Constitution of the
Republic of Moldova

President’s Maia Sandu address in the opening of the Alpbach European Forum 2022 “The New Europe”

Mister Chancellor,
Mister President,
Mister Governor,
Distinguished audience,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a pleasure to be here with you today. Even if it is my first time in Alpbach, I did hear it’s one of the most inspirational places to be here, to exchange ideas, thoughts and find common solutions for the challenges that we are facing as a continent, as a world.

I was supposed to have a conversation in this session with President Van der Bellen for you today, but unfortunately, you’ll have to listen only to me in this part of the discussion. I very much hope President Van der Bellen will recover soon and maybe will even be able to join you at a later time during your stay in Alpbach. I wish him good health and speedy recovery.

In two days from now, this Wednesday, Ukraine will celebrate, in the middle of unprecedented challenges to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the 31st anniversary of its Independence Day.

It’s a day that any state should mark in peace by celebrating its people, its past achievements, its traditions, and sharing ideas for a brighter future. Instead, Ukraine today is at war. For six months, it fights an unjust war for its right to exist as a state within its internationally recognized borders.

It is also shielding our own territorial integrity, our own independence as a country.

It's fighting to keep all of us safe, to keep Europe safe. It needs our back and support. Europe, all of us, we must help Ukraine.

I would like to express my utmost admiration to all Ukrainians for their courage, their resilience, and their inner power to continue this fight for survival, justice, and freedom.
We owe ourselves a strong and resilient Europe. A Europe that will be able to stand by all of its citizens, by the values and principles that Europeans cherish and that the Ukrainians chose to fight for.

They also want to be part of the free world, where everyone has the freedom to choose who to be and what kind of future to have for their children.

How do we build a strong and resilient Europe is a question that we all try to answer now from our respective positions, be it at university, in an NGO, in a foundation, public institution, or from the private sector.

One thing that is crystal clear is that only together we can build a Europe that is strong and resilient enough to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

There is no simple answer on how to build a strong and resilient Europe, but I would like to suggest a few things for discussion: counter disinformation, strengthen energy security and transition faster to green energy, fight together against corruption, and extend further the peace project of the European Union.

1. One of the biggest threats to democracy in Europe today is disinformation. We need to do much more to fight propaganda than we did in the last decade.

For too long, the EU has treated this subject superficially, and the instruments used were ineffective.

We have seen the effects of propaganda and disinformation in the case of several elections in European countries.

In Moldova, we became a testing ground for new disinformation tools. We feel its consequences the hard way.

Today we witness a full-fledged campaign to justify the war in Ukraine through propaganda and disinformation.

And unfortunately, there are many people who fall into this trap regardless of the country they live in, or the language that they speak.

It is true that there is a thin line between freedom of expression and stopping disinformation, but propaganda and disinformation are some of the biggest dangers for democracy and need to be addressed accordingly.

We need new international norms on social media, as unpopular as this might sound.

For instance, several social media outlets never react to the requests of the Moldovan institutions to suspend pages that distribute or promote fake news about the war, about Covid, or hate speech.

If we could develop some common mechanisms and enforce them together as an international community, the owners of these social media outlets could no longer ignore the problem so easily, and we could protect our democracy from falling prey to false narratives.

2. To become more resilient, Europe needs to ensure its energy security and transition faster to green energy. This crisis has proven that Europe has not invested sufficiently, at the right time, in its own energy security.

It needs to reduce fragmentation of the market, diversify more its energy supply, and faster transition to green energy.

Greater energy integration and accelerated investment will enable Europe to defeat Russia’s strategy, or anyone else’s attempts in the future, to weaken Europe by weaponizing energy.

It will also drive the transition to cleaner and more affordable energy.

Moldova is not the country to teach Europe how to do this. Unfortunately, in the last three decades, little has been done in my country to secure energy independence.

The energy crisis that we find ourselves trapped in risks being misused to destabilize the political situation in my country.

Everyone in Europe faces a grim winter, but political instability in Moldova, as a result of unaffordable day-living, would be disastrous not only for us, but also for the West and Ukraine.

Since its first days in office, the current Moldovan government is working hard to strengthen the country’s energy security and diversify our energy mix.

Most recently, Moldova has been included in the joint energy purchases under the REPowerEU plan, which aims to strengthen the continent’s energy security.

We look forward to see this mechanism being put at use.

3. Europe needs to put the fight against corruption seriously on its agenda. This time, as a collective fight because corruption proved to have no borders. Moldova has had a traumatic experience when corrupt groups came to power.

They significantly weakened state institutions. Democracy was discredited because they were speaking as democratic governments and our European dream along with it. Some people came to believe that democracy is to be blamed for corruption and poverty.

Importantly, the biggest robberies in my country happened with the participation of some western companies or banks.

The money laundering schemes, the famous or infamous 1-billion-dollar bank theft – these happened even with the involvement of some banks from the EU, or offshore companies from countries with consolidated democracies and with strong anti-corruption institutions.

Moldova lost a lot of money that otherwise should have been invested in energy security, hospitals, schools, roads, and universities for the people.

Now we are struggling to recover both stolen assets, but more importantly, the time we have lost during the last decades.

And this is a very difficult process.

That's why we need clear international cooperation mechanisms, so that dirty money from fragile democracies is no longer accepted in other countries and in cases where things have already happened - to be able to recover the stolen money and to bring the thieves to justice.

It is not ok when people who steal and destroy democratic insitutions in our countries, take their capital and live beautifully in countries with consolidated democracies, enjoying respect for human rights and high-quality public services.

We need to improve international instruments for mutual legal assistance to make asset recovery and restitution faster and more efficient.

We can create joint investigation teams, mutual legal assistance mechanisms; or create measures for direct recovery of property via civil procedures.

We can create an international legal platform for exchange of information for integrity authorities.

We should all enforce stricter rules on political party financing.

We need to join our collective efforts to create new international rules and guidelines that would prevent corrupt people from leaving the country and taking the illegally acquired assets with them.

4. The EU must offer a clear and credible accession perspective for candidate countries that have the strong political determination to join the European family of nations and the will to implement the necessary reforms.

Enlargement can foster peace and stability in Europe and bring prosperity to all.

Moldova and Ukraine want to be part of the EU.

I would like to take this opportunity and thank Austria and all the EU member states for their vote of confidence in the June European Council meeting when Moldova and Ukraine were granted EU candidate status.

Moldova is a European country, with a European history, European language, European culture, European political system. We share the ideal of a peaceful, united, and prosperous Europe.

Through accession, the EU has anchored the democracies of Greece, Spain and Portugal as they were emerging from dictatorship, and by offering a European perspective to the Balkans, it has stabilized the region after the Yugoslav wars.

It now must do it again – through enlargement into our volatile region.

And finally, if Europe is to take a more active role on the world stage, we must remember and find solace in our values - we need to remind ourselves why we do what we do, why we take our stances and promote our policies.

I say “we” because I believe a vast majority of Moldovans share the same beliefs.

We share a set of values that put the individual, the person, its life and wellbeing at the centre of every decision, of every project and policy.

The future we are building, together, emphasizes the value and the potential of every single person. It’s a society that values reason, science, work, but also diversity and compassion. And as experience shows, giving people freedom and the chance to pursue happiness is also a sound economic thinking. European countries created what is perhaps the most humane and prosperous model available to humans today.

To conclude, a more resilient Europe needs more resilient people, societies, institutions, and states. We all need to lead by example. That’s what we are trying to do today in Moldova.

Thank you.