Statements of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs & European Integration of Moldova, Natalia Gherman, following their meeting (Athens, 15 October 2014)
E. VENIZELOS: It is with great pleasure that I welcome to Greece, to
Athens, to the Foreign Ministry, my dear friend and colleague the Deputy
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration
of Moldova, Mrs. Natalia Gherman. This is the second time Mrs. Gherman
has visited us here in Athens in the space of a few months.
We had the pleasure of welcoming the Prime Minister of Moldova, the Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, and Mrs. Gherman in April, on the occasion of the waiving of the visa requirement for Moldovan citizens, and the Moldovan government, to honor the Greek Presidency and celebrate the event, organized a special flight from Chisinau to Athens.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Moldovan capital during the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and in general we have exceptional cooperation with a country of our wider region, with a country to which we are linked by very close historical and political ties.
I never forget the relationship of Alexander Ypsilantis with Chisinau. And we had the opportunity a short while ago, in Ioannis Kapodistrias hall, where the talks were held, to talk about Kapodistrias’s involvement with Bessarabia, the current region of Moldova.
We have repeatedly reaffirmed our excellent relations. We are linked by a number of agreements. We have a strong network of agreements and legal texts in force, but I will mention in particular the Memorandum the two Foreign Ministries have signed on the transfer of know-how and experience on European integration issues. Mrs. Gherman was kind enough to present to us a number of ideas on the activation and utilization of this Memorandum, and we at the Foreign Ministry will coordinate the Greek Services and the Greek Ministries to respond speedily and to the greatest possible degree to these requests.
We see there as being two major achievements of the Hellenic Presidency with regard to Moldova. The one is the abolition of the visa requirement, which I have already mentioned. The second and more important was the preparation and signing of the Moldova-EU Association Agreement. I am pleased that now, in a very short time, this Agreement will also be ratified by the Hellenic Parliament.
Despite its neutrality, which is constitutionally vested, Moldova plays an active role in many activities of the European Union and NATO, like, for example, the operation in Kosovo, and I am pleased because we have here, in Greece, a strong Moldovan community, as well as a strong presence of Greek enterprises in Moldova.
A short while ago, we signed before you the Executive Programme for the sectors of Culture, Education and Science for 2015 and 2016. It is our historical obligation to put emphasis on this programme, but it is equally important that we expand our bilateral commercial and economic cooperation, particularly in the energy sector, but also in many other sectors, and I am happy that this is now also happening within the framework of the Moldova-EU Association Agreement.
Respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova is a matter of principle for us, because international law and regional security are fundamental axes of Greek foreign policy. From this perspective, we support the 5+2 Talks on the Transnistria region. We believe that the Ukraine crisis must not negatively impact the situation in the wider region, and particularly in Moldova.
We had the opportunity to discuss all these issues a short while ago, in our meetings, and we will continue during the working luncheon. We share the same outlook on the many crises plaguing the world, to the east and south of the European Union. And I also had the opportunity to brief Mrs. Gherman on certain issues of special interest to Greece; issues that concern Cyprus, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the situation in Greek-Turkish relations.
With this visit we reaffirm this excellent cooperation we have, and it is my hope that the government and, mainly, the people of Moldova, with wisdom and prudence, make the major choices that befit their destiny and perspective in Europe and in the world.
N. GHERMAN: Thank you very much, dear Mr. Minister, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues.
Today, I am in Greece at the invitation of my dear colleague Minister Venizelos, first and foremost to reaffirm the excellent relationship that exists between Moldova and Greece and to thank the Greek colleagues for the support and contribution to the Moldovan European integration effort. This comes as a very natural destination to me, just as it was a very natural destination of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, the Speaker of the Parliament and political leaders on the 28th of April, because your country, the Hellenic Republic, has made a lot of important contributions during the Chairmanship in the Council of the European Union, in the first half of this year, to advance the objectives of the Moldovan European integration agenda.
Thanks to this consistent effort, there were two important achievements, the abolition of the necessity of visa for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova to travel to the European Union and we were here on April to celebrate the day of enter into force of this historical decision for my country, and second the finalization of the procedures of negotiation and signature of the association agreement between the Republic of Moldova and the European Union, and again it happened during the Greek Chairmanship of the Council, on the 27th of June.
Since then, Moldova has ratified the agreement and together with the European Union started its implementation as of the 1st of September this year. The discussions that we had today with Mr Minister tackled the issue of the consistent effort of implementation that we strongly believe in. The Memorandum of Cooperation when we have signed when my Greek colleague was in Moldova in April this year lists the areas where the Greek institutions will be ready to make a transfer of experience on European affairs to the analogous institutions in the Republic of Moldova. Just as my colleague said, today I came with a very concrete proposal that my colleagues in the Moldovan ministries and agencies have put forward, looking for the assistance and interactions with the Greek counterparts, and we will continue to work in this very pragmatic, very practical way, to ensure the success of the Moldova’s European integration effort.
I am grateful to everybody here in Greece, to the authorities and also to the society who believes in this European future of Moldova and generously supports it. We have also signed today yet another agreement, rather a protocol of implementation of the agreement on cooperation on culture and educational fields that will complete a very rich legislative framework that exists between my two countries. And I have to inform you that there are 22 bilateral agreements that are enforced between Moldova and Greece that very well structure this bilateral cooperation.
The contact at the political level has been intensified particularly recently and we are grateful for this. The economic cooperation is going on also in an increasing speed and today we have mentioned and discussed how we are going to intensify it in the future, particularly given the opportunities that the free-trade area between Moldova and the European Union has opened for Moldovan producers and now they have access to the European Union market at much more advantageous conditions.
There is also excellent cooperation going on between us in the field of education. Moldova is sending students to the Greek educational institutions and the number is increasing, thanks to the support from the Greek authorities.
We have been discussing how we cooperate in the field of agriculture, in the field of food safety, in the field of competitiveness of the products that Moldova would like to export to Greece and furthermore to the European Union. We have also discussed the idea of cooperation in the field of military education and defense. You should also know that the officers from the Moldovan National Defense Forces are regularly trained in the Greek National Defense Academy, and some of them are also leading our contingent that we send to different peacekeeping operations worldwide. The most recent one is the one that we sent to Kosovo, the KFOR, where we cooperate together. But also how to raise the level of preparedness for the European Union led operations is very important as well.
We have also discussed the cooperation that we have in the field of justice, in the field of protection of personal data, intellectual property rights. These are all very concrete elements of the reform process in the Republic of Moldova. We look for Greece, we see a lot of good examples to follow and not in the last instance something remarkable, how rapidly and how well Greece has recovered from the economic crisis, ensured continuous growth and improved the situation with employment. For Moldova, a country still yet outside European Union, this is also a very interesting learning process and I am grateful for the openness of my Greek interlocutors for sharing those bad, but also very good experiences at times, because this is how you learn and this is how you ensure that some of the things in your own country can be done faster and in a more sufficient way.
We have also discussed regional context and the situation in the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict of the Republic of Moldova where the ongoing efforts are deployed to ensure a sustainable settlement on the basis of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, a position that Greece respects and believes in. We tackled the regional context and the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russian, Eastern Ukraine, we looked into the global security issues, because as we mentioned before we have a complete commonality of views about the global security challenges, about the global issues, about the regional cooperation where we participate in practically all regional organizations and arrangements together, and not to forget that Moldova is taking over the Chairmanship in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization from Greece at the end of the year and we also looked onto the processes on our European continent.
And of course, I would like to conclude that since Moldova and Greece share the common past through a number of historical, humanitarian, civilizational commonalities and features that we are proud of and we cherish very much, since we are cooperating in an excellent manner in the present, in a very pragmatic way and in conditions of solidarity, I am completely confident that we will share the same future, Moldova and Greece. And this will be the European future, and Greece strongly believes in that and Moldova of course is here to thank Greece for this attitude and to plan this interaction in the same pragmatic way for the future.
Thank you so very much.
JOURNALIST: Mr. President, I would like to ask you for your comment on what happened yesterday after the appearance of a remote-controlled flying object with the flag of “Greater Albania” at the international match between Serbia and Albania, in Belgrade.
E. VENIZELOS: Sporting events must be events of friendship, cooperation and peaceful coexistence among peoples and nations.
It is wrong for anyone to reverse the function of sporting events.
In the Balkans, we have had many unpleasant historical experiences, and I am certain that the governments of both of these two neighbouring and friendly countries, Albania and Serbia, not only disapprove of these incidents, but will also seize this opportunity, through statements and actions, to impart a strong sense of regional stability, of respect for the existing borders, and of the common European perspective of all the countries of the region.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, what is Greece’s position on the Transnistria issue? Of late, we have (in Moldova) a very major issue, and we are very concerned by this, and we would like to learn Greece’s position. Thank you.
E. VENIZELOS: As I also had the opportunity to say in my introductory remarks, Greece fully respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. Our foreign policy always follows the mainstream of the common European position. We support the government of Moldova and the efforts it is making within the framework of the 5 + 2 process in Vienna, always through the prism of the abovementioned principles. And I would like to hope that there will be developments that will not burden the region and will not create a new crisis hotspot.
N. GHERMAN: May I also add a few words in answering to the question and in continuation of what Minister Venizelos had to say?
The process of the European integration of the Republic of Moldova in all its entirety and profoundness of the reforms, meaning modernization and transformation of the Moldovan state and of the Moldovan society is also seen by the Moldovan authorities as a framework which will ensure in the best possible way the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict and the sustainable reunification of the country. This objective is common and inclusive for all citizens residing in the territory of the state, the Republic of Moldova. It has brought already tangible progress and tangible results, which of course we invite our citizens from the Transnistrian region to benefit from and it already has created its own logics of the direction where the country is going and the purpose of the development and modernization of the country.
And I am sure that with the time and with the progress that we will be obtaining with the European integration way, the Transnistrian conflict settlement will be solved and the principles to which we referred, territorial integrity, sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova, will continue to remain the basis of it, and our position is that the region can be entitled to an autonomous status, within the Republic of Moldova, preserving its territorial integrity and as I said, the European integration of the whole country is already a big facilitator of this process.
JOURNALIST: Did you discuss energy cooperation issues in particular, with the developments we have now in Ukraine?
N. GHERMAN: Yes, indeed. We have discussed the issue of energy, since this is relevant for both countries in the very first place, but this is very relevant for the whole of the European continent, and I have informed the Minister about the efforts of the Moldovan government to diversify the energy supply to the Republic of Moldova and I would like to reiterate that as of August this year, we have launched the energy project connecting the Republic of Moldova to the European Union market of natural gas, through Romania. This is the pipeline connecting two neighboring cities, one in Moldova and one in Romania, through the River Prut. It will become operational as of the next month and Moldova has made its first step to connect itself to the European Union market. The electricity interconnectors will follow in the immediate future.
We also have big plans concerning the resources of energy and here we coordinated our vision and we will coordinate our efforts in the future. If you really want to be independent and your energy supply is secured, you need to look for alternatives and you need to look for diversification. We are thinking about the Caspian Basin, but we are also looking into the traditional sources and resources.
What is important is that Moldova for a couple of years already is a full-fledged member of the European Energy Community. That means that all our legislation is already harmonized with that of the European Union in this field, but also means that we are receiving important and competent and professional advice on how to organize ourselves in the field of energy on a sustainable basis, and that which is also important, we receive everything in conditions of extraordinary solidarity that other members of the Energy Community are extending to us.
The ongoing talks between Russia and Ukraine, our big neighbor in the East, are of great relevance to the Republic of Moldova. We hope that they will be concluded positively and in good faith, because Moldova so far is still receiving its natural gas from the Russian provider and in case of a disrupt of the flow, obviously Moldova will be affected, just as other countries in Southeastern Europe that come after Moldova might be affected too. So, we very much hope that it will be settled in the nearest future and also, the involvement of the European Union, of the European Commission is supposed to bring in our point of view this element of guaranteeing security of the quality of those negotiations.
E. VENIZELOS: I would just like to add that, of course, we look forward to Moldova’s integration into the European energy networks, and we had the opportunity to discuss the importance of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the Revithoussa terminal, and other similar infrastructure for LNG or CNG, which can transit Greece towards the wider region of Southeast and Central Europe. This was also the subject of the discussion we had a few months ago in Budapest – the Visegrad countries and the European countries of the region; that is, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria – and we are pleased because, from this perspective, our planning and our policy are in line with those of the Moldovan government.
Thank you very much.