Info-Prim Neo interview with former European Union Special Representative for Moldova Kalman Mizsei, of the Series “Moldova-20! Whereto?”
- Dear Mister Ambassador, we intend to publish the interview with you in our permanent division “Moldova-20! Whereto?”. Please help us to look at us, those who live now in the Republic of Moldova, from aside. It seems to me there is no better candidate than you for the purpose given that you are already a person without ‘conflicts of interests’ in relation to Moldova, but are also the person who knows Moldova very well and keep an interest in it. Am I right about your informal and human interest in Moldova?
- Indeed, I keep an interest in Moldova. I can tell you a story about this. One of my colleagues was leaving Moldova after completing his diplomatic duty and, at a dinner in his honor, the then German Ambassador said: “The diplomats do not always want to come to serve in Moldova because this is the poorest country in Europe, but if they come and work here, they no more want to leave”. It is an absolute truth, especially for those who worked with Moldova as intensely as I did. Such people will never be able to abandon the positive attitude and the feeling of responsibility, if you like, towards this country. The person wants to help it in continuation, if he can.
- So, where is Moldova now at the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of its independence? What harbor did it enter and is this a harbor?
- I think that Moldova is now rather far, but it did not enter a harbor. There are yet many winds ahead of Moldova. It suddenly became an independent country 20 years ago following the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, which was a great empire. To my mind, nobody expected something like this. Moldova had the possibility of developing independently, but, on the other hand, its geographic position was not attractive. For example, my country Hungary was then at the border with the European Union, near Austria, which was developing very dynamically. The first highway Budapest-Vienna existed then, even if it wasn’t finished, and there was a slight connection with the markets. We also faced serious geographic challenges, for instance the wars in former Yugoslavia. In Moldova, there was no infrastructure, no close markets and no traditions of independent statehood. Hungary was however an independent state during a long period. Possibly this independence during the Soviet period was very limited, but it had yet the qualities of an independent state. Moldova has never been an independent country in the modern epoch. That’s why it faced much more difficulties than even Hungary, but Hungary dealt with many difficulties.
- Which are the most important accomplishments of Moldova in this period? Are there accomplishments?
- The most important accomplishment is the fact that during these 20 years, Moldova maintained the democratic organization of the state and this thing is very important. Except for the short period of the civil war of 1991-1992, the political culture in Moldova was non-aggressive and this is also very and very important. Surely there were protests and political battles, but they were peaceful. I think that for such a young state and young democracy, for such a poor country these are significant and unexpected accomplishments.
- Which were the greatest failures, if there were such?
- The people should ask themselves directly why the country with so talented people is the poorest in Europe, while the annual Gross Domestic Product per capita is much lower than in many African countries. You must ask yourself directly, though it is an inconvenient question.
There are two aspects of the answer to this question: what depended on Moldova and what did not depend on it. On the one hand, as I said, Moldova is not attractive from geographic viewpoint and thus it wasn’t helped by foreign capital as Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia were. When socialist industry was being destroyed in our country, foreign investments appeared and helped us to put to good use the human resources. Unfortunately, in your country this did not happen. I consider this is because you are far from markets and there was no infrastructure. As a consequence, some of the professional skills have been lost in Moldova, unfortunately, for good – which is not the case with the Central European or Baltic states. But, on the other hand, it should be mentioned that you did not have a sufficiently consistent and good economic policy in order to offset this foreign shortcoming through liberal economic reforms, as for example Georgia has done in the last few years, and by building infrastructure. As to such a simple thing as the roads, there are very few reconstructed roads though the international financial organizations and the EU and the U.S. are ready to provide assistance. That’s why, speaking about shortcomings, we must speak about shortcomings connected with reforms and the functioning of the state. I think that a lot should be remedied in these areas.
- Is it about the insufficient political will of our previous and current rulers?
- This is also a reason, but it is also about the mentality of the administration, which still includes many aspects of the former Soviet mentality. Powerful administration is needed, which would not aim to maintain power at any cost, but would be forcefully oriented towards reforms. I remember how Leszek Balcerowicz started reforms in Poland in 1980s-1990s. He did not pursue the goal of maintaining power, but of modernizing Poland. The great and importance difference resides in this. I believe that you political class is not very well determined in this sense and it did not fully implement the reforms.
- What can we expect to happen in Moldova’s destiny. Where does it go and what depends on it, its citizens and on the great powers of this world?
- Even if I hadn’t been Ambassador of the European Union, I must say it frankly: I’m absolutely convinced that the chance to modernize Moldova is related to European integration. But this chance will not realize itself. For this, both the European Union and Moldova must do more. The EU must do better three things: 1. The negotiations on the liberalization of trade must take place more intensely because the official talks have not even started yet. The EU must be more operative and decided in this respect; 2. The visa-free regime; 3. The EU officials must know more profoundly what reforms Moldova needs in order to accelerate modernization, and expect strong and definite reforms from Moldova, without many compromises. But Moldova must also do more. A powerful European orientation has been seen during the last few years in Moldova’s diplomatic activity and this is very good. At the same time, it is important that the internal reforms be as powerful as the foreign European integration. I can compare the current processes in Romania and the former Yugoslav republics. Former Yugoslavia was much more developed during socialism, but it witnessed wars, while Romania has been much more insistent in the European integration process and with the internal reforms. Thus, with all the experienced drawbacks, it is now much more attractive, including as regards the development of society in general, the infrastructure and business. Therefore, even if there are many shortcomings in Europe, the transforming force of Europe represents the most powerful source of modernization for Moldova in the future.
- How does the Transnistrian conflict and the settlement process characterize Moldova and its people in the independence period?
- First of all, this is another problem that hinders Moldova’s development. Conciliation is needed in the Transnistrian conflict. The country must be unified. But how should it be unified is an enormous challenge. There are several kinds of resources in this respect. While serving in Moldova, I worked in accordance with one of them: the measures aimed at gradually building confidence and bridges between the two parts of the once unified society. The second resource is that talks must be carried out. The “5+2” format is a wise format because it involves all the significantly interested parties. Romania participates through the EU. All the other sides are involved. The wisdom of your Government and state is required so that you, through the confidence building measures, convince the Transnistrian region and the half a million people living there in rather poor conditions that somebody is thinking about them. I must honestly say that the Moldovan government has not been forthcoming enough in this sense. There are many examples that lip service towards the EU of confidence building with Transnistria is not followed by concrete actions. It is a bit like with the EU orientation: proper words but we need to see much more effective actions. And surely the European Union must do more. The general directions I mentioned above refer also to Transnistria. If there is free trade and visa-free regime, it will be easier to reintegrate the country. A certain minimum must be ensured in the Transnistrian conflict settlement process. I mean Transnistria’s democratization and a settlement that would not affect the chances of Moldova, the right bank, of becoming part of the EU.
When I was the Special Representative of the EU, they often said that the key to the Transnistrian conflict is in Moscow. I always believed that there are three keys. There are also smaller keys, but the big keys are in Moscow, Brussels and Chisinau.
-At the start of this month and of the division “Moldova-20! Whereto?”, Info-Prim Neo Agency published an analysis whereby it tried to accredit the idea that Moldova needs to legalize its European orientating by constitutional way as the country’s development course. This constitutional provision is to guarantee the irreversibility of the process of the country’s modernization, to calm down the political spirits that are ready to go off, with unpredictable consequences, to restore the atmosphere of peace and social tolerance in the Moldovan society. We can say it simpler: “We have independence, but what should we do with it, where should we go?” What do you think about it?
- Such a characteristic is a little Soviet-like for me. I don’t think that the European integration is a prerogative of the Constitution. The European integration exists when there is consensus between the political forces about this issue. If somebody lays this down in the Constitution and then the political majority is against, there will be no European integration. That’s why I think that it is a kind of political infantilism, even if this slogan is attractive. What you should do now is to work on definite reforms aimed at European integration. You must reach a political consensus about European integration. To my mind, such a consensus exists even if a bit of populism against this is sometimes evident during election campaigns. But in general, I think that all the political forces know and realize that European integration is the best guarantee for Moldova’s development. Political activity and reforms are needed, while the Constitution should not be maximal in character. A good Constitution should be short and minimalist.
- Didn’t you try to find for yourself a definition that would help us to understand what Moldova and its people represent today? I mean a dictionary definition that would be clear for everyone? Can the Republic of Moldova be understood now by everyone?
- The people usually consider that there is a simple truth and an undeniable truth. What I discovered in Moldova is that even if your country is small and, unfortunately, one of the poorest in Europe, the policy however in Moldova, including as regards the Transnistrian dispute, is rather complicated. The essence of this problem resides in the fact that there is no clear-cut definition of Moldova’s identity, as for example of the identity of France, Russia or other countries where the national state history is much more profound. A very good factor for Moldova is that it is home to different people, different languages, besides the official one. That’s why some people sometimes ask about identity. Nevertheless, the identity and stability were strengthened during the last 20 years and thus now it can be firmly said what the Republic of Moldova represents.
- What do you do now? Does it have any connection with Moldova?
-Currently, I deal with a very complex problem at the Open Society Institute – the social integration of the Roma in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It covers Moldova as well as it is also home to Romany people. Now we deal with the countries of the EU and the Balkans, but intend in the future to concentrate more on Eastern Europe, first of all Moldova and Ukraine.