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Interview: New Moldovan PM Filat Talks About Priorities

Vlad Filat (file photo)

Vlad Filat (file photo)

Moldovan Liberal Democratic Party leader Vlad Filat has won backing for a Western-leaning government that is vowing to turn the page on nearly a decade of Communist rule and lead the country out of a financial swamp. Lawmakers on September 25 approved Filat's cabinet representing a coalition that emerged to challenge longtime Communist President Vladimir Voronin in repeat national elections in July.

In one of his first interviews after his government won its vote of confidence, Filat cited the motto of "freedom, democracy, and welfare" in his governing program and assured RFE/RL correspondent Valentina Ursu that "this is what the citizens of Moldova have wanted so much."

RFE/RL: Ten years ago, you were part of the ADR [Moldova's Alliance for Democracy and Reforms, which comprised the Democratic Convention of Moldova, the Party of Democratic Forces, and the Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova] government. Today you assumed the leadership of an Alliance for European Integration government. What are the differences and the similarities? Are the risks similar?

Filat: In some ways the situation is similar. But there is also a very big difference. Moldova is very much different today in terms of international relations [and] the prospects that lie ahead.

There are things that look pretty much the same, such as the coalition government, in which one may not be able to express a point of view exactly or sufficiently -- concerning both candidates and certain decisions.

[The coalition] represents a compromise, from my reasonable point of view. The crisis -- then it was a regional one, now we've got a worldwide slump....
I am confident in my own forces and I trust my colleagues [in government].... It's not going to be easy at all.

I am confident in my own forces and I trust my colleagues [in government]. I want to stress that we are sincere in our beginnings, and this is going to help us complete a mission we have accepted. It's not going to be easy at all.

RFE/RL: Imagine that a subordinate minister tells you that he would like to follow the words of his party leader rather than an order from the prime minister. What would you do?

Filat: In that case he would have to step down. Prime Minister Filat would not ask anyone to break the law or neglect his duties. I will demand -- and in this regard I will be very severe -- that someone who's failing will have to leave, I'm telling you.

'Success Is All That Matters'

RFE/RL: Are you aware that [Moldovan] success will likely be attributed to the merits of the entire...coalition, but the premier alone gets blamed in the event of failure?

Filat: In my life, it has always been as you said. This is the rule, and I accept it.... Success is all that matters. It is important that people become proud of being citizens of Moldova and live in their own country.

RFE/RL: There is a [new] wave of price increases for public utilities. Will there be any increase in salaries or pensions? There is a sort of panic in society.

Filat: You're talking about the increases in the municipality of Chisinau. I can't see any grounds or reasons for tariff increase for other services on a national level.

In terms of the government, if there is going to be any [such] price increase, it should be followed by a salary increase. Certainly, within the competence of the government, any [price] increase must be compensated for with a pay rise.

To a great extent, if we look at what's happening on the Moldovan currency market, we can see that this is speculation, impulses from the former government [intended to] create panic and stir emotions in this area.

Relations With Brussels...

RFE/RL: At the beginning of next week, you are scheduled to visit Brussels. What do you think Moldovan-EU relations should be?

Filat: They have to be normal and pursue the achievement of our goal: the integration of Moldova into the security space of the European Union.

We aim, first of all, to warm up the dialogue, to let them know what we are going to do in Moldova. Let's review the preconditions for the signature of agreements between Moldova and the EU... a document to embody the legal relations, and very importantly it has to do with our message, which -- I must be frank -- is not a pleasant one; it envisages assistance for Moldova in this complicated situation.

RFE/RL: Are you going to be begging [for aid] in the West?

Filat: I will never stretch my hand to beg or spend my mandate in humiliation. With dignity, however, I shall ask the European community to help the citizens of Moldova. We have been forced to face a very grave situation. We have to pay out pensions and salaries to the citizens. This is not begging; it is a request, made with dignity to our partners.
I will never stretch my hand to beg or spend my mandate in humiliation. With dignity, however, I shall ask the European community to help the citizens of Moldova.

...And Other Foreign Partners

RFE/RL: On the other hand, at the beginning of October, your Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is likely to come to Chisinau. What priority are Chisinau-Moscow relations?

Filat: Frankly speaking, I'd like very much to meet Mr. Putin. For me, he is a strong man who knows exactly what he wants. I can discuss political decisions endlessly, or aspects with which I would not agree.

But as a personality, he is a strong man who has goals and meets them. I am strongly convinced that, given a chance, I can succeed, too, because Moldova too has strong people who know exactly what they want [and] who are capable of negotiation, who are able to fix pragmatic goals and meet them. Or, both sides have interests, and sometimes they must be achieved in consensus.

RFE/RL: Can you succeed in persuading the Kremlin to withdraw its troops from Moldova?

Filat: I'll try. And I think that I'll succeed in persuading the Kremlin to keep its promises and to respect the citizens of Moldova and Moldova as a state.

RFE/RL: But Moscow has not done anything in the past 10 years to comply with its own commitments, assumed at the OSCE's Istanbul summit.

Filat: This means we have to resize our message -- to amplify it and probably search for certain solutions in order to finally achieve a real solution.

Right now, I'm concerned with my own agenda. We don't have any intention of following foreign agendas. Based on our agenda, we have to negotiate -- to find compromises in some places. But we'll be insistent in promoting our national interests. We'll demand that Moldova get [due] respect as an independent, sovereign, and neutral state, without Russian weapons or military.

RFE/RL: What will be the dimension of Moldovan-Romanian relations? You've talked a lot about [signing an agreement on cross-border traffic]...

Filat: There will be talks. There will be a sincere discussion, in the light of diplomatic modernity, in order to get this [cross-border] document signed. It is very important for Moldova and Romania.

We need to get rid of stereotypes that exist in the minds of many people in Moldova and, very importantly, get rid of certain impediments to our dialogue with the Russian Federation.

RFE/RL: I've heard that the Moldovan prime minister might be making a visit across the Atlantic, to the United States. Is it true that you'll go to Washington?

Filat: Moldovan-American ties are very important, even decisive. In my speech [to the parliament on September 25], I outlined the stance of the government. We hope that the United States stays near Moldova in perpetuity, near the citizens of Moldova, and that it gives the institutional framework to ensure the sovereignty and independence of Moldova.

We need the backing of the United States of America and this thing must be achieved with very, very much work here in Chisinau, and face that opening coming from America.