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Ambassador of Greece says Greek companies have increased interest in investing in Moldova, as progress made on European integration way

13:16 | 12.12.2023 Category: Interview, Event

Bucharest-based Ambassador of Greece to Moldova Sofia Grammata has given an interview exclusively with the MOLDPRES State News Agency on topical subjects, the support provided on the European integration way, bilateral relations, foreign trade and tourism.   

MOLDPRES: Your Excellency, Mrs. Ambassador of Greece to Moldova, your mandate is coming to an end. How do you assess the relations between the two countries at the end of this mandate? 

Sofia Grammata: The relations between Greece and Moldova are based on the historical relations between the two nations and are characterized by a spirit of cooperation, friendship and mutual trust. The Greek presence on the territory of the current Republic of Moldova is century-old; it distinguished itself through merchants, physicians, scientific and literary personalities and decisively contributed to the osmosis of our cultures. The head of the Philiki Eteria organization, prince Alexandru Ypsilanti set out from Chisinau, from the home of merchant Mihalache Catica, the oldest house which preserved in Chisinau, on 22 February 1821; he crossed the Prut river and lighted the flame of the Greek Revolution, first in Iasi and from there all over the then Moldavia and Walachia, till it spread on the territory of Greece and led to the independence of my country from the Ottoman Empire.    

The bilateral relations between Greece and Moldova are at an excellent level and have constantly developed in all fields since Moldova declared its independence, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Greece wants to promote the bilateral relations, especially in the economic and commercial sectors, which it should be signaled, recorded an outstanding impetus in 2022, with a 70-per cent increase in the bilateral trade.   

Greece established diplomatic relations with Moldova on 27 March 1992. Presently, the Embassy of Greece in Bucharest has a parallel accreditation in Chisinau, where an Honorary Consulate works. The Embassy of Greece will soon be inaugurated. The institutional framework has been already completed both on behalf of Moldova and on behalf of Greece and this is due to the conviction of Athens that your country is now integrant part of the European process, as a result of the acceptance of Moldova’s candidacy for accession to EU and of the constant efforts of your people to overcome the difficulties from the past and to follow the way of reforms established by the country’s leadership, in cooperation with the European institutions. You are a strong and courageous people, with an outstanding resistance in quite difficult times, in a geopolitical environment with multiple challenges. Greece and the Greeks admire and support you with fervor!      

President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou paid two visits to Chisinau in 2023 – a visit on 28 February and 1 March and the second visit – to participate in the Summit of the European Political Community, held on 1 June, against the background of the Russian invasion underway in Ukraine. This is the expression of the most increased interest of our country in Moldova, after the official visit by the Green foreign affairs minister on 8 September 2021 and in a wider context, outlined by the participation of President Maia Sandu in the trilateral meetings in Greece in the last years, by the participation of Moldova’s energy minister in the Summit of the Trilateral Greece-Romania-Bulgaria, by the recent summoning here of the joint inter-ministerial committee of the two countries, by the political consultations held in Athens last year and by our inter-parliamentary meetings.    

During those three years after the submission of the accreditation letters in Chisinau, I have visited your country 20 times. I like Chisinau very much, as well as the Moldovan rural landscape and I am fond of the grapes and wines produced in your country, as well as of your remarkable traditional cuisine. 

You are a people which respects the tradition and I noticed here a great love, admiration I would say, for the ancient Greek civilization, as well as for the Byzantine civilization, which bears a strong imprint of the Orthodoxy, which is also a chain between our nations. There is also an increased interest in the modern Greek language and culture, which is strengthened in a high tourist interest in Greece, as well as by the existence of a significant community of citizens of Moldova who live and work in Greece. Since the beginning of the 2023 year, a centre of modern Greek language and culture has been working at the Chisinau-based university, with the financial support of Greek business people.      

Also, with support on behalf of Greece and the Fetal Medicine Foundation Kypros Nikolaides, a maternal and fetal medicine unit will be set up at the headquarters of the Mother and Child Institute, where future mothers will have access to new ways of medical investigations, which will allow early detecting anomalies of the development of the fetus. A programme of maternal and fetal medicine, which will be carried out during 2023-2025, was inaugurated in last July.   

MOLDPRES: At the European Council due on 14-15 December, the Moldovan authorities informed that they expected a positive decision on behalf of the member states as to the opening of the negotiations on Moldova’s accession to EU. Will Greece vote for the starting of the negotiations on our country’s accession to EU? In which sectors will Greece be willing to share its experience with Moldova in the accession process?    

Sofia Grammata: At the meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Maia Sandu in Athens on 22 August 2023, following an invitation by the Greek PM to participate in a dinner with the leaders of the Western Balkans, in the presence of European Commission President, Mrs. von der Leyen, the Greek prime minister and Moldova’s president exchanged opinions on the perspective of the consolidation of the bilateral relations. 

Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated the support of Greece for Moldova’s European perspective, expressed also in the Athens Declaration, adopted on 21 August by those 11 leaders who participated in the informal dinner organized at the PM’s initiative, in the presence of the European institutions’ leadership.

As a matter of fact, the support of Greece for Moldova’s European perspective is not a novelty. Inter alia, my country, in its capacity of president of the EU Council (the first half of the 2014 year), promoted the signing of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement (27 June 2014) and the liberalization of the entry visas for Moldova’s citizens (28 April 2014).   

I would consider that there is a high value added in the providing by Greece of the experience in the attraction of European programmes for the consolidation of your country’s infrastructure.

Besides, we concluded a memorandum of understanding between the Greek and Moldovan foreign affairs ministries (MAE), which represents an excellent basis for Greece to provide technical assistance to Moldova as regards the problems in the process of integration into EU and possibility to host officials from Moldova, in order to get expertise on European subjects, including at the Diplomatic Academy of the Greek MAE. 

MOLDPRES: This year, the Energocom Company purchased natural gas from the exploitation company from Greece, DEPA. This gas is delivered through the Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline. In last April, the acting director of Energocom in Athens signed a framework agreement on cooperation with the DEPA director, under which, in the long run, additional quantities of gas could be bought. Which are the perspectives of the extension of the cooperation and of the increase in the volume of gas delivered?      

Sofia Grammata: These perspectives of further consolidation of the bilateral cooperation, especially in the energy sector, with emphasis on natural gas and renewable energy sources, as well as in the sector of constructions and tourism, are the latest aspects of our bilateral cooperation.   

As a result of the aforementioned agreement from last April, on 6 June 2023, the Energocom stock company successfully held a tender for the supply of natural gas, which significantly enhances the security of Moldova’s supply.  DEPA Commercial stock company made the most competitive bid out of all participants and this positive result initiates a strong partnership between the two companies. 

Subsequently, on 5 September 2023, the Energocom stock company successfully carried out a new tender for the supply of a volume of natural gas of 100mcm/1 TWh for storing, covering a significant part of the supply of natural gas market from Moldova during the winter period. DEPA Commercial stock company was the winner of the new tender, making the most competitive bid.  According to the director general of DEPA Commercial, Konstantinos Xifaras, ‘’the positive result of the tender consolidates even more the already solid partnership between the two companies and confirms the intention of DEPA Commercial to stay the first strategic provider of Moldova in Europe.’’   

On 30 November this year in Athens, DEPA Commercial signed a Memorandum on Cooperation with the Energocom stock company, which reiterates the sides’ commitment to boost the cooperation in the field of supply with natural gas, including with liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as the coordination of the use of the infrastructure of storing and transportation of natural gas. According to DEPA’s director general, Xifaras, ‘’the signing of the memorandum with Energocom marks the beginning of the strategic cooperation between the two companies, which will allow the consolidation of the energy solidarity and diversifying their portfolio…’’   

MOLDPRES: In early last November, Parliament Speaker Igor Grosu had a meeting with First Deputy Parliament Speaker of Greece Ioannis Plakiotakis. Subsequently, the Greek official informed about the intention of Greece to open a diplomatic mission in Moldova. When the opening of the Embassy of Greece in Chisinau might take place?     

Sofia Grammata: Really, during his visit, First Deputy Parliament Speaker of Greece Ioannis Plakiotakis had occasion to reiterate to his interlocutors the firm support of Greece for the country’s European perspective, recognizing the significant progress made by Moldova’s government in a short period of time. During the meeting with Speaker Grosu, the willingness of the Greek parliament was signaled to provide expertise in terms of good practices to the Moldovan legislative body.   

As for the opening of the Embassy of Greece, it is expected in the first months of the 2024 year. I regret that the next Ambassador of Greece to Romania will not be able to visit and enjoy your country as often as I did it; yet, the decision by Greece to open an embassy here has been taken and the procedures are underway. And this fact will be really important for a better promotion of our bilateral relations, in all fields. Moldova has an absolutely special ambassador in Athens, quite dynamic, Mr. Andrei Popov and I am sure that the Embassy of Greece in Chisinau will prove a similar work. There are great possibilities to consolidate our relations in a lot of sectors. In the tourism field, the big expertise of Greece can be used, including as regards the international promotion of the tourist product. The tourist companies of my country repeatedly got important international prizes. The conclusion of an agreement in this respect, which is imminent, will be important. As for the energy sector, we have already referred to the earlier subjects – a very good cooperation.     

I also touched upon possibilities of cooperation between the two foreign affairs ministries. In this respect, I would like to publicly express, on this occasion as well, the gratitude towards the leadership and the officials of your Foreign Affairs Ministry. Your ministry has an excellent staff and its willingness for cooperation and the level of professionalism were quite valuable for the Embassy of Greece. As example of this cooperation, I would like to say that the operations which we undertook for the evacuation of civilians from Ukraine would not have succeeded without the big help of the Moldovan MAE and other Moldovan authorities, which proved once again their high degree of exemplary solidarity with the Ukrainian nation.    

MOLDPRES: In November this year, the Aegean Airlines Greek air company launched the Chisinau-Athens flight. What are the other sectors in which the business interest of Greece is showed in Moldova?  

Sofia Grammata: As you know, the Aegean Airlines Greek air company started the Chisinau-Athens route with two flights per week. Also, progress is made as regards the signing of the Common Programme of Actions in the tourism field between the Tourism Ministry of Greece and the Culture Ministry of Moldova. 

What I should mention is that the fourth meeting of the Joint Inter-ministerial Committee between Greece and Moldova took place in Chisinau on 12 May; the participants in the event confirmed the excellent climate between the two countries. A Memorandum of Understanding between Enterprise Greece and Invest Moldova was signed at the meeting, which confirmed the Greek side’s full support for Moldova’s accession to EU.  

As the reforms are promoted in your country, as you make progress on the European integration way, the interest of Greek companies in working in Moldova is reasonably enhanced. Greek companies of interest already work in Moldova in the sectors of trade, nourishment, medical equipment, systems of cooling/warming, clothing, fertilizers and consultancy in business. Greek consultancy companies are active also in the field of providing expertise services for European preogrammes.   

MOLDPRES: More Moldovan citizens live and work in Greece. Our countries signed an international agreement in the social security sector. Which are the social benefits provided to our citizens most often?  

Sofia Grammata: The Moldovan community, with presence in many professions, for tens of years has contributed to the social and economic life of our country. Therefore, this was a mature request, and I would say, obvious on behalf of your country to sign a bilateral agreement in the social security sector and to connect the social security systems from the two countries. On 30 August 2022, the Greek parliament ratified the agreement and I should emphasize that Greece was among the first three EU countries to ratify it, out of those which have signed similar agreements with Moldova.     

Under this agreement, the benefits on behalf of the institution in charge of implementation are as follows: the old age pension, the pension of disability triggered by general diseases, the pension and allowance of disability in the wake of labour accidents or caused by professional diseases and the survivor pension.

This agreement is expected to bring benefits to the insured citizens from each country, who live and work in the other country, as their entire life of work will be taken in account at the retirement. This facilitates the mobility on professional purposes between the two countries, but creates also serious stimuli for the legal insured labour.  

This is also an initiative which gets Moldova closer to the European Union, as part of a general effort to establish closer relations with different European states, which, according to the recent decision of the European Council, will eventually lead to Moldova’s full accession to the European Union. As we everybody know, the long-term goal of the Union is to create a single space of social security for the entire European family, which will be based, naturally, also on interstate bilateral agreements, just as the ours one. In other words, this agreement is another piece in the complex picture of a string of similar agreements on social security, which allow the bidirectional recognition and transfer of the rights of insurance in countries inside and outside the European continent.     

MOLDPRES: During tour mandate, you were able to know the traditions from Romania and Moldova. What have you found interesting in the culture of our people and you would like to share with your fellow countrymen?   

Sofia Grammata: I discovered in the Moldovan people, as well as in the Romanian one deep stoicism before difficulties and an inborn belief that the things will improve. 

Besides, I was impressed by the deep faith I came across with, both in Romania and in Moldova. I believe that this is far from our tendency, of the Greeks, to have a ‘’friendlier,’’ more convenient, I would say, explanation of the religious rules. This is rooted in a maybe ancient Greek pattern of a relative de-contextualization and sometimes de-mystification of the religious things, with anthropocentric characteristics. This approach, as you remember, was assigning major human defects to gods of Olymp, for instance. In other words, a tendency ‘’to relativize the religious things’’ has been maintained in the Greeks during centuries till nowadays, while this thing does not characterize the Moldovan people.      

During the time when I got to know your country and people, I admired their resistance. I think that EU should make the greatest effort possible, in order to consolidate this resilience of a country the culture of which is part of the European culture and which, in the current geopolitical environment, is really in the middle of the storm.  

MOLDPRES: Mrs. Ambassador Sofia Grammata, thank you for the kindness to give this interview with our agency.




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