Mircea

Snegur

President of Moldova

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 26 September 1995

May I first of all thank you most sincerely for your invitation to address the Parliamentary Assembly in this magnificent Palais de l’Europe.

This occasion is of particular significance for me since it is the first time that the Republic of Moldova has taken part in a session of the Parliamentary Assembly as a fully-fledged member of the Council of Europe. I should like to take this opportunity to thank once again those who supported the accession of my country to this Organisation: President Miguel Angel Martinez, Secretary General Daniel Tarschys, the rapporteurs for our country and all the Parliamentary Assembly.

I would also like to mention the particular contribution made by Catherine Lalumière to the establishment of relations between the Council of Europe and the Republic of Moldova.

Moldova’s accession to the Council of Europe has raised the standing of our country and has been an act of support for and recognition of the irreversible nature of the processes underway to introduce genuine democracy and to construct a state governed by the rule of law.

We recently celebrated the fourth anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Moldova. Looking back over the developments in our country, we can obtain a clearer picture of what led to them. Even though Moldova’s relations with the Council of Europe are of only relatively recent standing, dating from 5 February 1993 when we were granted special guest status, there is no doubt that this distinguished Organisation has made a valuable contribution to the success achieved by my country.

Following the collapse of the former totalitarian regime, our country opted for a new approach to organising our society: democratisation and market economy. Our desire to become part of Europe does not mean that we wish to abandon the age-old traditions of our people. While upholding these traditions, we are at the same time taking part in the construction of a new society, drawing on the precious values of European civilisation. The new architecture of European security can only be achieved through co-operation and democracy, and the contribution of the Council of Europe, which lies at the heart of the human, political and legal culture of the continent, is undisputed.

Today, the Republic of Moldova is much better known in Europe and the world, having been accepted into various international organisations such as the United Nations, the OSCE and others. It is important for me to state that we have established mutually advantageous links with the European Union with the signature of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, the trade provisions of which form an interim agreement which is due to be signed in the very near future.

I should like to move on to outline a number of positive factors in the development of my country on the internal political level. First and foremost were the multi-party-based parliamentary elections, held in February 1994, which were acknowledged by the experts from various international organisations, including the Council of Europe, as being free and democratic. The new parliament has adopted the basic law for the country – the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova – which constitutes the legal basis for the construction of a democratic state. I should point out that during just one and a half years of activity, the Moldovan Parliament has adopted over 500 law-making acts which constitute the legal basis of the reform of our society.

Further evidence of democratisation is the fact that some thirty-eight parties and socio-political organisations, covering a wide range of political opinions, are active on the political scene. Recently, the Party of Rebirth and Conciliation came into being. This is a centre party with liberal tendencies which is seeking to unite all the forces standing for independence, democracy and market conditions in the economy. This new grouping is widely supported in society.

Another significant element is the press. Its role in the social and political life of the country has increased considerably, since it addresses virtually all aspects of life in society and the many and diverse problems with which we have to contend. This is quite natural. Constructing a state governed by the rule of law and making the transition to a market economy is a complex task which affects all social strata in the most direct way possible. In this context, each and every citizen has the right to express his or her opinion on these processes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to assure you that in our country we have set up equal conditions for all citizens, regardless of what national minority they may belong to. We are even inclined to believe that in some ways legislation in our country exceeds some European standards in this field. I am referring in particular to the solution of the problem of the Gagauzes, a minority accounting for approximately 3% of the total population of the Republic of Moldova. As you will be aware, we have given special status to an area in the south of the country inhabited largely by this minority group, which provides for a large degree of autonomy. In our approach to ethnic problems, we believe that they can and must be resolved uniquely through dialogue and reciprocal compromises, thus showing political will.

Basing our approach on the same principle, we have sought to settle the conflict in the Transnistrian region of the country. We are ready to settle problems through political means, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, provided the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova is safeguarded. We have drawn up a draft special legal status for this region, granting it fairly wide-reaching responsibilities. However, to our deepest regret, the leaders of Tiraspol, who are in receipt of permanent outside support, are opposed to the proposal and insist on having a separate state. But there is no basis in international law for such a solution.

I would like to inform this august Parliamentary Assembly that to date only Chisinau has made any compromise whereas Tiraspol is rigidly entrenched in its position. Still, we are convinced that we will be able to find a solution to this Gordian knot through political means and on the basis of reciprocal compromise.

What is of particular concern to us is the human rights situation in this region. The separatist authorities are retaining their old positions by prohibiting the teaching in schools of the mother tongue using a Latin alphabet. Despite the constant insistence of the Moldovan authorities and international organisations, including the Council of Europe, the group of political detainees led by Ilie Ilascu, unlawfully sentenced and imprisoned three years ago by the anti-constitutional authorities of Transnistria, has still not been freed. I would like to express the hope that with the help of international organisations and not least the Council of Europe, the Ilascu group will be transferred to the legitimate authorities of the Republic of Moldova.

Another factor which has a direct influence on the settlement of the Transnistrian problem is the presence in this part of the country of Russian Federation armed forces. On 21 October 1994 a Moldovan- Russian agreement on the withdrawal of the 14th army was signed. To our deep regret, this agreement has not yet been put into effect by the Russian side. All we can do is to continue to rely on the political clear-sightedness of the Russian leadership and, above all, that of President Boris Yeltsin who has assured us that the agreements will be honoured.

I shall go on to highlight the contribution made by the Council of Europe to the strengthening of democracy in Moldova. The massive aid provided by the Council of Europe has mainly taken the form of constant assistance by experts in various fields, advice on the drafts for the constitution and various laws, and invitations to Moldovan specialists to participants in various co-operation programmes, seminars, meetings, conferences and courses. Western European experts have already acknowledged the effectiveness of our first steps in legal reform, together with the work carried out by the competent national bodies for the establishment of a democratic society and for our country’s earliest possible inclusion in the European legal area. The same goal has prompted the formation of the National Commission responsible for harmonising our domestic legislation with European legislation and standards.

The most significant Council of Europe legal instrument is the European Convention on Human Rights, while the Organisation’s leading achievement is the implementation of effective human rights protection machinery. Our signature of the Convention constitutes an undertaking to secure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In addressing this distinguished assembly from its presidential rostrum, it would be remiss of me not to comment, however generally, on the economic situation in the Republic of Moldova. We have managed to record certain achievements in macro-economic terms. This is the assessment made by international organisations including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Comprehensive privatisation has been initiated as the first in this process; a stable and convertible national currency has been introduced; prices and trade in general have been deregulated and the inflation rate considerably reduced; a transition has been made from centralised credit allocation to competitive brokerage of loans. These are convincing signs of our resolute commitment to the principles of the market economy. The Republic of Moldova continues to advance on the path of reform, despite the natural disasters which have severely afflicted the population and the economy, causing damage valued as in excess of the annual national budget.

At present, incentive must be given to the process of establishing the property and capital markets, perfecting the loan and taxation systems, and bringing the bankruptcy system into operation. While carrying out the programme of reform and privatisation, it is important for us to ensure balanced social protection of the population.

Strenuous efforts are being made to promote foreign investment, particularly because our legislation permits this type of activity. We hope that by virtue of our status as a Council of Europe member we shall succeed in raising foreign investors’ credibility with the Republic of Moldova.

As endeavours towards economic integration with the West proceed we realise that, at least as things stand, the CIS countries have a major role to perform in Moldova’s economic revitalisation. Without normal access to the European markets, we cannot afford the extravagance of forfeiting our eastern outlets considering that not long ago we belonged to a single economic area. I would stress, however, that our strategic objective is integration with the European and world economic system.

Today there is conviction throughout Moldovan society that no alternative to economic and democratic reform exists. The main difficulties have already been overcome, but much remains to be done.

The Republic of Moldova is located in a complex geopolitical zone where various interests converge. Under the constitution now in force, the country has proclaimed its permanent neutrality, which signifies that it will not join blocs or military alliances and will not allow foreign troops to be stationed in its territory. We reject new divisions and new polarisations in Europe; we want no “cold war” or “cold peace” either. We wish to have friends in both eastern or western Europe. Nonetheless, the neutrality of our state does not raise an impediment to its participation with the other Council of Europe member states in the “Partnership for Peace” programme, since the Republic of Moldova emphasises the civil aspect of co-operation.

Reverting to the subject of internal problems, I would point out that the democratisation of our society and the advancement of economic reforms encounter a serious obstacle – the separatism with which we have to contend in the eastern region of the country. This movement, fuelled by political ambitions, must be firmly countered.

It has been correctly stated that separatism can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction in that it causes the breakdown of entire state systems together with regional and international systems. There is no better way to destabilise a country than to nurture separatism within it.

I have dwelt on this aspect because in the Republic of Moldova separatism poses a genuine threat not only to the delicate balance achieved in the country but also to the stability of the situation in this part of the continent. We hope that through the agency of the Council of Europe and also with the support of its member states, we shall succeed in resolving the problem of Moldova’s eastern region. In this regard, we consider it expedient to organise an international conference to oppose separatism. We would be honoured if it could take place in Chisinau.

At a general European level, the Republic of Moldova is carrying on fruitful co-operation in the OSCE framework and maintains economic links and relations of partnership with the European Union. The Council of Europe forms an intermediate institution between these two organisations by its efforts towards the construction of a unified Europe, a common European home. I refer in particular to the position and function of the Council of Europe in European affairs, for sometimes an attempt is made to divide the European organisations into classes of primary or secondary importance and it is proposed to establish a hierarchy among them. In our opinion, all European bodies weigh equally and each has its own part to play in seeking solutions to Europe’s problems. These structures should all generate solutions to present or future problems alike, in such a way as to rule out any duplication or subordination in their activities. It therefore behoves the Council of Europe to provide the emergent democracies with development options, naturally but not exclusively at the human level. In so doing it can bring them closer to the communal dimension of the European Union, while also offering its active support to the OSCE. To give an example, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities adopted under Council of Europe auspices has been a significant factor in the conclusion of the Pact on Stability in Europe put forward by the European Union and transmitted to the OSCE which will ensure its observance. This is an important achievement which serves to back up the idea of compatibility and mutual supportiveness among the European organisations.

The Council of Europe possesses the necessary instruments for attaining the goals which are common to all European states and all European organisations, goals which have become common values: democracy, freedom, pluralism, rule of law and respect for human rights.

The Republic of Moldova is the first country in the CIS area to become a full member of the Council of Europe. We feel that the great democratic family of Europe has everything to gain from the accession of other eastern European countries to the Organisation. Thus it is not by chance that admission to the Council of Europe is often termed “restoration to Europe”.

It is important for the countries of eastern Europe to be encouraged to open their doors wider to the other part of Europe so that no one feels isolated and all may be involved in the European processes.

The Council of Europe originated the idea of a common home and a united Europe on the basis of universal human values, an idea which was given fresh impetus after 1989. This idea is still current and is to be applied flexibly in order to fulfil the imperatives of history by taking up the challenges of a, changing Europe, and most of all to meet the needs of more intensive co-operation with the countries of eastern Europe. It is crucial that individual success for these countries should be the achievement of Europe as a whole, and that any success gained by Europe should afford their citizens a higher standard of security and prosperity. In this way, it would be possible to build a European society governed by peace and stability, human solidarity, mutual understanding and co-operation.

In this day and age, the necessity for the Council of Europe is questioned in some quarters. Status as a full member of the Council of Europe brings no material profit, nor any specific advantage. Co-operation in the Council of Europe framework is an asset of immense spiritual value, and the Republic of Moldova asks only that its worth may continue to increase.

Our admission to the Council of Europe has broadened the democratic area where rule of law and the principles of the market economy prevail. It is no more than a first step in Moldova’s gradual integration with Europe, but undoubtedly an important step since it affords the prospect that the area of security and stability will extend in our direction.

Mr President, Mr Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, I would assure the Parliamentary Assembly that the Republic of Moldova is a reliable partner because it resolutely seeks to join in the European co-operation structures and machinery, to honour scrupulously the undertakings made, and to further the democratic reforms in hand. We shall participate actively in the work of the Council of Europe, the body which is so vital to all of Europe’s citizens.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mr President, thank you. A large number of our colleagues have questions for you; I will ask them to be brief and to the point, and I must also ask you to be as succinct as possible in your replies.

Although I am pleased that so many members wish to put questions to you, I am afraid it will disrupt our schedule somewhat. I call Mr Antretter.

Mr ANTRETTER (Germany) (translation)

Mr President, thank you for your impressive speech. One of the most important criteria for your country’s admission to the Council of Europe was the fact that you have established a modem constitution that accords with the principles of our community of nations with shared values. We now read the disquieting news that you intend to amend the constitution with the aim of coming closer to a system of presidential government.

I should therefore like to ask you whether this information is correct and, if so, what the reasons might be for this intended amendment.

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

replied that changes to the constitution were being considered but would not occur without observance of due process.

Mr SOLE TURA (Spain) (translation)

asked whether constitutional changes would take place in Moldova along similar lines to those being undertaken in Kazakhstan.

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

replied that such changes were not proposed but could not be ruled out; if proposed, they would be subject to due process. The changes in Kazakhstan were supported widely by the electorate in that country.

Mr PAUNESCU (Romania)

Mr President, if it is possible I would like to put my question to the President in Romanian.

THE PRESIDENT

Everything is possible in this world, but that would be entering into a direct dialogue with the President of the Republic of Moldova. I suggest you save that for the reception tomorrow evening. This afternoon it would be more judicious to allow us all to share in your question by asking it in one of the working languages of the Assembly.

Mr PAUNESCU (Romania)

You did a very brave and necessary act this year, Mr President, in asking the parliament to change the constitution and to recognise the Romanian identity of the language and culture beyond the Prut river. What can you do in practice for Romanian culture in Moldova which may become alienated and the slave of empire as long as the culture is regarded as part of a national identity and a humanist aspiration, bearing in mind that the government from Kishinau and the government party do not currently recognise the Romanian identity of the culture and language of Moldova?

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that it had been he who had taken the legislative initiative over the Romanian language. If the leader of the republic was against such a measure it would be opposed by a large part of the country, which he hoped MPs would understand. He said that he was ready to co-operate with all 104 parliamentarians. It might be necessary to amend paragraph 3 of the constitution.

Mr MUEHLEMANN (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, when I visited you last year you expressed the hope that the Transnistrian MPs would soon return to your parliament. May I ask you what political progress has in the meantime between made in the relations between Kishinau and Tiraspol?

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that these problems were always on the agenda. Some progress had been made with a common declaration, and talks were continuing to solve the problems caused by armed conflict. Unfortunately external forces, particularly in the Russian Duma, were supporting the Tiraspol leaders. Moldova was prepared to wait, even though progress had been halted at present. The situation was peaceful on the right bank of Moldova, there was economic development on the left bank, and ties were being consolidated.

Mr GRICIUS (Lithuania)

In your address to the Assembly, you mentioned problems which have arisen between Russia and your country concerning the withdrawal of the Russian 14th army now stationed in Transnistria. How big an influence does this situation have on your country’s relations with Russia and your participation and status in the Commonwealth of Independent States?

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

replied saying that Moldova was only an economic member of the CIS. With regard to the withdrawal of the Russian military, he said it would take three years. The problem was not with the military as such, but with armaments – an arsenal which had been built up over several years. Everyone was in favour of agreement being reached, and certain guns which could not be transported back to Russia were being destroyed, but not enough progress had yet been made. Firm insistence was needed, as was support from European organisations such as OECD.

Mr MARUFLU (Turkey)

Mr President, on behalf of the Turkish delegation may I offer you our thanks and appreciation for your comprehensive speech. I know the difficulties and uncertainties surrounding the countries of central and eastern Europe as regards the security and stability of the region, and I share your country’s concern about these matters as a parliamentarian of a country which has long-standing relations with Moldova.

Turkey attaches the utmost importance to Moldova’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and fully supports your efforts to consolidate your state by means of national reconciliation.

May I ask you to elaborate on your country’s stance in respect of Nato’s enlargement on the one hand; and on the other, on the recent Russian demarche to transform the Russian 14th Army – now called the Operational Group and stationed in Transnistria, more than 1 000 kilometres from Russia’s borders – into a permanent Russian military base?

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that Moldova’s constitution did not permit his country to join any military bloc. Its goal in co-operating in international programmes was to ensure its security. Russia could not be eliminated from the solution to these problems but foreign military bases were not allowed. That fact had been clearly expressed to President Yeltsin.

Mr JESZENSZKY (Hungary)

Mr President, I had the honour at our last session to be one of the rapporteurs to recommend the admission of your country to the Council of Europe. Our support for admission was manifest then; there is a lot of sympathy for your country, and we should like it to flourish like a beacon in eastern Europe as a multinational, multicultural country.

I recently read certain reports emanating from your country and I welcome this opportunity to ask Your Excellency to clarify them. I was informed that you have laid a legislative proposal before your parliament concerning state security. If adopted, according to the report, it would remove the issue from parliamentary control and place it entirely under the President’s authority. I should be most grateful if you would inform the Assembly of the true nature of the plan and the reasons behind it.

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that there was no intention of seizing power or imposing dictatorship. It was a question of sharing powers most effectively. The change ought not to cause concern: Moldova was still a stable state.

Mr EORSI (Hungary)

Mr President, you placed significant emphasis on foreign policy issues. I am sure that all members of the Assembly agree that a small country such as Moldova needs to establish good relationships with all its neighbouring countries. We know the situation that exists despite all your efforts, and we regret that no bilateral treaty has been reached between Romania and Moldova. What are the main obstacles to a treaty with Romania, and what is needed to reconcile the two countries?

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

did not feel such obstacles existed and this was evidenced by increasing economic integration, cultural and spiritual links as well as the development of an agreement on security between Moldova and Romania.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON (United Kingdom)

It is usual in this amiable, consensual and occasionally soporific Assembly to ask gentle questions of visiting distinguished guests. However, as a liberal, I take an iconoclastic view, so I will ask the President of Moldova something difficult. Is there not a case for erecting in Kishinau, the capital of Moldova, two statues – one to Molotov and one to Ribbentrop? Were it not for those two cunning gentlemen, Moldova would not exist. Leading from that piece of friendly embarrassment, how does the President see future relations with Romania? To rephrase Mr Eörsi’s question more directly, what is the justification for an existence separate from Romania?

Mr Snegur, President of Moldova (interpretation)

thought he had already addressed that question in his previous reply. The proclamation of independence of Moldova was a reality.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

We thank you, Mr President, for being so kind as to answer all these questions.

Your country is clearly assuming its rightful role in the international context. The questions put to you could just as easily have been addressed to the Belgians, the Swiss, to the Spanish with regard to the Portuguese, or even to the Irish; they could have been addressed to any of the countries around the borders of the Europe we are building.

When asked the question, peoples state clearly whether they want to belong to an independent country or to a country bound to another.

Be that as it may, we are moving towards the construction of a great state, a great Europe, the great United States of Europe, and I believe that many other problems will be resolved by this procedure.

Mr President, I wish you and your people every success, and I am convinced that your countrymen in this Assembly will continue to play an important role. Judging by all the items on the agenda and by the list of speakers, there is no doubt of that. I can but congratulate them, as I do you.

Thank you, Mr President, for being with us. I wish you a pleasant journey home.