Moldovan premier says 2018 year to be crucial for Moldova
18:05 | 04.01.2018 Category: Political
Interview given exclusively to the MOLDPRES State News Agency by Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip
Question: How would you define the 2017 year against 2016 and what does 2018 mean for the work of the government?
Pavel Filip: I have repeatedly said and the results admitted me to be right: after 2016, when we stabilized the country, 2017 was a year of consolidation. We have economic growth; we have an increase in incomes and investments. We have strengthened the relation with EU and the USA and we have come up with structural reforms which brought us closer to our European goal.
I want 2018 be a year of development. And the measures we take be felt more quickly in the people’s living standards. Through results, we can create more trust and solidarity. To switch to the next level and cope with the challenges of a complicated region, I want that we have citizens closer to the governance act and explain them better why the measures undertaken are correct. This year is crucial and I assure you that the entire governmental team will hit the gas pedal – we have reasons of content for the last two years; yet, we can do and want to do more.
Q: In late January, we mark two years of you taking over the governance. Besides, you start the 2018 year with a radically changed cabinet and a reduced number of ministries. What are the achievements of which you are proud and the sectors in which you think that you have not managed to make enough progress?
A: The government’s reform shows that more can be got with little resources: we have taken political risks, but we have earned in efficiency. The new governmental team enjoys a more functional structure and the expectations are higher. Making the 2018 year a model of governance in citizens’ interests is in our power.
In the last years, we have managed to constantly increase the salaries and pensions. The pensions grew by ten per cent this year and following the recalculation through the new law on pensions, more than 150,000 pensioners received more money. The minimum salary was also increased to 2,380 lei, up by 11 per cent against 2016 and the incomes of teachers rose twice in this year. Besides, we have also an increase in foreign investments – I recall here the companies Draexlmaier, Gebauer & Griller, Fujikura, Sumitomo or Coroplast, which means over 100 million dollars in all and lead to the creation of thousands of jobs.
I cannot but point out the achievements got in the process of de-bureaucratization and digitalization, which bring benefits both to citizens and to the business environment. Moreover, the structural reforms are the ones which changed and will definitively change the performance of the governance in Moldova. I was speaking about the government’s reform and the pensions reform; yet, the reform of the Labour Code, banking sector, anticorruption legislation, education system are equally important.
I am very much glad that we enjoy the trust and support of the partners from the West. It was not easy for us to persuade them; but they saw that they had to do with a government devoted to the European integration. The Eastern Partnership Summit and the providing of macro-financial assistance for development encourage us to follow the same direction.
As for plans, I want more investments in Moldova, as in this way, we create jobs and bring home our citizens who left abroad, young specialists. I want that we achieve the energy independence as soon as possible, finish the gas pipeline Ungheni – Chisinau and the other projects we have assumed in this region.
Q: We end one year of coexistence with a new head of state. A year when, many times, the government and parliament, on the one hand, and the president, on the other hand, had different opinions on fundamental subjects. How would you define the relation with President Igor Dodon and which are your expectations from the presidential institution in 2018?
A.: I am constructive man and I like results, not scandal. Yet, I cannot avoid cases when the head of state infringes the Constitution and makes difficulties to the government, thus ignoring the interest of the country and the citizens. The government has a governance action programme and an agenda of reforms agreed upon with the European partners. The president is just confused. I wish the New Year to bring him a political compass showing him the West and the flourishing of our citizens. We can have a good institutional cooperation to the extent to which he will understand which are our country priorities.
Q.: The opening of the NATO Liaison Office in Chisinau was a controversial subject, especially in the context of the issues of security in the region. At the UN General Assembly, you demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the territory of our country. How will Moldova continue to be positioned towards Russia, in conditions when the latter has sophisticated ways of destabilizing a country?
A.: At the government, we approved the National Defence Strategy and an action plan on its implementation in 2017-2021; the parliament is to give it opinion. It is about two essential instruments for the enhancement of Moldova’s defence capacities. Just despite the president’s opposition to Moldovan servicemen’s participation in external exercises, I stress that we have found fit solutions for our Army to continue its specific training. Besides, we have managed to open the NATO Liaison Office in Chisinau; we observe our country’s neutrality, but this does not mean isolation. We must cooperate with all structures interested in the enhancement of the security in the region.
The gesture from the UN General Assembly is natural: Moldova’s territorial integrity must be observed and the Russian troops from the Transnistrian region violate our sovereignty and are not welcome. We are concerned about the unfriendly actions Russia has towards us, either through the attitude towards our political or diplomatic representatives, or by use of the propaganda and other techniques of hybrid war, in order to destabilize Moldova and change the will of our citizens.
We want a normal relation with Moscow. We are open for political dialogue; yet, the latter should take into account the premise of mutual respect. The time of spheres of influence is over; the Moldovan citizens are independent and free to take their own decisions.
Q: We will have parliamentary polls this year. Which is the stake of these elections and what do you think they will bring to the citizens?
A.: In the last two years, we have showed that the European integration means direct benefits for each citizen. Europe is more than just a political speech; it is development, it is a source of opportunities. There will be politicians trying to persuade us that the things are different; yet, the stake is to keep the correct direction for the country and continue the reforms. I want stability and development for Moldova; I want prosperity for its citizens, not scenarios of the Maidan type. It is our responsibility, of all those who believe in a Moldova as a member of the European family, no matter the position in which we are, to make sure that the parliamentary elections will not be a source of incertitude, but of progress.
Q: The relation of the government and the parliamentary majority with the opposition has not been easy at all this year. There were protests and the European authorities were notified about a string of laws which you have adopted. What is your message for the opposition, especially for the pro-European one?
A.: We respect the role of the opposition and we believe that the dialogue and constructive criticism have an important place in politics. Both the government and the parliament proved openness to the society and the opposition in 2017, seeking to integrate the best proposals in the legislation and governance act. The dialogue and transparency will continue in 2018, as we will achieve the results we want in this way.
My message for the pro-European parties is that they look not only at trees, but also at the wood. They should not overlook the great stakes. The pro-European way needs unity on the subjects of national interest and nobody has to win from war.
Q: The end of the year came with important progress in the relation with the Tiraspol authorities. How the deadlock persisting in the negotiations was overcome and which are the plans for 2018?
A.: Really, in late last November, we signed four protocols with the Transnistrian side, which means settlement of concrete problems for the citizens from both banks of Dniester. Besides, we also had a five-plus-two meeting in Austria, which ended with the signing of the Vienna Protocol. Moreover, Moldova started to de facto take over the control over the state border in the Transnistrian region through the establishment of joint Moldovan-Ukrainian customs checkpoints. This is, in fact, a return to normality, as it is only normal for each country to exercise control over its entire state border. We can overcome any deadlock through dialogue and making our homework well.
Time is ripe to put an end to this frozen conflict, through a solution in line with the international law. Following the unlocking of the talks, after this progress from this year, in 2018, our target should be the settlement of the conflict and finding a formula for the Transnistrian region as part of Moldova. We are realistic and we know that it will not be easy for us to reach a final agreement; yet, we are willing to work and negotiate with intelligence.
Q: In the last time, we have made progress in the relation with EU and in the process of implementation of the Association Agreement, the macro-financial assistance was approved as well. At the same time, there are doubts as for the irreversibility of the country’s European way, despite the majority which backs this option. How do you protect Moldova from the change of the strategic direction overnight?
A.: The 2017 year was a remarkable year in our relation with the European partners and I would mention just some of the main developments. First of all, we regained the trust of the European institutions in the reforms promoted by the cabinet and this fact was seen at the Association Council in last March. Secondly, we approved the Moldova – EU Association Agenda for 2017-2019. Along with European institutions, the government worked out a plan which will enable boosting the process of European integration and quicker transfer of the rapprochement with Europe to citizens. Thirdly, we signed a package of documents on the providing of macro-financial assistance worth 100 million euros. This money will contribute to Moldova’s development and modernization, to more investments and creation of new jobs. Besides, this is an important signal EU gives to foreign investors, which have all reasons to come to our country. Fourthly, EU approved the providing Moldova with direct budgetary support worth 36.3 million euros for five programmes assessed. Finally, the Eastern Partnership Summit recognized Moldova’s European aspirations and gave encouraging signals on more important aspects for our country, such as: integration into the European transport corridors, the TEN-T network, cutting the roaming tariffs and ensuring Moldova’s energy security.
We protect the country’s pro-European direction through boosting the implementation of the Association Agreement – nothing serves better our interests but the carrying out of the reforms’ programme. Besides, we rely on the fact that most citizens support the European integration. I do not think that any politician can afford ignoring the European aspiration of our country’s citizens.
Q: You have repeatedly spoken about the economic results of the governance and about the relation with IMF. You have connected these developments to the creation of new jobs, to investments, to increase of incomes for Moldova’s citizens. How the reforms adopted have contributed to the economic growth and what is your message for investors and for the business environment?
A.: Let the results and figures speak for themselves: we have economic growth of 3.5-4 per cent estimated for this year. According to data for the first half of the year, the investments have increased by 2.5 per cent; for the January-October period, we have an 18-per cent growth of the budgetary revenues. The tax system recorded incomes by 2.3 billion lei more in the last ten months, i. e. by 25 per cent more against the same period of the last year. As for the business environment, we have cut the number of authorizations, permits and licences by about 60 per cent and we reduced thrice the number of entities with control duties, from 58 to 8. We continued backing small entrepreneurs through programmes of the type PARE 1+1. PNAET, Credits Guaranteeing Account, Women in Business programme. At the same time, we enhanced the attractiveness of the Free Economic Zones. The very good institutional relation with IMF allowed us restructuring the banking sector and strengthening the foundations of economic growth.
Investors may look also at the macro figures, at reforms adopted and the signals of trust conveyed by international partners. All evaluations and the perspective are positive. Moldova is prepared for more investments, both on behalf of the native capital and the foreign one. There are all reasons for trusting our country’s business prospects.
Q: You are on top of the most trustworthy politicians. We would ask you to convey a message to the citizens for the 2018 year?
A.: Our success, individual and as nation, is based on work, confidence and solidarity. I want a 2018 year under the sign of success for each of you and for Moldova as well.
(Reporter A. Zara, editor A. Raileanu)