Moldova - part of Francophonie - French envoy says
10:55 | 07.12.2022 Category: Interview, Event
Ambassador of France to Moldova Graham Paul gave an exclusive interview to MOLDPRES State News Agency on topical issues, francophonie, bilateral relations and investments made in our country.
MOLDPRES: After obtaining the status of a candidate state for EU accession, the Republic of Moldova received a "homework" on implementation of reforms in various fields. In your opinion, will the war in Ukraine and the current energy crisis complicate the mission of the Chisinau authorities in the process of carrying out the established tasks?
Graham Paul: Indeed, obtaining the status of a candidate state for EU accession was accompanied by a series of recommendations from the European Commission in nine areas, from justice reform to the fight against corruption and organized crime, as well as improving the quality of administration public and civil society involvement. These are the areas that need to be worked on. The government has adopted an action plan to take the necessary measures, especially on legislative aspects. The war in Ukraine has consequences on the economic and energy situation in the Republic of Moldova. This context complicates the task of the Moldovan authorities, at the same time, paradoxically, but it can also be a factor for accelerating reforms on certain subjects. Only in autumn 2023, the Commission will present a first assessment of the implementation of its recommendations. That is why we need to move quickly on these cases until spring to allow the Commission to evaluate the first results.
MOLDPRES: This October, in Chisinau, the Moldovan-French Conference on the recovery of criminal assets was held. French experts voiced willingness to help the law enforcement bodies in our country in fighting big corruption and in recovering stolen assets from the Republic of Moldova. How would this collaboration take place and when could we achieve tangible results in this direction?
Graham Paul: The recovery of illicit goods is the object of excellent bilateral cooperation due to the presence at the Presidency of the Republic of Moldova of a high-level French expert to help the authorities in Chisinau, as well as the cooperation between the ministries of justice and the various actors in the combat against corruption. The seminar organized in October in Chisinau made it possible to strengthen these cooperation relations and allowed French and Moldovan experts to meet and discuss. I cannot go into the details of the ongoing legal proceedings, but I can tell you that seven properties and bank accounts have already been seized in France for confiscation, with a total value estimated at several million euros. Other investigations have been opened that could also lead to seizures. The procedure is long, legally quite complicated, but we are moving forward on these cases, which are a priority for us.
MOLDPRES: The French Development Agency will offer our country 60 million euros as a loan for the development of the energy and railway sectors. What are the priority directions in using this money and what will be the long-term effects of the projects?
Graham Paul: French Development Agency after granting in August of last year a budget loan of 15 million euros on behalf of the French state will grant 60 million euros as a public policy loan in support of the strategic sectors - energy and railway. These are two of the priorities that have been identified. In addition to this budget financing, technical assistance is provided to Moldelectrica company in the energy sector and Moldova Railway company in the railway field. This funding is very flexible and can allow the Government to use it as needed in different areas. AFD's support for the energy sector will continue in the coming years. At the same time, support for the forestry sector is being discussed. Also, several investment projects are being identified, which require in-depth studies, especially in the infrastructure sector, the railway sector, as well as the irrigation sector. During the Support Platform Conference for Moldova organized in Paris on November 21, President Emmanuel Macron, who received President Maia Sandu, announced an additional commitment from AFD in 2023-2024 of at least 90 million euros. The aim is to continue this support and possibly increase it.
MOLDPRES: France and the Republic of Moldova initiated the process of negotiations on signing of an Agreement in social security. Which categories of citizens will the document target? Could this change in the legislation stimulate Moldovans in France to be active in the legal field?
Graham Paul: The negotiations on Agreement in the social security were launched in the summer of 2021. They are complex and important negotiations, because they would guarantee the continuity of social protection rights for Moldovans resident in France or for French residents in the Republic of Moldova, both for insurance health, as well as for pensions. Indeed, this Agreement should encourage Moldovan workers residing in France to work legally, to pay social contributions, which would be taken into account in the Republic of Moldova to benefit from the pension. It is a common practice in the European Union. It is an important Agreement.
MOLDPRES: An important dimension of Moldovan-French cooperation is the promotion of the French language and Francophonie. What support is offered to educational institutions in our country that have bilingual francophone classes? I also mean the training of teaching staff, the development of francophone university courses or the promotion of academic mobility?
Graham Paul: You are right to emphasize Francophonie, which is an asset for Moldova, as President Maia Sandu mentioned during her recent participation in the Francophonie Summit in Djerba, Tunisia. The Francophone bilingual class project, as well as the Francophone university branches that exist in several universities in the Republic of Moldova, contribute to this Francophone anchoring. Regarding the Francophone bilingual classes, together with our partners - the French Alliance and the University Agency of Francophonie, we tried to strengthen the system by appointing a coordinator, responsible for animating the eight institutions with Francophone classes, we appealed to young French international volunteers seconded in schools over a period of several months, intervening in French language lessons, gives young people the opportunity to speak French, to talk about France and Francophonie. This project is going very well. We have also increased the number of teacher training scholarships, because this program is based on teachers. So we try to maintain this francophone program. Now we have to go further and better integrate this pilot and excellence project in the educational system of the Republic of Moldova, in order to develop this bilingual education system. Multilingualism is already a reality in the Republic of Moldova and we must encourage us to include this francophone segment in the teaching of foreign languages. I think we can make a contribution here.
MOLDPRES: What actions could be taken to promote French musical culture in the Republic of Moldova, taking into account that we are a French-speaking country that has always appreciated the creation of French artists?
Graham Paul: As I said earlier, the Republic of Moldova is part of Francophonie. Francophonie is also widespread thanks to music. French musical culture is present in Moldova on radio at RFI and on television at TV5 Monde. This way you have access to information and music in French. What impressed me when I arrived in the Republic of Moldova is the discovery of kiosks in parks, where you can serve coffee while listening to French music. In addition to this general typical French ambience, I want to mention the events organized by the French Alliance, namely the Piano Festival with classical music organized every year, which have French classical music concerts on the program. I cannot fail to mention Lidia Isac, a talented performer here, who has a vast repertoire of French songs. The Embassy was happy to collaborate with it in the celebration of 30 years of diplomatic relations between our countries, organizing a concert in the Organ Hall, where French songs were performed and which was a great success. At the same time, it is not easy to bring French performers to the Republic of Moldova. Now it is not exactly easy to come, taking into account the regional context, but I do not lose hope. The most suitable format must be found. In the Republic of Moldova, many festivals are organized, of very good quality, and I think that it is precisely in this framework that French performers could come here.
MOLDPRES: You are Ambassador of France in Chisinau since September 2021, did you manage to get to know the Republic of Moldova, what are the similarities between the culture of our country and that of France?
Graham Paul: In the last months, I really visited and discovered the Republic of Moldova both professionally and personally. I discovered a country of great authenticity. It is not a big country geographically, but what struck me is its amazing diversity, with a welcoming and hospitable population. It is something that impresses foreigners. Moldovans want to discover their traditional cuisine, music, history, culture, traditions. It's absolutely fascinating and interesting. It is an important asset, this authenticity, diversity and hospitality. Of course I'm interested in culture, museums, you have magnificent monasteries that I could discover. I have to admit that I was very impressed by the Moldovan wineries I visited. In France, as in the Republic of Moldova, we share not only the French language in a certain way, but also the culture of wine, and every time I visit the wineries here with great pleasure. Thus, the quality of Moldovan wine is also an important economic factor.
There are many things in common in terms of culture in France and here. In France, as in the Republic of Moldova, great importance is attributed to language. In France there is the French Academy, dictionaries, everything is done to protect the language. Similarly, the Romanian language has a special status and is given a lot of attention. Another side is attachment to literature and reading. There are many Moldovan writers, some live in France and are good writers. There is also the attachment to art, painting, sculpture. You feel in a very similar cultural atmosphere. We are European countries and we share the same history and I hope we will have a common future. We have many similarities that have also developed thanks to the RM-EU association agreement. Now you can travel freely without visas, and the French can come freely to the Republic of Moldova. These are concrete things that make life and exchanges easier. Great opportunities are also open to young people, namely thanks to the Erasmus program, which allows mobility and exchanges. In France and Germany there is a joint project that allows young French and Germans to travel by train at a reduced rate. And I believe that after the Moldovan railway is modernized, young people will have the opportunity to travel at affordable prices. Maybe someday the railway line Chisinau-Paris will appear... Who knows?
MOLDPRES: Mr. Ambassador Graham Paul, thank you for your kindness in giving this interview to our agency.