End corruption and dependence on Gazprom for Moldova, says Prime Minister | Moldova
Moldova, which was forced to declare a state of emergency after Gazprom raised gas prices in September, will only be free from outside interference when it has rid itself of endemic corruption and diversified its energy supplies. , said Natalia Gavrilița, the Prime Minister.
Speaking to the Guardian, she said capacity shortages and soaring inflation, including rising gas prices, would strain the popularity of her government, which was only elected last summer.
Gavrilița said the new government, with a majority mandate, came to power not because of its pro-European views, but because of its commitment to ending rampant corruption.
She and the president, Maia Sandu, form the only all-female leadership team in Europe, and have the unenviable task of leading the small former Soviet republic, the poorest in Europe, west without alienating the east. , on which it depends for its energy and survival.
The dilemma worsened markedly in September when Moldova was forced to declare a state of emergency after Russian energy company Gazprom raised the price of the gas it supplied to $ 790 per 1,000 cubic meters and reduced its deliveries by a third. A five-year contract had come to an end and Gazprom said the new prices reflected the market.
The EU has accused Russia of using gas as a weapon, with some seeing Modova’s position as a foretaste of the vulnerability the West could face if Germany gives the final green light to the Nordstream 2 pipeline. from Russia.
In talks with Moldova on a new five-year gas contract, Russia has been accused of linking gas price concessions to talks over the breakaway region of Transnistria, to the future maintenance of Gazprom’s supply monopoly. and even trade with the EU.
An EU grant of 60 million euros, agreed in October, “helped us to reach a deal with Gazprom, as it improved our negotiating position,” Gavrilița said. The talks ended with the obtaining by Moldova of a new gas contract of five years at a price lower than that initially requested, but also of a protocol on a future audit of more than 700 million dollars of Moldovan debt. contested against Gazprom.
Opinion varies as to whether Moldova has panicked and conceded too much. With highly sensitive debt talks yet to be resolved by next May and with Russia holding strong cards, Gavrilița is reluctant to engage in a slang match with Moscow. The strategy appears to be to loosen Russia’s stranglehold – but to do it gently.
Pressed on the role played by politics – as opposed to energy markets – in the crisis talks in Moldova, she said: “We have agreed to negotiate and sign an energy agreement with the Russian Federation. We leave the experts and experts in international relations to draw their conclusions. What we are focusing on is to have a pragmatic professional relationship with the Russian Federation.
“In the elections, we were elected on a largely national agenda. It was more about corruption, governance, job creation than pro-east or pro-west, as so many politicians in the past have hid behind these geopolitical lines and used it to engage in Corruption. Our approach is to deal with the issues that are of concern to people. “
She said rising commodity prices reduced living standards, and even with the resolution of the gas crisis, the gas tariff had increased two and a half times. “For a country as poor as Moldova, this is a great success for the people. We have kept our electoral promise to increase pensions from € 55 to € 100 and this helps more than 400,000 people. We invested money for targeted social assistance and provided subsidies for the first 150 cubic meters of gas consumed.
But, she said, for Moldova to survive, structural solutions were urgently needed, including energy efficiency and renewable energies, with which the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is helping.
Moldova’s best hope lies in the diversification of its energy sources, the improvement of its gas storage, the investment in new pipeline links with Romania and the fact that 100% of its national electricity comes from Transnistria, on its eastern border with Ukraine. “None of this will happen overnight. It will take many years ”.
But Gavrilița said the prerequisite for change was to end what the president called “the thieves rule,” a fair description of a country that has been used for massive money laundering by Russia and which saw more than $ 1 billion – around 12% of Moldova’s GDP – siphoned off from state-owned banks in 2014.
Gavrilița said: “Our government institutions have been plagued by years of vested interests and corruption. We came to power on this promise to improve the rule of law, so we are reviewing our positions, introducing external control of judges and prosecutors. Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo has been arrested and there have been high profile resignations ”.
But, referring to previous unsuccessful anti-corruption campaigns in Moldova, she said: “It is not just about changing the processes but also the results. We must end an era based on public spending and private gain ”.