Swedish Ambassador says Sweden to continue providing Moldova with support, as president of EU Council
18:17 | 12.05.2023 Category: Interview, Event
Ambassador of Sweden to Moldova Katarina Fried has given an interview exclusively with the MOLDPRES State News Agency on up-to-date subjects, the support provided on the European integration way, bilateral relations, foreign trade and tourism.
MOLDPRES: At present, Sweden holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. From this office, in what sectors the country is prepared to provide Moldova with support and assistance, in order to advance in the European integration process?
Katarina Fried: We are at the end of the presidency of the Council of the European Union and Sweden continues working, in order to make the European Union safer, greener and freer. At the same time, the consequences of Russia’s illegal and unacceptable war against Ukraine stay on the agenda of our country and of EU. We will continue to back Ukraine in the humanitarian, military and economic sectors. After Ukraine, Moldova is the country worst hit by this war, including through economic consequences, which put huge pressures on the country. We admire very much Moldova’s journey and how, despite all these challenges, the country managed to receive such a large number of refugees, to break off the almost full dependence on the Russian gas, to manage and oppose the efforts of destabilization, maintaining the safety and peace. At the same time, the reforms were continued and the country became state candidate for accession to EU.
In its capacity of president of the Council of the European Union, Sweden will continue providing Moldova with support. We assure you that the Council also provides assistance and backs the country, in order to cope with the consequences of the war, as well as on the European integration road. The Moldovan state is on the top of EU’s agenda and a common defence and security mission is planned to be created in Moldova. As for Sweden, for us, Moldova is part of Europe and a future EU member state. We are prepared to work a lot, in order to help the country in the carrying out of the reforms needed for becoming EU member. Moldova works very much in this process of joining EU. Efforts are taken to amend the legislative framework, the reform in the judicial sector, which has a pretty long duration, but it is quite necessary for it to be implemented correctly.
MOLDPRES: Starting from September 2021, you have been holding the office of ambassador of Sweden in Chisinau. What personal experience have you got in the capacity of diplomat in our country?
Katarina Fried: I am happy to represent my country here, in Moldova. I hold the position of ambassador for the first time ever. Moldova is country in which one falls in love quite easily and I have a great pleasure to work here. I am delighted by the hospitable people and who works very much to ensure the country’s prosperity. I am impressed by Moldova’s efforts, despite all circumstances. During one year and a half since I have come here, I was surprised by the agenda of reforms of the current leadership. At the same time, the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, energy crises, the war from the neighbourhood and the refugees’ crisis continued. Despite all these, you managed to get the status of country candidate for accession to EU. We have a very good dialogue with the country’s leadership; we have priorities which are aligned and the government’s agenda of reforms meets the priorities we have in the cooperation strategy. The good Moldovan-Swedish relations had been established much time before I came here. My country is also an important donor for Moldova. In the 2022 year alone, the country contributed almost 20 million euros for reforms and about 18 million euros for approaching the needs triggered by the Russian aggression in Ukraine. I am happy to follow the projects which we implement in Moldova, in such fields as: human rights, democracy, supremacy of law and gender equality. The sectors of inclusive and peaceful society, climate and environment, as well as the inclusive economic development are regarded too. At the same time, we provide assistance for the cooperation between institutions from Sweden and Moldova, in the fiscal field, forests’ management and community police. All these actions are aimed at strengthening the country’s capacities, for it to be able to advance on the European integration way, to start the negotiations on accession and advance on the European integration road.
MOLDPRES: Did the war in Ukraine change the economic relations between Moldova and Sweden?
Katarina Fried: Besides the suffering and the crisis caused by the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the entire world is facing negative effects on the economy, including through the increase of inflation. Moldova is in a particularly vulnerable situation in this respect. For these reasons, last year, Sweden tripled its assistance provided to the country, in order to back both the agenda of reforms and help Moldova cope with the humanitarian needs. At the same time, there are mutual interests to extend the bilateral economic partnership. A small number of Swedish companies work in Moldova; yet, I believe that there is a big potential for Swedish economic agents to come and invest here. I have recently seen the piece of news that Moldovan apples reached the market of Sweden. At the same time, we know that Moldovan wines can also be found on our market; there are Swedish companies working in the textiles industry and a company which produces rescue vests here. We see a lot of opportunities of cooperation between companies from Sweden and Moldova in the field of digitalization and IT industry, creative industry, as well as the one of games, where Sweden has a significant role. At the same time, the National Board of Trade from Sweden plans a mission here, in order to explore the potential of Moldovan companies, which might become competitive on the Swedish market and the EU one, and in order to provide assistance to companies from both countries to create partnerships. The improvement of the business climate would stimulate the investors who would like to come here; also, the legislation relatively similar to the one from EU would be an advantage. I can say that the Moldovan agricultural products enjoy a high popularity on the Swedish market. The wines have a very big potential; we also rely on the IT sector, textiles’ industry, fashion industry, energy sector and the green transition.
MOLDPRES: Many Moldovans have chosen to work or study in Sweden. Are the authorities of the two countries to sign an agreement in the social security sector? Will the document encourage the legalization of citizens’ labour?
Katarina Fried: In Sweden, there are more social security measures; some of them are for the country’s resident citizens. There are more opportunities to use diverse social security services, depending on the place of stay and the activity carried out. The EU citizens can benefit from the European agreements, the goal of which is to facilitate the mobility, both of students and of employees. At the same time, there is protection ensured through the Council of Europe’s European Social Charter for non-resident citizens, who work and study in Sweden. As for an eventual agreement on social security, the procedure is lasting. If Moldova had interest in this field, I would be glad to return to the subject with the partners from Sweden; but I will not wonder if the country rules now to put emphasis on the European processes and ensuring the mobility at the EU’s level.
MOLDPRES: In last March, the Embassy of Sweden in Chisinau informed that the country would provide almost 11 million euros for the support of women and girls from Ukraine and Moldova. The money will be allocated, in order to consolidate the two countries’ efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the women and girls and promote their opportunities and rights. Can you tell more details on this financial support?
Katarina Fried: Russia’s wide-scale invasion against Ukraine and the attacks against the healthcare system led to dangerous and threatening consequences for the women and girls from Ukraine. Many of them have left on this period. The support has the goal to approach these humanitarian needs, promoting their services and rights, including to the sexual and reproductive health, as well as the combating the sexual and gender violence. When a war takes place, the life nevertheless continues; these women and girls from Ukraine will continue to get pregnant and will need access to health services. Presently, some of them are hosted in Moldova and benefit from the services which are provided here. The support has also the aim to contribute to improving the services which are available for the girls and women from Moldova. In Ukraine, the money is scheduled to help for the reconstruction and re-consolidation of the health system and the infrastructure hit. Nine million euros out of the 11 million will be available for Ukraine and Moldova through the United Nations Population Fund and two million euros will be available for Ukraine through UN Women. These two organizations will establish the support measures.
MOLDPRES: What positive practices our country might take over from Sweden’s experience in the tourism development sector?
Katarina Fried: First of all, priority would be the sustainability and accessibility in the tourism field. In Sweden, we established a quite clear vision for the country till 2030 to become the most attractive destination in the world, based on innovations. In Sweden, emphasis is put on the sustainability of tourism and we are proud of the experiences in the nature, which are accessible for everybody. We are happy to be ranked as the most sustainable destination in the world for two years in a row already. The tourism industry from Moldova has similar features, with emphasis on culture, nature, nourishment and beverages. Some of these elements are promoted through the Future Technologies Activity Programme, backed by USAID and the United Kingdom. At the same time, a suggestion would be for the efforts to be focused on sustainability, use of digitalization and creative industry, in order to attract as many tourists as possible. Also, it is quite important that the country is as accessible as possible, it should be easy to arrive here and common platforms and a common branding should be used, such as the slogan, A Small Country – with Big Heart, which is quite attractive. Also, it is very important that you put emphasis on everything which is local and involve the neighbour countries for combined experiences. I feel very good in Moldova; the country is quite hospitable, has an extraordinary nature and culture. It is to be explored by a lot of Swedish people and it would become a dear friend for their hearts.
MOLDPRES: Mrs. Ambassador Katarina Fried, thank you for the kindness to give this interview with our agency.