Constitution of the
Republic of Moldova

President Maia Sandu’s address at the 26th Annual Economist Governmental Roundtable “Antitheses, transformations, achievements in a changing world”

Dear President Sakellaropoulou,

Dear President Zelenskyy,

Your excellences,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Almost five months ago, the world changed.

Some of us had to accept the new reality immediately.

Others were, initially, in denial. Very few still are.

But today, one thing is clear to all: the rules and values that were put at the basis of our international system to protect our global peace and security after the Second World War, are under threat. We are in a geopolitical turmoil that will shape our European security architecture and our collective future for decades to come.

I visited Kyiv and its suburbs exactly one week ago. There are no words to describe what I have seen in Borodyanka, Irpen, and Bucha. Devastated cities. Devastated families. Devastated lives.

Thousands of civilians, massacred. Children, women, and elderly – losing their fathers, husbands, and sons who are fighting now, as we speak, for their country’s right to exist.

Russia’s reckless war against Ukraine is, without doubt, the tragedy of this century. Its magnitude and grief spill over the borders of Ukraine. A humanitarian catastrophe, a global energy crisis, and a global food crisis in development – fueling insecurity around the world.

We need to do everything that is in our powers to stop it.

During the last four months, we have witnessed monumental examples of leadership and governance taken by the Ukrainian authorities, civil society, and ordinary citizens – partnering under unbelievable circumstances – to help Ukraine survive as a state. 

Western partners have been helping as they could. Europe has seen unprecedented mobilization to help Ukraine and its citizens to defend themselves.

Moldova, alike, has mobilized from the very first day of the war to help. Almost half a million Ukrainian refugees found shelter or safe transit via our country of 2.6 million people. Around 70,000 refugees – making 3% of our population – are still in Moldova – mostly women and children.

Around 90 percent of them are hosted by Moldovan families who were the first to open their homes to all those who needed help. We will continue to do so until every Ukrainian can return home safely.

We have provided humanitarian aid, and we stand ready to work closely to support international efforts to enable exports of Ukrainian grain and to alleviate the global food crisis.

Meanwhile, we face our own unprecedented challenges – in energy, security, and the economy. We do not know for how long our people will be able to carry the burden of soaring prices for food, utilities, and fuel. Probably no country has been affected harder than Moldova by rising costs and growing uncertainties of our energy supply - today our people are already paying for gas a price that is 6 times higher than last year.

I am sorry to say this, but democracy could be among the things people are ready to sacrifice on the altar of safety and a full stomach. This is not a Moldovan problem - it’s a vulnerability of many fragile democracies that depend on energy imports and have to pay the abnormal prices on the current market.

We are grateful to our European and other western partners who have been trying to help us.

On June 23rd, my country was granted EU candidate status – the light at the end of the tunnel for many people who are unsure about Moldova’s future considering the dire circumstances.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all EU member states, the European Parliament, the Commission, and the Council, for their trust and commitment to stand by our side, particularly since the war has started.

We are determined to do all that’s in our powers not only to transform our country, but also to contribute to a more united and a more resilient Europe that can meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Where next for Europe and for Moldova? It’s important to continue swimming in the right direction of history.

Democracy is in real danger all over the globe. Democratic governments must rally to counter authoritarian abuses. They should be looking inward to strengthen their own institutions and prevent homegrown efforts to undermine democracy from within. To save democracy we need to stop this reckless war against Ukraine and we need to strengthen our common democratic resilience.

Three countries improved, more recently, their democracy, according to the 2021 Democracy Index of the Economist’s Intelligence Unit. And all three are in eastern Europe: Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia. Moldova rose to 69th place in the global ranking, up from 80th, in 2020.

Still, we have many things to fix at home, to strengthen our country’s resilience, our democracy, the rule of law and our prosperity. This requires serious reforms, and we have just started to implement these reforms. And the war in Ukraine represents a serious impediment to our efforts.

We should continue standing united in our commitment to peace, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We need to stay committed to upholding the rules-based international order. Starving the world and freezing Europe are no ‘tools’ for dialogue in the 21st century.

We need to find urgent solutions to the growing energy prices so as to prevent citizens from choosing between their livelihoods and their values. We need to push for the diversification of energy supply.

We need more cross-border connectivity. We also need to increase our energy efficiency. We need to collectively purchase energy resources and create stocks.

We need to create assistance mechanisms to compensate the groups vulnerable to the volatility of the energy prices. We need to adopt new, modern, and sustainable technologies for energy production.

The EU and the partner countries need a consolidated policy to reduce dependency on Russian energy supplies. This policy should be based on European solidarity, assistance to more vulnerable countries, and be guided by the objectives of the European Green Deal.

The food security crisis is one of the direct consequences of this war that needs immediate attention. The international community must not admit the deliberate destruction of Ukraine’s economic capabilities, including those related to food security.

We need shorter logistic chains, bring production of food closer to the European market, and make new investments in production facilities. We need to facilitate efficient transport across Europe.

It is important that the West stands ready to help Ukraine overcome the economic and social consequences of the war. I very much welcome the discussion in the EU about a reconstruction plan for Ukraine. In recent history, no European country has sacrificed and suffered nor is deserving aid more than Ukraine.

We all need to continue consolidating national armies to increase our resilience and defense capabilities. Moldova is only starting to do so, and I want to thank the Council of the EU for the recent adoption of the 40 million euro assistance measure for the armed forces of Moldova, as part of the European Peace Facility.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Europe goes through tectonic shifts. Democracy is challenged. Security is challenged. Rules, norms, and values are all challenged.

What we witness today is the tragedy of the 21st century and its legacy will haunt us for years to come. But day by day, it is making Europe stronger, more united, and more resilient.

Uncertainties may be looming over our future. Yet we shall master our destiny, and with resolve and a clear direction, so we will. By standing together, against aggression and in European solidarity.

Thank you.