Info-Prim Neo interview with President of Moldova Nicolae Timofti, from the series "Independent for 21 years"
Moldova turns 21 this year, since the declaration of Independence. How do you define this period; what did it mean to Nicolae Timofti, his family, but also for the other several million of Moldova’s citizens?
I believe all of us – the citizens of this country – are united by a feeling of pride, for having become independent. The people have realized a dream, through signing the Declaration of Independence 21 years ago; the dream of breaking away from the empire that they were part of, which brought them much suffering. I remember the enthusiasm of our people during that period, which exteriorized through the mass manifestations that culminated in the Great National Assembly of August 27, 1991. These were feelings that emerged from the heart of every person. I still retain that feeling of freedom, even nowadays.
My family shared that joy of liberation. Together with my wife, we educated our children to love their country, be independent, first and foremost in their thinking, not allow to be manipulated, and take decisions on their own. And not just my children are like this. I look at our youth nowadays, and I see them stronger than we were, more foolhardy and confident. We should seek the result of August 27, 1991, within them.
Why, in your opinion, did Moldova not reach the destination set 21 years ago with much hope and enthusiasm?
There are many possible explanations, but the most important one, in my opinion, is that we failed to organize ourselves in such a way that would make use of our liberation. Moreover, during different periods, some of the leaders did not ensure the continuity of the actions that had been started by their predecessors, but wiped everything and switched the tune. This confused us. We have had one too many politicians who, regrettably, have managed to only satisfy their interests, to the detriment of our people’s aspirations. Some even led us astray and exploited our sentiment of freedom, our national, patriotic feelings. We were disoriented, had our periods of confusion and have lost much time before returning to our initial ideas. The fact that we were not faithful to our initial course cost us dearly, but I hope that we have learned our lesson and have, finally, chosen our priorities.
Where does Moldova stand, after 21 years of independence, relative to the other ex-Soviet states, which had almost the same starting position as we?
We are not yet members of the European Union, part of which are the Baltic States, with which we shared the starting position. But we are undergoing a complex process that will eventually lead us into the great European family. Until then, we must take some exams, firstly in democracy. In order to promote them, we must all work hard and present ourselves as serious, responsible people. We have foreign friends that support us, and we must not lose them. Nobody will pay attention to us if we only make cosmetic changes. But most important is to keep this course of European modernization.
What is Moldova’s greatest chance towards proving itself as a state, as a society?
As a society, we must instruct each other and be united. We must huddle up, as the saying goes, regardless of our political options; especially in a period of economic crisis. The doubts regarding the future of our State will disappear when people will stop sensing a barrier between themselves and the State. This barrier still echoes. The State must do everything necessary for the people to enjoy their rights granted by the Law and be free in their thoughts and actions.
Can integration to the European Union be considered such a chance?
It is a great chance. It would be much more difficult for us to manage on our own. This is why the government program of the European Integration Alliance is so important. We can find there everything we must do in order to advance. Many of this program’s provisions, which refer to the improvement of legislation and to structural reform, have been accomplished. The hardships follow, that is the enforcement of the new legal norms.
How do you explain society’s favoring of the Eurasian geopolitical project to Moldova’s European orientation project, which shows in the latest polls?
It is too much to discuss another option besides the European one. To me, the votes given by the citizens twice: on July 29, 2009 and on November 28, 2010, in favor of the European integration idea, bear a greater weight than the poll results. The current government has a firm mandate, granted by the citizens, to develop the country according to European principles. The Eurasian option is gaining momentum (without having any empirical proof of citizens’ adherence to this option), in my opinion, for two reasons: firstly, because of the tardiness with which some institutions reform themselves, which should not steal from the European integration ideal; and, secondly, due to the activism of a party, and its satellites, which speculates on people’s nostalgia. It is the party that, albeit promoting the idea of European integration for a while, ended up stowing us away from Europe and set us on bad terms with our neighbors. It even drew us farther from the Russian Federation, through unwise politics. This party wants to regain the governing power at any cost, and thus is currently mudding the waters.
Do you see our actual orientation as irreversible?
Everything on earth happens in accordance to some objective rules of time. Currently, for Moldova – a country with clear European tendencies – there can be no other alternative. If we stray from this path, we will end up alone again. It is not me who claims it, but the hundreds of thousands of Moldovan citizens who have traveled to the EU or currently work there, and have gotten to see the benefits of societies that were not built on empty dreams, propaganda and disdain for the people, but on values and respect towards rights. Hence, I am completely confident that our citizens, including the State servicemen on whom the reforms mostly lay upon, will be wise enough not to abandon an idea midway. I repeat: we halted, because we were unsure that the path had taken was correct. But we cannot return to our first bump.
What should the authorities do, in order to avoid straying from the current course? Are the current authorities capable enough to do it?
I am convinced that they are capable. If I wouldn’t have been convinced, I wouldn’t have accepted this position. I came, so that we can accomplish this European integration program together.
Even after 21 years of independence, the Moldovan society remains divided on criteria of ethnicity, politics, territory, language, etc. When and how can this order of things be overcome, if possible?
There is no problem between the ethnicities of Moldova. Those who talk of such things have malicious intentions. We have Laws that allow every citizen to speak and study in their mother tongue. We have schools that teach in Russian, Ukrainian, Gagauzian, and others. There are few countries where ethnic minorities have as many rights as those in Moldova.
It is clear, however, that order in a society necessitates the use of the State’s official language. It is a very simple request, we don’t ask for much. However, some of those who have been living here for some time cannot speak Romanian, despite having studied it in school, provided by the State Budget, by the way. Something is wrong here, when a student studies the official language for 10 years, and cannot form one complete sentence. They don’t know it, but they get 10s at the exams. In my opinion, right from elementary school, every child should be taught respect towards the official language; for their own good. Those who wish themselves a beautiful career in Moldova, or want to be promoted to certain State institutions, must be proficient in the official language, everyone, including those from the Government, Parliament, etc.
Do you still hope to live in a prosperous Moldova, in which people have a decent living? I am personally interested in this question, and I think many would share my interest. I – a young woman without children – am afraid to admit that our country’s situation will not let me raise my children the way I want to, and the way any child deserves. What guarantees can we offer, I and you, to my future children and all children of this country, born or not yet born, that they will have a world friendlier to them than it is us now?
We make the world we live in. We try to be friendlier and more civilized towards one another through personal exemplification, at home, in the neighborhood, in the yard, on the street, in all public spaces. We must be wary not to disturb the people around us.
As for the conditions which mothers and their children should have, all relevant institutions of the State and, first and foremost the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Education, and Mayors’ Offices are told to ensure all conditions possible, provided by the Law and common sense, for mothers and their children to have a decent living. About Mayors’ Offices, by the way; sometimes, communities can do more than the Law provides, if there is will and understanding. The welfare given by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is not very large, I know, but they will grow along with the growth of our economy; but moms with jobs or under providing from the husband are given, as I was told, a consistent allowance, equal to 126 days salary pay. For families with small incomes, we currently offer social services of up to 2,000 per month, which are given to over 40,000 families, of which over 80% are families with children.
Now, at this historic stage, the realization of the goals set by Moldovans 21 years ago, I was saying, with much hope, confidence and enthusiasm, depends on several essential things. Among them is the reform of the justice system. You, the person in the highest political position of the State, who knows insider details of the Moldovan justice, can you guarantee that the justice system will be reformed?
The reformation of the judicial system has begun, and I assure that, in the nearest future, we will talk about justice differently. It is not an unresolvable issue, but we also need political will here. Through Laws and proceedings, we will create a selection system for people who have the moral right and professional training to act as judges. The State will make sure that judges do their duty honestly and freely, and you will see that we will improve other fields in result, because much depends on the system of justice. When one feels protected by the Law, one gets used to acting within the boundaries of the Law. I instigate the citizens to join this process. We want people to demand justice, and not have them consent upon obtaining favorable rulings whilst avoiding the Law.
"I was recently asked what foreign policy I will promote. I said that grand policies are made by big countries, and small countries, such as Moldova, must conduct wise policies. Such policy was made in Moldova in the last years, and such policy must be continued." It is a quote from your speech upon election. I would ask you to give us some examples of such a policy, which has already been accomplished or planned.
I don’t know if, after four months, I can already come up with clear examples, but an important signal has been given, and that is that we have to open and predictable with our partners, be it Russia, the US, or another country. I start from the quality of rights of States and citizens. When we discuss from such perspectives, we are being understood, even in very complicated issues, such as the Transnistrian settlement. I understand that Russia has its interests towards that zone, but we also have our interest of defending our independence, territorial integrity and our citizens’ right to freely move within own territory.
How will the 22nd, eventually 23rd, and 24th anniversaries of Independence differ from the current one? What can the President of the country, personally, contribute to these differences?
They will be different in terms of the wellness of then, relative to nowadays. There will be more confidence in the thoughts, ideas, and in general, the life of citizens. A generation that perceives things differently, with more confidence and competence, is growing. I am sure that our average peasant will also be different, in spite of the hardships we face.
Our Agency believes that Moldova will have more chances of adequate development only when the society will accumulate a critical mass of new people, with new visions and experiences, new will and mentality. On the occasion of the 21st anniversary of Independence, we even re-launched a series from two years ago – "New Moldovans coming". It is true that the Agency found it necessary to end this sentence in an exclamation mark (!), as a symbol of hope, and an interrogation mark (?), in order not to scare the luck away. Are we right when setting such hopes? Do you believe that those Moldovans are on their way, and will finally, come?
We cannot accomplish the projects without new people, without their energy and innovative ideas. These people are already present in many key fields, including in politics. They are people with degrees from abroad, from the United States of America, and Europe, ambitious and competent people. But we need also need people with experience, to participate in the processes our society undergoes. Who doesn’t have old men, should buy them, says a folk idiom, doesn’t it?
Info-Prim Neo remark: Nicolae Timofti was elected President of the Republic of Moldova on March 16, 2012, as a candidate from the European Integration Alliance. He is the fourth President of Moldova. Nicolae Timofti is 64 years old, and was born in the village of Ciutulesti, Floresti district. Together with his wife, Margareta Timofti, he has three sons.