Nicolae

Timofti

President of Moldova

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Mr President, Secretary General, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ambassadors and excellencies, I am honoured to be here among you and to address you on behalf of the people of the Republic of Moldova. We are a small country, with limited natural resources, but our people are fully determined to build a modern, democratic and prosperous society.

The events of April 2009 put to a serious test the national capacities and European aspirations of our citizens. Today, after three years of democratic governance, I am firmly convinced that the European course that the people of the Republic of Moldova have chosen is irreversible. I would therefore like to extend my sincere gratitude to you, distinguished parliamentarians, as well as to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s President, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and the Venice Commission for the interest that you have shown in the developments in the Republic of Moldova, and particularly for your involvement in and personal contribution to finding a solution for overcoming the constitutional stalemate in my country.

The governing coalition in the Republic of Moldova, which is called the Alliance for European Integration, is taking action to promote transformational reforms to ensure genuine, democratic and European rule of law.

“The perpetuation of the Transnistrian conflict undermines our national security and territorial integrity, hampers economic development and divides society”

Today I can state that after a relatively short period of time, the changes in my country have become visible. Now we are focusing on judicial reform, stimulation of business opportunities and the fight against corruption. We are well aware of the fact that these actions fall within a broader, complex process that involves considerable effort, and sometimes sacrifices. At the same time, we are determined to carry through these important reforms for the welfare of the Republic of Moldova.

The democratic development of my country is possible due to our membership of the Council of Europe, which is an honour for us. The standards and requirements of the Organisation have helped us to achieve modern institutional reforms. Our vision is for the Republic of Moldova to become a fully fledged member of the European Union, which will ensure better conditions for our citizens and contribute to greater regional and international efforts for security, and a solid ground for trust and prosperity.

On its accession to the Council of Europe 17 years ago, my country undertook a number of commitments regarding the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. To ensure a democratic transformation of our society, concrete actions have been undertaken: we have developed a legislative framework and put in place appropriate mechanisms for the effective implementation of reforms.

Having identified shortcomings in our judiciary system, we considered it necessary to develop and adopt a justice sector reform strategy for the period from 2011 to 2016, aimed at ensuring the sustainability and integrity of that sector. The overall objective of the reform is to make justice accessible, effective, independent, transparent, professional and accountable to citizens. We want to build a justice system that meets European standards, ensures the rule of law, and restores society’s trust in the judiciary. Since the beginning of this year, the first normative acts aimed at promoting reforms were adopted, including measures to combat corruption. Clear procedures for the selection of judges and the evaluation of their performance were designed. We have amended our legislation to make it possible to waive judges’ immunity in cases of corruption. This package of legislation will also increase the transparency of the Moldovan courts and of the Superior Council of Magistracy.

We are working hard to reform the prosecutorial service and the law enforcement agencies, particularly the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the police. The draft budget for 2013, approved by the government last week, provides a 55% increase in funding for justice. That will be the biggest budget that the judicial system of the Republic of Moldova has ever had.

Let me turn to human rights. In 2010, we initiated a structured dialogue with the European Union on the subject. Within the framework of this dialogue, there is participation from Moldovan experts and representatives of the major international actors – the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations. The assistance the Council of Europe has given us in order to improve human rights is valuable. The Council of Europe Facility, launched on the basis of the political priorities outlined in the Eastern Partnership, provides added value and strengthens the synergy between the two organisations, including on the issue of upholding European values.

We believe that the joint programmes of two European organisations have a consolidated impact on democratic transformations. For instance, the Council of Europe and European Union joint programme on democracy support for the Republic of Moldova, which was initiated after the April 2009 events, has brought good results in a relatively short time. As an example, I would like to mention that the pluralism of opinions and freedom of the media have clearly developed. This progress became possible after the Council of Europe and the European Union supported Moldova in establishing a press council. We also received assistance to develop a code of ethics for journalists. At the same time, we also passed a number of laws on the de-nationalisation of media outlets and on enhancing the freedom of expression. Those laws transpose into our national legislation the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. The laws are an important achievement for our national media organisations; they compel public authorities to de-nationalise media outlets that are funded by public money, thus encouraging fair and open competition in the printed media. During the past three years, freedom of expression, which is primarily an achievement of the Moldovan citizens, has been improved considerably – a fact recognised equally by civil society and international organisations. I wish to highlight that our government has placed human rights at the core of its national policies – this is our primary objective. We believe that citizens and their welfare should be at the forefront of our actions.

I shall now discuss the global perspective. We have followed closely the events in northern Africa and the Middle East. More recently, we have seen hate speech, intolerance and instigation to violence. Those things show, once again, the importance of keeping human rights at the top of our agenda. The Council of Europe is the Organisation with the tools and capacities to carry out the purpose of maintaining human rights. We will follow closely the first World Forum for Democracy, which is due to start two days from now and has been initiated by the Council of Europe. We believe that this forum should emphasise the importance of dialogue, negotiation and compromise, because those values should be used at the European level and worldwide to avoid misinterpretations and abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

For Council of Europe member states, including the Republic of Moldova, there is one justice institution: the European Court of Human Rights. Many Moldovan citizens have submitted applications to the ECHR, as a result of which our state has been reminded of its primary responsibility to ensure compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. In this context, I wish to say that we support the reform of the ECHR and the actions recommended following the Interlaken, Izmir and Brighton conferences.

We understand that the reform of the ECHR depends not only on the activity of the Council of Europe, but on the willingness of each member state to ensure the effective protection of human rights at the national level. I am referring not only to the adoption of some European and international standards, but to their implementation and proper enforcement. This is also the case for the Republic of Moldova, and I can confirm on behalf of our democratic government and political leadership, of which I am a member, that there is political will to implement these standards.

On the other hand, there are deficiencies in terms of respecting human rights and the pursuit of democratic transformations in the eastern regions of our country. The perpetuation of the Transnistrian conflict undermines our national security and territorial integrity, and it hampers economic development and divides our society. Our policy is focused on promoting dialogue and consolidating confidence and trust between those on the two sides of the Nistru River, in order to reintegrate Moldova within its internationally recognised borders so that our state becomes a functional one with clear European perspectives. The Transnistrian region should be granted a special status within the Republic of Moldova. That will provide the region with a high level of self-governance. Defining a special status is the core task of the political negotiations in the 5+2 format, which should generate a reasonable compromise based on the principles of sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova.

The Council of Europe has an important role in this process through the confidence-building measures on both sides of the River Nistru. We express our gratitude for the valuable support provided by its member states and count on their further voluntary contributions so that this confidence-building project can be expanded and prolonged. We also believe that it is essential to transform the existing peacekeeping mechanism into an international civilian mission aimed at building confidence rather than separating the sides. We are counting on the OSCE, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States to combine their efforts towards finding a lasting solution for the Transnistrian conflict and the reintegration of the Republic of Moldova. Equally, it is important to reiterate that the Russian forces that are present on the territory of Moldova without the consent of our state – of the host nation – and contrary to our constitutional framework and to Russia’s international commitments should be finally withdrawn.

We welcome the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution adopted yesterday – on 2 October – on the report regarding the honouring of obligations and commitments undertaken by the Russian Federation, particularly those on the need for the withdrawal of Russian troops and munitions from the territory of the Republic of Moldova.

Distinguished audience, the Republic of Moldova is making progress on its path towards European integration. We continue our negotiations on the Association Agreement with the EU, and earlier this year we launched the negotiations on the creation of a deep and comprehensive free trade area. Together with the European Union, we have set ourselves an intensive agenda of negotiations, and we will make concerted efforts to meet the established timetable and to achieve the ambitious goal to complete negotiations by the next summit of the Eastern Partnership, which will take place next year.

At the same time, I can speak of the progress that Moldova has made in implementing a visa liberalisation conditionality regime. We are waiting for the European Commission and the European Council to take an official decision to move to the second phase of this dialogue. We appreciate the results obtained under the Mobility Partnership with the Republic of Moldova, and we would like to encourage all member states of the European Union to join the partnership in order to strengthen the co-operation in the area of migration.

We are fully aware that Moldova will have a better European perspective if we fully implements its commitments assumed upon our accession to the Council of Europe. Our priority in our relations with the Council of Europe is to complete this monitoring process and to move on to a post-monitoring phase, because these goals have been consistently reflected in our government’s programmes. Based on this objective, and in order to monitor strictly the implementation of obligations, the parliament of the Republic of Moldova adopted an action plan on 13 July 2012 on the honouring by the Republic of Moldova of its commitments to the Council of Europe. This document represents a consolidated message about the commitment of the Moldovan authorities to promote systemic reforms despite the consequences of the global financial crisis. This exercise constitutes a platform for action in which each institution has a role, and it shows the political maturity of the political leadership and the entire society.

We count on the further support of the Parliamentary Assembly in the implementation of reforms and to help Moldova move on to the post-monitoring dialogue. I assure you the time is right for this step, because we have the arguments and the evidence to support this natural objective. The Republic of Moldova has real potential and should therefore be offered a differentiated approach. Its citizens deserve to be encouraged and assured that they have their place in the space of European democratic values.

Personally, I look forward to the forthcoming visit to Chişinău by the PACE co-rapporteurs for the Republic of Moldova, and I am convinced that they will be able to see for themselves the progress that my country has made in fulfilling its commitments, as the distinguished Parliamentary Assembly confirmed in Resolution 1895 of 2012. I have noted with satisfaction the findings and the encouragement in that report.

Finally, I wish to congratulate the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and all its representatives for their continuous and noble work. It is, I assure you, highly appreciated in member states. Thank you for disseminating the fundamental values of our Organisation, and I encourage you to continue to reform the Parliamentary Assembly to make it more effective and more visible. We all need to combine our efforts to provide a better future for our citizens and our countries.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you, Mr Timofti, for your interesting address. Members of the Assembly now have questions to put to you.

The first question is from Mr Vareikis on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania)

As a former rapporteur for Moldova, I am very interested in the action plan for switching from monitoring to the post-monitoring procedure. Can you say a little bit more about that? What is the timetable for the plan, and what are the most important remaining problems that need to be solved before the switch is made?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that Moldova was fully aware of its obligations, and of course all the issues about which it had to be careful were still at the forefront of their minds. Plans of action to address these would be developed in due time. However, on a few issues they lagged behind, such as the reform of judicial powers and of the prosecutors’ offices. He was sure that in time the country would solve those problems too. The task of reforming the prosecutors’ offices was difficult: they were state bodies with long traditions and deep roots in the old social system. Nevertheless Moldova was now able to find solutions that would overcome such difficulties. A new package of laws would implement new values in the prosecutors’ offices, and introduce new procedures for the selection and promotion of prosecutors. It was proposed that a General Prosecutor be appointed, and the Prosecutors’ Council would suggest candidates for other positions.

Ms DURRIEU (France) (interpretation)

said that Moldova was an extremely courageous country. It was very dependent on the Russian Federation for energy and trade. It had experienced profound institutional problems but had demonstrated that it was anchored to democratic values and deserved to be in the post-monitoring process. She asked Mr Timofti what his expectations were from Russia on the one hand, and from Europe on the other.

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

recalled that he and Mrs Durrieu had worked together in the 1990’s in the field of judicial reforms, among other topics. As for expectations of Russia, there was room for the two countries’ already good relations to improve further. When he had been elected, he had organised meetings with Russian leaders, and he was always open to peaceful talks. This would mean finding solutions for the outstanding issues between the two countries. Russia was a very important economic partner for Moldova, and many Russian citizens lived in the territory of the Republic of Moldova. When holding discussions with Russia, the Moldovan Government repeatedly asked that the Transnistrian problem be resolved through peaceful talks. Russian forces on the territory of the Republic of Moldova should be withdrawn according to international standards. He hoped that this would lead to peace, and that it would be possible to keep developing good relations with both the Russian Federation and Europe. He looked forward to further support from Europe for integration and Moldova’s eventual accession to the European Union, towards which Moldova continued to work. Recently Moldova had become more stable; having overcome a difficult moment, it could look forward to peace and calm times. He looked to Europe for support in implementing reforms.

Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova) (interpretation)

asked what Mr Timofti’s view was on the possibility of solving the Transnistrian conflict in the medium and long terms, especially given recent developments. The self-proclaimed leader of that region had instituted customs taxes on goods moving from the right bank to the left bank, and had adopted the Russian flag for the Transnistrian region.

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that recently the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova had adopted measures, which he supported, which would lead to the improvement of the lives of citizens on both sides of the Dniestr River. It was unfortunate that the authorities on the other side of the river had imposed customs duties. When the duties had been imposed he had been in Washington and had not been able to discuss the issue, but he knew that the Prime Minister was taking steps to solve the issue. The trend now was for open dialogue.

Mr L. KALASHNIKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

said that three days earlier Moldova had banned the symbols of the Communist Party of Moldova. Mr Timofti had signed that proposal into law. Was not this law undemocratic? Would it encourage those in Transnistria?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that in signing the law, he had taken into account the difference between fascism and communism. Under the symbols of both, whether the swastika, or the hammer and sickle, millions had died. The law was just and necessary.

Mr BADEA (Romania) (interpretation)

asked what measures were in place in Chişinău to protect schools teaching in Romanian on the other bank of the river. He also asked how the Council of Europe could help.

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that there were very few schools under control of the Moldovan authorities: only seven high schools. The others were under the control of those on the left bank of the river. He regretted that the population which spoke Romanian – his and Mr Badea’s language – could not study in Romanian in those schools as lessons were taught in Russian. The problem was not only with schools: there were all sorts of human rights infringements on the left bank of the Dniestr.

Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway)

Thank you for a most interesting speech. How will high-level politicians in Moldova proceed to fight harassment, violence and hate speech towards LGBT people, create the necessary atmosphere of tolerance and give LGBT people decent protection under law, in line with your commitments to universal human rights as members of this human rights Organisation?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that he was always sorry for any violations of human rights in Moldova. When his government adopted a new law they first considered the human rights implications, including for minorities. In specific answer to Ms Christoffersen’s question, most recent laws passed in Moldova were in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. When a party considered a law non-constitutional they were able to challenge it in the light of international legislation. Some of these challenges were currently at the European Court of Human Rights.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

I do not see Ms Quintanilla in the Chamber, so I will move on to Mr Gaudi Nagy.

Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary)

In your country, Mr President, there is a progressive and successful model of autonomy, Gagauzia, that could serve as a perfect example to member countries of how to solve the problem of the co-existence of more than one nation in one country. It was established following two referendums and negotiations and bloody conflicts were avoided according to the relevant standards of international law. The autonomy of Gagauzia is guaranteed in the Moldovan Constitution and regulated by the Gagauz Autonomy Act, which ensures a wide range of collective rights for about 150 000 Gagauz people of Turkish extraction. What are the key elements of that model of autonomy and what is the current situation in Gagauzia? Thank you.

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that he had been born in a Moldovan village but had later lived in a Ukrainian village and then in a Russian village. He had never seen any inter-ethnic conflict. Accusations of inter-ethnic conflict had arisen only after Moldovan independence: they were figments of the imagination, used by politicians for their own ends. The Transnistrian conflict had no ethnic causes: they were political.

As for the Gagauz, it was important that if there were a population in a territory they should be allowed to acquaint themselves with their own culture. There was a state budget allocated to assist this, but the Gagauz people seemed keener to learn Russian than their own language.

Mr PETRENCO (Republic of Moldova) (interpretation)

said that the Moldovan opposition did not recognise Mr Timofti as President because of irregularities in his election.

Mr Timofti had been all over the world but had not yet visited Moldova. When would he satisfy the demands of the Moldovan people and join the customs union with Russia and Kazakhstan?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

did not know whether to answer the question as a private citizen or as a President. He did not understand how Mr Petrenco could adopt such a position: the whole world recognised him as the President. Mr Petrenco’s attitude was not in the interest of the citizens of Moldova.

He had visited Moscow, Kiev and Bucharest, as well as many towns in Moldova. He reminded Mr Petrenco that Moldova had a road map to EU accession.

Mr KAYATÜRK (Turkey)

We support the political and economic reform process in Moldova and Moldova’s future integration in the European institutions will no doubt help to improve the welfare of the Moldovan people. Turkey also supports and encourages Moldova’s western orientation. How would you evaluate your course of reforms in the context of Moldova’s European aspirations?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

had recently had the opportunity to visit Istanbul, where he had met President Gül and discussed bilateral issues. President Gül had offered words of encouragement for the reforms in Moldova.

He had always considered reform in the light of European standards. This was fully accepted in the European Union and other European states.

Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark)

Unfortunately, there have been severe examples of homophobic speech in the Moldovan Parliament as well as legislation that excludes information on sexual minorities. That is a clear violation of human rights. Will you, as president, support the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation in Moldova that establishes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected rights?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said he would give Mr Jensen a comprehensive answer. He respected the opinions of others. He had been a judge for 36 years and had always respected the opinions of others. Various views had been expressed in the Moldovan Parliament which demonstrated how democratic the country was. But those words stayed words and did not become action. He did not want such words to become actions. Sexual minorities had been discussed by the population and parliament and a new law had made peace among all the parties concerned.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) (interpretation)

both knew and loved Moldova, and therefore wanted to know when a proper social welfare system would be introduced, so that the trade in human organs from Moldova to western European nations could end.

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

said that there had been cases in the past where such transactions had led to prosecutions. Moldova had adopted tough measures in respect of the trade in human organs and no longer wanted it to take place. The economic circumstances meant that Moldova could not currently afford a high level of health care. A minimum standard was guaranteed but he hoped to achieve a higher level, ideally with the help of other countries. If Moldova acceded to the European Union, such problems would be resolved at a very high level.

Mr KOX (Netherlands)

Mr President, one of the things that worries this Assembly is the very antagonistic relations between the opposition and the coalition in your country. That hinders the development of democracy severely, in my opinion. The coalition and the opposition blame each other for everything that goes wrong in your country; I can understand that, but it is not very helpful. May we expect from you as the new president to try to overcome this antagonistic relationship between the opposition and the coalition?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

agreed that elements of Moldovan politics were indeed antagonistic. This did not serve Moldovan society and legislative steps were being taken to resolve the issue. A draft bill was currently under public discussion, and it was hoped that it would be introduced into parliament shortly. It would also be important to increase the standard of political education, as politicians needed to continue improving their professional skills.

Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom)

The Human Trafficking Foundation report today says that Moldova is a substantial source, transit and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for men, women and children subject to conditions of forced labour and forced begging. The Government of Moldova does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. The government does not show sufficient progress in addressing complicity in trafficking by law enforcement and other government officials, including the former director of the government’s anti-trafficking agency. What will Moldova do to improve?

Mr Timofti, President of Moldova (interpretation)

saw things differently. Things had changed in Moldova and measures had been adopted in respect of human trafficking. From his position as Head of State he could assure the Assembly that this was the case. He was working hard to tackle trafficking and knew that Moldova held all of its citizens dear. Some had to work abroad for economic reasons but in an ideal world they would all return to Moldova to add value to the Moldovan economy. The number of trafficking cases had dropped dramatically in recent times.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you very much indeed, Mr President.

Dear colleagues, I am very sorry but I now have to conclude the list. Those of you who were on the list but were unable to put your question to the president will appreciate that we are already way over time. I thank you most warmly, Mr President, for joining us here, for your statement and for being so kind as to answer all the questions that were put to you. We wish you all the best for the future and hope that you enjoy the rest of your stay here in Strasbourg.