Yesterday, the European Council decided to grant the Republic of Moldova the status of candidate country for accession to the European Union. It is a goal we have been working towards for many years, and one that the majority of citizens supported.
With yesterday's decision, the Member States of the European Union confirmed their willingness to support Moldova in the process of preparing to join the European Union family. We are grateful for this openness.
Citizens, state institutions, civil society have worked consistently for years to get here. At the 2019 parliamentary elections, we promised that we would apply for EU membership by 2023. Now we have not only applied, but we have also received candidate status.
This event does not change things overnight in our country. But it gives us more support from the European Union on the difficult path we are walking to strengthen peace, improve our citizens' living conditions and create development opportunities for entrepreneurs. Candidate country status gives us a clear direction for development, support on this path and, most importantly, hope.
We are a small, vulnerable country that will be safer in the family of the European Union, where we can count on the support of all members, large and small, and on the help of the European institutions.
EU membership means integration with the European market, the largest and richest market in the world. Access to the EU market offers companies in our country significant opportunities for development and growth, in a competitive and fair environment with clear and respected rules. And for citizens, closer proximity to the EU means guaranteed rights and freedoms and a better quality of life.
This success is, first and foremost, of our citizens. Despite all the difficulties, we have all shown that we value democracy, that we want the rule of law - a society where the law is respected. Through the choices we have made in recent years and the solidarity we have all proved in times of need, we have shown what our values are. Your generosity and mobilisation has made Moldova known in the world especially for the good qualities of its citizens. Dear citizens, thank you for that!
I know that today's celebration is overshadowed by the major crisis we are facing. Our country, together with the whole of Europe, is going through a very complicated period, caused by the war started by Russia against Ukraine.
This war is the biggest act of aggression on the European continent since the Second World War. It has seriously affected relations between states, destroyed peace and the security of millions of Ukrainian citizens, our neighbours. And this war is at our border. We feel it and live it every moment. We helped our neighbours, offering shelter and aid to those who have fled their country because of the war. But the scale, the drama and the destruction that this catastrophe brings affects us too.
In particular, we are feeling the effects of the war economically. The two years of the Covid-19 pandemic have slowed global trade and led to a crisis in raw materials and supply chains, which has increased the prices of goods and services worldwide. And the war in Ukraine comes as an additional shock, with direct and serious consequences for all of us.
There is no area of social and economic life that is not affected by the war: rising fuel and gas prices, the difficulty of exporting agricultural products, the closure of transport routes or the halt of small
-scale trade, a source of income for many families living close to the border - all have been dramatically affected by the war.
These crises have external causes, and the tools to defend against them are limited. We don't produce energy or fuel so we could set prices for these products, and any attempts to control these prices can lead to their disappearance from the market. That is why we are looking for other solutions to help those who face difficulties.
But we need to know: as long as the war in the neighbouring country continues, the economic situation will remain difficult for everyone, and innocent people in Ukraine will continue to suffer. That is why we want peace to be restored, and with it the resumption of trade contacts and a return to normal life.
But perhaps the worst thing in this avalanche of crises is uncertainty, which affects our future plans and projects and discourages investment. These are bleak times in the history of the region and Europe as a whole. But we have no right to resign ourselves to these hardships.
As complicated the situation may be, we must recognize and value our achievements. And in recent years we have achieved many things together.
We have removed from power several corrupt groups that were stealing the country every day. Just a few years ago, every law passed in Parliament contained provisions allowing the ruling group to steal the state's money. Economic agents were stripped of their wealth, and mayors - humiliated and pressured. The judiciary was almost totally at the service of the business interests of those in power.
Today such things are no longer possible. Now the government's priority is the fight against corruption. Things have changed visibly compared to the times when illicit enrichment was high on the agenda of those in power.
Today honest people feel free, they can live and work safely in our country. We know that we have a lot of work to do to build strong and fair state institutions.
To change people's lives for the better, we need significant transformations that will affect virtually all areas, all institutions. In order to restore respect for the law and state institutions, we will have to change our behaviour, to give up harmful habits. It will not be easy, but it is something we can do, for the sake of peace and the well-being of our citizens.
The Government, the Parliament and the Presidency will continue to work, day after day, together with the local public administration, so that the development of Moldova's villages and towns, the development of the country as a whole, can continue.
We will use this period to rebuild the state's relations with the business environment. Entrepreneurs must have the best possible conditions for activity and development. In this way, we will encourage job creation and better wages for people.
This government has shown solidarity with its citizens during the gas crisis last autumn and winter. We will provide additional compensation and aid to the most vulnerable citizens.
As a candidate country, we will be able to move forward with these changes more easily with the support of the European Union and the resources made available by Brussels. With the support of the EU, together with you, through hard work, discipline and order, we will be able to secure peace and development in our country, even in this challenging period.
Thanks to your will, to the choice you have made, today our country has a real chance to develop by bringing our standards of living closer to those of the European Union. Despite hardship and uncertainty, we are determined to move forward on this path.
And for this national effort to clean up and develop the country, we need the alignment of all political forces, civil society, civil servants, central and local government and the private sector. Only together can we raise our country to the level of living, security and development that its people deserve.
Moldova is our common home, and its order, well-being and prosperity depend on each of us. I am convinced that it can be done. Our citizens have mobilized in an exemplary way to help refugees from Ukraine. We can certainly mobilize to help ourselves and create a better future here at home.
Achieving EU candidate country status is the success of the whole society. It is the success of the mayors, who ensure the functioning of democracy and public administration at local level. Candidate status is now also an opportunity for the country's localities. After the launch of the national local development programme "European Village" this spring, the new status opens up even more funding opportunities for community development.
We thank civil society, active citizens, our diaspora, experts and activists, who have been at the forefront of promoting EU candidate status. You have worked with the government, promoted Moldova's interests in various European fora and were vigilant when the authorities got it wrong.
We continue to need your involvement and support, your oversight and expertise, in promoting European standards and values in our society, in combating misinformation about the European Union and in reforming public institutions and the judiciary.
Thousands of civil servants are behind the decision to grant Moldova candidate status. We know, appreciate and are grateful for this effort. Your work, the effort you make every day, your openness to change and efficiency, is largely responsible for the progress our country is about to make on the road to Euro-integration.
I am counting on Moldova's civil servants. We have a tough task ahead of us - to build strong, independent institutions that do their job well and defend the interest of the citizens and the country. And for that we need professional, honest and hard-working civil servants in every public institution, in every community. I know that your work is not easy and modestly paid. This is how most people in Moldova work. But to change things, we need to make one more effort, together.
We must work with dedication, in the coming years, to significantly increase efficiency and work performance, to bring the public system in the Republic of Moldova closer to European standards. And as performance increases, so will salaries.
The success of Moldova's European endeavour depends to a large extent on the integrity, efficiency and independence of the justice system. That is why justice reform is the main priority of the government at this time. We need to cleanse the judiciary and the prosecutor's office of corrupt individuals lacking integrity. Without this step, we cannot have an act of justice with integrity, which any citizen or investor could count on.
I am speaking to the people in the justice system. The well-being of the country, the quality of life of those who live here, the stability and the European future of the Republic of Moldova depend on you now. The authorities are at your side to carry out the justice reform, to provide the people in this system with all the tools and resources so that the act of justice is carried out efficiently and fairly. Your task is to be honest and to work well, with integrity.
The project we are starting now, on the road to accession to the European Union, will take many years. It is not my project, the Government's or Parliament's project - it is our generation's project, it is your project. And its success depends on all of us.
We take any political price we have to pay for the realization of this project. Our task is to do everything so that citizens live in peace, in stability, in a country that is developing and moving forward. The Republic of Moldova belongs in the European family.
Now we have the opportunity to change for the better the way things work in our country, to significantly improve the quality of life and the quality of services in the Republic of Moldova. We can now correct and improve the relations among citizens, as well as their relation with state. The success is not guaranteed. It depends on each of us, on our ability to work, on the determination of all citizens to make this great effort in the name of a better future for everyone.
And I am confident that we can do it. Let us rejoice today, and from tomorrow we have hard and long work ah