figures from the polls should be read attentively and the conclusions should be drawn in a conscious manner. Why did the number of Euro-optimists diminish as 55% are anyway optimistic? I think this is partially because the European Union goes through a period of crisis. The political struggles inside the ruling alliance also contributed to such a state of affairs. The people want certitude in a very calm atmosphere. The communication with people should not be limited to general notions and major directions. I admit that this is our shortcoming. We must clearly explain that more Europe in Moldova means European roads, water pipes, sewerage systems, schools, hospitals and access to funds to develop modern agriculture. It means the right to travel visa-free to any part of Europe and access to studies for our children. I do not want to put the task of disseminating certain messages on the press, but Moldovan citizens work in the press and this road to the EU will determine the present and future of our children and grandchildren. We together should make this jump so as to live in a civilized way at home. Until now, the European integration process was somehow monopolized by the elite. In fact, it belongs to every persons, regardless of ethnicity and other differences. [ - 2012 was the year when the European vector in the country’s development was strengthened and when the alternative idea, of Eurasian integration, was widely spread. Is this doubling of messages with the status of national idea a coincidence or what?] - It is a situation we witness and it results from the political principles of some of our politicians. Until recently, the Communists headed by Mister Voronin were for the EU. Now they are for the Eurasian Union. The sympathizers of the Communist Party also have divergent opinions as they trust the messages of this party. I regret such behavior of the politicians as it is purely electoral in character. The Communists realize that the Eurasian idea will not be implemented. When they came to power in 2001, the Communists promoted the idea of the Russia-Belarus Union. Afterward, they reoriented to the European Union. Consequently, the relations with Russia after 2003 became worse than ever. We still suffer the consequences. I want to tell you that it wasn’t about the national interest then, but about the character of Vladimir Voronin and the lack of reason. I want to say that from historical, geographic, cultural and linguistic viewpoints, we are not at Europe’s periphery, but in the center of Europe. We are an authentic European state. We are not Asian and cannot transfer ourselves to another place. It would be an absurd process. Even if we accepted it, it would become nonfunctional and we will again have to recover the lost time. We already lost 21 years. Others had character and reason in everything they did in these 21 years. [ - A typical feature of 2012 was the visits paid to Moldova by high-ranking European and other officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Commissioner Stefan Fule. How should the ordinary people perceive these visits and why almost all these officials, if not all of them, come to Moldova at the invitation of Prime Minister Vlad Filat? In the same connection, what effects did the Moldovan officials’ visits abroad have in 2012?] - The visits paid to Chisinau by the high-ranking officials are an incontestable proof that Moldova has partners and, what is more important, has friends. I must say that these personalities do not visit any place, especially the areas or countries that are marked by uncertainty. These visits should be first of all regarded as a sign of appreciation of what we do for the country and its people. In fact, these world leaders delivered messages to the people, not the authorities. Surely the visits are planned beforehand and a lot is done at technical and logistical level to prepare them. I had many preliminary meetings with each of these officials before they came to Moldova. They came at my invitation because I’m the Premier. I must admit that we have a powerful ally in this respect – the European People’s Party of which the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova forms part. On December 13, I will go to Brussels. Besides having meeting with European officials, I will take part in the eastern Partnership Summit that will be attended by almost all the leaders of the EU. More guests will come to Moldova in the future. [ - What about our visits abroad?] - There were many such visits. The effects are relevant: visits to Belgium, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Romania, the signing of the visa liberalization agreement. All these visits have effects, either now or in the future. What is important is that from an isolated country Moldova turned into an open country that has friends around. Everywhere I go I’m treated like a friend. This treatment and attitude is shown to Moldova, not me personally and this is enjoyable. [ - How are you at this yearned? I mean the capacity to work, your satisfaction with what you do, your state of health and the psychological comfort?] - For me, it was a very hard year. I thought that 2011 will be the most difficult year, but it wasn’t like that. Unfortunately, you cannot have much comfort in the post of Prime Minister, especially in Moldova, given all the circumstances. But the most important thing I have is the trust. In all this period I trusted that we have the ability to succeed. My objective is to succeed as time passes and the insignificant things will be forgotten, while the really important things will remain. I do not mean the construction of monuments to us. I mean the satisfaction that we will have together when we will be able to ultimately say ‘we did it’. I concentrate my work, my energy on this and this keeps me fit. As to my health, it is good. I have the ability to work and I will continue to work. [Valeriu Vasilica, Info-Prim Neo]

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