Dear students, dear professors, ladies and gentlemen
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be with you today at the Free International University of Moldova. It is an honor to open the Lithuanian lecture room in the presence of Moldovan students. People who are about to build the history of their country in a near future. People who will be decision makers. People who want and can make a change.
It is my first visit in this beautiful country so much alike to Lithuania: by its size and by its historical background. We have a common history which dates back to medieval ages. Lithuanian and Moldovan knights Vytautas and Alexander the Good established trade and personal ties, signed cooperation treaties and even fought the common enemies. Back then Lithuania was building cultural and political bridges to Europe via Moldova.
I am very pleased to say that Lithuania and Moldova have been close partners 700 years ago as well as today. I wish that it remains so for many years to come. Our values and our interests must unite us and I believe that you will agree with me if I say that our goal is a United Europe.
The bilateral relations of Lithuania and Moldova have been always constructive and friendly. In 1988 Lithuanian National Movement „Sąjūdis“ and Moldovan National Front rose against the foreign power and spurred the national consciousness. Both our countries knew what the backwardness of Soviet Union meant for us and future generations. Both Moldova and Lithuania had a very strong wish to escape from it and to change our lives for better.
This year Lithuania celebrates the 20th anniversary of the re-establishment of its Independence. The road to the Declaration of March 11, 1990, was long and required too many human sacrifices. We were successful because our people never stopped believing in a free Lithuania. We were also successful because we had trustful friends. Lithuania will never forget that Moldova and Iceland were the first countries to recognize our re-established Independence. Moldova made this courageous step on May 31 1990. We feel a deep gratitude for your support in 1990 and we hope that we can in a small way return our gratitude by supporting Moldova’s bid to live in a free, secure and united Europe together.
Europe is about values. Moldova in 1990 showed that freedom and democratic values are dearer to you than a comfortable living in a prison of nations. Moldova proved time and again that its historic place was, is and will be in Europe.
I know about your nation’s wish is to become a member of the EU. A road to the EU is not rosy, except that it has thorns. I am sure that along this road you will overcome all difficulties and challenges of so-needed reforms. Last year your capabilities and democratic credentials were tested and you passed this test: two elections, unrest and inability to elect the president did not prevent Moldova from having a stable government that is determined to reform the country. All this was done within the fundamental democratic norms and rules. And Lithuania, as well as the EU, hopes that when Moldova meets the next challenges - the Constitutional reform, elections, etc.- these will be done according to the democratic principles. Europe is watching at Moldova because we believe in Moldova. Your friends around the world are watching because they believe in Moldova.
Lithuania believes more than nobody else in Moldova. We stand ready to support you. Before 2004 there were certain Member states of the EU which helped us to prepare for the euro-integration. Now we feel that it is a time to express our gratitude by doing what those countries were doing for our benefit.
I assume that many citizens of Moldova think of euro-integration as one of the means to join the Club of Wealthy and consequently become rich. These expectations are not wrong in themselves, since the common EU market provides various possibilities for business, farmers and foreign investments. Nevertheless, that also comprises complex and painful decisions leading to possible conflict of interests which would have to be handled by you. You, people who are sitting in this audience today. People who want to join public institutions and contribute to the reforms of your country. People who are capable of doing it because you’re not afraid of hard work.
Today’s situation in Moldova I could characterize as a window of opportunity. On one side, new government shows clear determination and strong will to implement reforms and advance on the euro-integration path. On the other side, Moldova has become high on the agenda of the EU during last year. The situations when both negotiating partners open up to each other simultaneously, when the “waves coincide” are rear. And today’s situation for Moldova and the EU is such. Second, the EU is “hungry” for success stories in Eastern Neighbourhood. Third, you have good friends inside the EU who are always ready both formally and informally to help you.
As my experience proves, in time of crisis it is extremely difficult to govern the country and agree on vital political and economic reforms. We have been encouraging Moldovan government to remain united and focused because the expectations of Moldovan people, especially the young generation, after the 29 July are high. Moldovan people chose the “Alliance for European Integration” which clearly shows the choice of people for their country.
Allow me to share a couple of insights on the euro-integration:
First of all, euro-integration begins at home. This is more evident for us right now than it was back in 1990s. It is more evident now because being an EU member state we see that in daily live the EU means a set of rules - a set of rules which sometimes looks difficult to understand and implement. For us the EU membership perspective was a strong motivator which mobilized all the internal efforts for the adoption of those rules.
Second, don’t be afraid of skepticism coming from inside the country as well as outside. The main element of Lithuania’s success was internal reforms despite some voices that Lithuania left one Union just to become part of another one. Our society, young, ambitious and enthusiastic leaders embraced the opportunities of change and used that momentum to implement reforms. We also faced skepticism from some of the old EU member states, but the homework well done put the EU before the dilemma: offer something more for Lithuania or face embarrassment. So don’t get discouraged! A sense of unpredictability on our future EU perspective did not get us sceptical. On the contrary, it was an important factor which influenced our successful historical journey to be an institutional part of free and democratic EU.
Finally, let me stress that the EU is first of all a Community united by democratic values and the principle of rule of law and only then it is the Community of common interests. In the political life it is not only the acquis communautaire which matters but also the values you acknowledge and the moral principles that guide you. Lithuania ensured that no one had reason to question our democratic credentials. You should be aware that at the end of the day, the principal decision on country’s membership prospects in the EU will be based not so much on the growth of GDP or low inflation rate, but rather on unquestionable perception that “you are like us”.
Today all these issues are important for Moldova. Your country had a challenging year 2009 in the political, financial and social terms. Year 2010 will be not less challenging, therefore the unity and stability of Moldova Government and its society is a key to the success. Let me congratulate you on the first 100 days of your unity and stability. It proves that you have survived the most complicated period. Let me encourage you to remain united especially in the wake of new spot elections.
Let me put aside the euro-integration file for a second and touch upon another important issue – Transnistria (TN). While Moldova‘s Europeanization depends on its willingness and capacity to implement the reforms, the second file – TN - is not entirely in Moldova’s hands. We all know very well that all the parties to the 5+2 negotiation format (mediators: OSCE, Russia, Ukraine + parties to the conflict: Chisinau and Tiraspol + observers: EU and US) must take upon the responsibility to move towards the viable settlement of this artificially frozen conflict, but the negotiations have not produced any major results yet.
Lithuania respects the territorial unity and sovereignty of Moldova. People of Moldova have the right to live in a reunified country which implements the reforms and moves closer to the EU. Therefore, the Transnistrian question will be one of the priorities of the Lithuanian OSCE Chairmanship in 2011. I am glad to hear that new Government of Moldova is aware that the reintegration of the country starts with the dialogue between people on both banks. There is no time to lose!
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the end of my speech I would like to point out that we live in the time of great changes and great opportunities. The future of Moldovan people was and is in Europe. Despite the fact that there are some skeptics who claim that Moldova does not belong to the European architecture, I encourage you to prove them that they are wrong! Moldova can come closer to the EU and I believe that one day Moldova will become a member of the EU. I urge you to do well your homework and you will be welcomed soon to the EU.
I would like to thank you for your attention.