Lithuania ready to share experience, provide all necessary support for Moldova's accession to EU - Lithuanian envoy says
15:40 | 16.08.2022 Category: Interview, Event
Ambassador of Lithuania Kestutis Kudzmanas ends his mandate in the Republic of Moldova at the end of this week. On this occasion, the official gave an interview to the MOLDPRES State News Agency.
MOLDPRES: What are the most important projects carried out in the Republic of Moldova with the support of Lithuania?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: First of all, I would like to congratulate the Republic of Moldova for obtaining the status of a candidate country for joining the European Union. Lithuania is ready to share its experience and provide all the necessary support in the European path of the Republic of Moldova.
Lithuania's support is granted on the basis of the EU-Republic of Moldova Association Agreement, including its provisions on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). Following the presidential elections of November 11, 2020 and the early parliamentary elections of July 11, 2021, the Republic of Moldova has the necessary tools to benefit from the Association Agreement and the DCFTA to accelerate reforms in the EU integration process. Lithuania is actively involved in EU Twinning projects and supports support initiatives in the public sector, infrastructure and environment, in implementing political, economic, social reforms and strengthening democracy in society. The main objectives of Lithuania in bilateral cooperation are based on the needs of the Republic of Moldova, on the program of the Government of Lithuania and on the priorities of the EU neighborhood policy. At the same time, the Lithuanian Embassy in Chisinau is the NATO contact point in the Republic of Moldova.
MOLDPRES: What is the financial support offered by Lithuania within the projects and what are the priority investment areas?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: In 2006 -2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania financed the implementation of 150 projects in the Republic of Moldova worth over 1.2 million euros. The priority directions are: the implementation of the reforms provided for in the Association Agreement signed with the EU, the fight against corruption and disinformation, the development of civil society, including through the active involvement of women and young people, the promotion of the democratic principles of the EU. At the same time, in December 2021, a memorandum was signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova regarding the strengthening of the institutional potential and the governing act. 350 thousand euros were allocated for carrying out the project. I am convinced that these actions will bring beautiful results and we are ready to initiate new important projects on various cooperation platforms.
MOLDPRES: How do you rate the high-level dialogue between the two countries?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: The two countries maintain a political dialogue at a very high level. In the past year, there have been three presidential visits. The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, made two visits to Chisinau, and his Moldovan counterpart Maia Sandu made an official visit to Lithuania, where she was decorated with the Order of Vytautas the Great, the highest state award. At the same time, official visits were made by prime ministers, ministers, and expert groups, who identified the specific needs in each sector, provided the necessary expertise and organized training for representatives of Moldovan institutions. In all sectors we have very good results and we want to continue to share our experience. During my mandate in the Republic of Moldova, cooperative relations with management representatives were open, we had a nice collaboration. I also had good communication with the representatives of local bodies - mayors and councillors. We are glad that our relations are based on trust and exchange of experience, the primary goal being integration into the European Union, especially at this stage when the Republic of Moldova received the status of a candidate country for EU accession.
MOLDPRES: This year, one of the biggest challenges for our country was the refugee crisis. What was the support given by Lithuania in the process of managing the wave of refugees from Ukraine?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: Lithuania contributed 1.25 million euros to the budget of the Republic of Moldova to support the Government's efforts to deal with the flow of refugees from Ukraine. The donor community and the Government of the Republic of Moldova recognize that financial assistance is one of the most effective ways to help the country in the current situation. Lithuania is also ready to accept 2,000 refugees from Ukraine who are currently in the Republic of Moldova. Already seven buses with Ukrainian refugees from Chisinau left for Lithuania (almost 300 refugees). I would like to highlight the excellent cooperation with the Migration and Asylum Office of the Republic of Moldova in organizing the resettlement of refugees in Lithuania.
MOLDPRES: The COVID-19 pandemic remains a current topic in the Republic of Moldova and Europe. What support did Lithuania provide in the process of managing the pandemic situation?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: In mid-May 2020, protective equipment manufactured in Lithuania was delivered to the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia. About 11 thousand protective equipment was donated for the medical workers here. At the same time, 11,000 and 26,500 doses of the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine were donated in two installments. Fortunately, the Republic of Moldova became the first country in the European region to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX initiative. The European team, which brings together the EU and its member states, is one of the main sponsors of COVAX, contributing more than 2.2 billion euros.
MOLDPRES: A current topic remains the Transnistrian conflict. How could this be resolved and what role would it play in the EU integration process?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: Lithuania recognizes the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova. I hope that this conflict will be resolved gradually, including thanks to the facilities obtained following the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU. This is the Free Trade Agreement, under which Moldovan companies, including those from the Transnistrian region, can export their production to EU countries. Citizens on the left of the Dniester notice the EU's open policy and, gradually, the population and economic agents will make their choice in favor of European integration. I think it takes time for people to choose stability, transparency, economic growth and expanded possibilities in the pursuit of studies. Currently, the country benefits from grants, which are also used on the left side of the Dniester. At the same time, Chisinau has all the necessary mechanisms to resolve this conflict, and at the time of EU integration, the conflict could already be resolved and would not represent an impediment in this regard.
MOLDPRES: What actions should the Republic of Moldova take to deal with the energy crisis?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: The energy crisis is a current problem throughout Europe. Lithuania started dealing with this topic 15 years ago, as we were paying about 30% more for gas for political reasons. Thus, oil and gas terminals were built, so that as a result our country is provided with the necessary resources, but also can sell them to other states. In this sense, energy alternatives must be sought. It is about diversifying gas supply sources, making gas reserves in neighboring countries, reducing gas consumption, acquiring energy through solar panels and wind installations. This energy can be used for internal needs, but also to be sold later. The EU is ready to provide financial and technical support to achieve these goals.
MOLDPRES: What are the changes noticed in the Republic of Moldova during your mandate?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: The years in office were full of changes, with different ministers, prime ministers and presidents. During this period, Lithuania's position has not changed, we have always supported the European path of the country. It was a period when the citizens of the Republic of Moldova expressed their support for the pro-European course of the country and felt the benefits of the Association Agreement with the EU, and later the Republic of Moldova received the status of a candidate country for EU accession. Lithuania and the EU have the responsibility to help the Republic of Moldova both by providing the necessary expertise and financially, to be able to face all the challenges and to stabilize the country's economy. Lithuania and the EU are very happy that the Republic of Moldova chose the European course. There are always challenges, but citizens must be talked to in order to present all the benefits of European integration.
MOLDPRES: What are the steps that need to be taken by our country after receiving the status of a candidate country for joining the European Union?
Kestutis Kudzmanas: With the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, the Republic of Moldova has already committed to carry out several reforms in key areas, and the EU has taken responsibility to help you in this process, both by providing the necessary expertise and from the point of view of financial view. You have been engaged in this process for many years. Justice reform and the fight against corruption are an absolute priority, as they are a guarantor of democracy. A first step would be to assess all sectors, at what stage they are and what actions need to be taken. In the case of Lithuania this process took 10 years, everything happened very quickly. In the case of the Republic of Moldova, this course will be determined both by the actions of the citizens and those of the government, the mechanisms used to carry out the reforms. The Republic of Moldova was prepared to receive the status of a candidate country, the government was very active, the interests of the country were intensively promoted in Brussels by the states that support you, including Lithuania. I believe that the Republic of Moldova will become a member of the European family, things are moving in this direction and we believe that it is a correct direction, for the good of the whole society.
MOLDPRES: Mr. Ambassador Kestutis Kudzmanas, thank you for your kindness in giving this interview to our agency.
Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Moldova and the Republic of Lithuania were established on July 8, 1992.