Speech delivered by Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Várhelyi, on behalf of High-Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell
Dear President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Today’s debate is a very timely one as Russia and its proxies are actively working to destabilize the pro-reform government of Moldova.
Since the start of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, Moldova has been facing the consequences of Russia’s brutal aggression just tens of kilometers away from its borders. It has been confronted with a growing number of challenges, such as loss of key markets, soaring inflation, violations of its airspace, and staged protests. Nevertheless, Moldova has shown remarkable solidarity with the refugees fleeing Ukraine.
What is happening now?
According to the Moldovan authorities, the probability of direct military aggression against Moldova is currently low. Moreover, de facto authorities in the Transnistrian region want to avoid being drawn into Russia’s war of aggression, but vigilance is necessary due to the presence of Russian troops and ammunition in the Transnistrian region.
Over the last months, there have been increasing Russian attempts to destabilise Moldova with hybrid actions. The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, has warned about plans to attempt a change of power through violent means. Russia’s lies about Ukraine massing troops to attack Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria were swiftly denied by Chisinau.
At the same time, high energy prices and high inflation have increased the burden on the population, worsening their living conditions. Russia has used again energy supplies as a political weapon, but the Moldovan government, with the EU’s support, has managed to tackle these unprecedented challenges.
It is remarkable that, despite all the pressures, Moldova, now as an EU candidate country, continues working on reforms that aim to bring the country closer to the European Union. In that regard, on 2 February this year, [European] Commission services provided further policy guidance on EU acquis related reforms in our Analytical Report. This is to complement our Opinion of last year on the country’s application for EU membership, to be followed by a comprehensive assessment of Moldova’s progress in meeting the EU accession criteria later on this year, in the autumn.
Let me stress that Moldova remains on top of the European Union’s political agenda, with our unwavering support to the country’s security, territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Over the last 12 months, the EU has put together a comprehensive support package worth more than €1 billion to strengthen Moldova’s resilience.
Moreover, the Economic and Investment Plan for our Eastern partners has a significant potential that needs to be fully tapped to support Moldova’s reforms agenda. The five flagship initiatives, we agreed together, aim to unlock €1.6 billion of investments for Moldova.
We are supporting the modernization of Moldova’s defense sector with the support of the European Peace Facility (EPF). By providing €47 million, we will effectively double Moldova’s national defense budget. High Representative/Vice President [Josep] Borrell has proposed to EU Member States to maintain a substantial level of financial assistance to Moldova also this year. Additionally, EU experts support Moldova on cyber security, addressing hybrid threats and countering disinformation. The EU also launched a Hub to address internal security and border management challenges.
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And we are looking at further ways to support Moldova. High Representative/Vice President Borrell is taking forward the work on preparing a possible EU Civilian CSDP mission to further strengthen Moldova’s security and resilience. The deployment of such a mission would provide yet another important political sign of the European Union’s support in the current difficult circumstances.
The [European] Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) services, together with Member States, are also exploring a possible new sanctions regime, targeting individuals who seek to destabilize this country.
Despite all the challenges that Moldova is facing, in June, it will host the second Summit of the European Political Community.
I want to reassure you that the European Union stands in solidarity with the people of Moldova, even in these challenging times. The future of Moldova and its citizens is within the European Union.
Dear President, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
This debate shows our continued interest and support for Moldova on its EU path.
We commend the strong commitment of the Moldovan government to continue delivering on its ambitious reform agenda, despite the challenges and overlapping crises triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
It is important not to lose focus on key reforms. Moldovan citizens expect progress, especially in the areas of rule of law, justice, and corruption. These reforms are equally important for strengthening Moldova’s resilience.
It is equally important, therefore, also to recover all the funds that have been lost in the banking crisis and to find all the funds back that have been illegally put into private hands.
I would therefore like to encourage you to pass the message on the need to continue reforms to your Moldovan counterparts during the upcoming 13th EU-Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee which is scheduled for next week.
We stand in full solidarity with Moldova. Anything that will improve Moldova’s security will also improve our own security.
Moldova belongs to the European family, and we stand ready to continue supporting it on its EU accession path.