Constitution of the
Republic of Moldova

Address by Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, at the opening of the Justice and Anticorruption Reforms Forum

Good morning,

Thank you for organizing this discussion. It is important to talk about the essence of things that are happening and those that are not happening, because, as happens in other fields sometimes, the discussions are superficial, and here we are dealing with reform that needs to be understood, discussed, the problems must be seen and, of course, we must encourage the successes.

Justice reform, in my opinion, is still the key element of the transformations we need to go through. The success of this reform depends on whether we will be able to restore citizens' trust in the state, in our country, the Republic of Moldova. The success of this reform depends on how quickly we will become a member state, with full rights, of the European Union. The success of this reform depends on how quickly we can build a strong and inclusive economy. The stakes of this reform, further, are extremely high.

That is precisely why, from the very beginning, I want to say that we will continue to insist on this reform, no matter how great the technical problems, resistance to change or sabotage in the system will be.

The reform has begun, but things are happening too slowly. Things are moving slowly, despite the fact that there is political will to create a genuine justice system and build strong institutions to fight corruption. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Justice, with the support of the Parliament, significantly improved the legal framework to facilitate the reform and to provide the relevant institutions with more effective tools in the fight against corruption. Today, judges and prosecutors are free to do their job honestly. Today, no one from the representatives of power threatens judges and prosecutors asking them to do illegal things, to make illegal decisions. They are all free. Free to enforce the law. Free to do justice.

Unfortunately, some of them still understand freedom as a possibility to do what they want - to commit abuses, to negotiate their decisions to obtain undue benefits, as a result of issuing illegal decisions or delaying these decisions. Some people in the system do not want to understand that independence goes hand in hand with responsibility. And the corrupt people in the system are still the biggest impediment to reform.

We cannot waste any more time waiting for all the vigilantes to get a conscience. The system must be cleaned up urgently. And it turns out it can't clean itself. The extraordinary external pre-assessment commission, set up from national and international experts, will help clean up the system. In the first stage, this cleaning is done in relation to future candidates for the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM) and the Superior Council of Prosecutors (SCP), then in relation to the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ). But here again things need to happen faster, obviously without compromising the rigour of verifying the integrity of candidates.

It is important to have a new CSM and CSP, functional institutions, by the end of this year at the latest, and to start reforming the SCJ. It is important to move faster, because we have to meet the conditions of the European Commission in time, formulated in the opinion to the Council of the European Union when it was proposed to grant the state of a candidate country to the Republic of Moldova. But we also need to speed things up in order to save public money and to save citizens' trust in this reform.

I understand that we cannot have spectacular results immediately, when, on the one hand, we have to clean up the system in order to get rid of corrupt people and people who have carried out the orders of corrupt groups, and, at the same time, we have to make progress on the investigation by prosecutors and the examination in court of an enormous number of cases. By the way, this number of files is enormous, largely because the system did not work in previous years, and now it has to compensate for past failures.

I am very concerned about the delay in the judicial system in examining important cases, cases of national importance, including cases involving significant financial resources and public property. Today, this behaviour of unjustified delay or illegal decisions, with the suspicion of undue benefit, is not sanctioned by anyone.

The internal bodies of the judicial system are unable to give sanctions, and the prosecutor's office, despite several suspicions, which are circulating about some judges, has not been able to sanction any of them in order to send a clear, strong message in the system that corruption is punishable. Who is stopping corrupt judges from committing abuses today? This state of affairs also compromises the honest magistrates of the system.

We admit that certain things happen in the prosecutor's office. There is progress on the investigation of some cases. Some of them have already gone to court. The big thieves are getting more and more disturbed. But these thieves are still at liberty and still trying to exploit corruption schemes they created in the past or to buy impunity. And society has questions about how some investigations are done.

I spoke also a few days ago about the leaks of information from the files, which not only emphasize society's distrust in the investigation, but also raise suspicions that in this way the investigations, the files are compromised from the very beginning. Some actions, and even files, are perceived as political. It is clear that the big thieves will try to victimise themselves and hide behind justifications of political struggle. It is not their demands we are talking about. We are talking about citizens' perceptions and questions.

All files must be done in an impeccable manner, but especially on files where political figures are involved, even if their politics is about corruption, not people, transparency must be ensured. Communication must be impeccable, the evidence must be solid in order not to give reasons for interpretation, because otherwise the credibility of the reform is called into question and, with it, the credibility of the future justice, of the reformed justice.

The pattern of the files - with circus, with endless trials, without finality - is another puzzlement of people. Poorly handled files, without clear evidence, thrown out in public, whereby some are brought to the press for show, are damaging. They only give the guilty a chance to evade justice. Justice is done with solid evidence, not with scandal.

We know that in the past some exponents of the prosecutorial system have made politics through their illegal decisions, at the behest of corrupt groups that came to power. Today, when they are free of this pressure, I wonder if some of them are still making politics on their own. I understand that those who do not like justice reform are tempted to play political games. The Prosecutor's Office is no place to play politics and we will not allow that to happen, and the only pressure we are applying and will continue to apply is to enforce the law.

I am sorry we have to discuss these embarrassing things. I am sorry that some judges and prosecutors have brought shame on the system. And I'm sorry that so many others have kept silent. I'm sorry that while our schools, our hospitals, our villages were getting poorer, a group of people were getting richer. Because when a high official pays bribes in justice, he goes unpunished. A bad made road, because a bribe was paid in the repair process, will only last until the first rain.

I am sorry that people have died because corruption in the medical system has been tolerated and money for modern equipment and quality medicines has ended up in the pockets of thieves. I am sorry that the country has lost billions that could have been invested in raising people's living standards.

Yes, bad things start from a crooked justice and good things start from a fair justice. I know there are honest, hardworking people in the system. There are responsible prosecutors and judges who love their country. There are people who understand that what was right is wrong. With these people we will rebuild trust in the system and in the state. These are the people we will support and encourage.

The Ministry of Justice, Minister Litvinenco, have our full confidence and support in this difficult effort to reform the system.

The Ministry of Justice, the Government, the Parliament, the Presidency will continue to support this reform and the rehabilitation of the system with all their strength. We are not involved in the act of justice, but we have taken this reform to the citizens and we will continue to demand results.

We will insist on seeing this effort through to the end, however great the resistance. I repeat, the stake is too high to allow ourselves to be defeated by the enemies of the fight against corruption or by the technical problems of this reform.

I invite the people of the system, who care about our country and the future of our children, to work on the same side of the fence, on the side of Moldova, on the side of our citizens.