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Natalia Gavrilita, prime minister of Moldova, in the Treaty Room at the State Department, Washington, US, July 19, 2022
'We are succeeding in maintaining stability — even under these difficult conditions,' says Natalia Gavrilita, prime minister of MoldovaImage: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo/picture alliance
PoliticsRepublic of Moldova

Moldova PM: 'Greatest threats relate to energy security'

Sabina Fati
December 1, 2022

Moldova relies heavily on Russia and Ukraine for energy and has been badly hit by the invasion of its neighbor. In this interview, Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita explains the challenges faced by her country.

https://p.dw.com/p/4KKPK

DW: What are the three main threats facing Moldova in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

Natalia Gavrilita: First of all, the attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure. These attacks have already caused two nationwide power cuts, one on November 15, 2022, and one a week ago. Today, we heard about new potential attacks, including ones targeting the nearby region of Odesa.

I think that the greatest threats we face relate to energy security — among other things — because of the supply line via Ukraine as we don't have any high-voltage transmission lines that can be connected to the Romanian grid. We are working on this and hope to have a joint high-voltage transmission line in 2024. Until then, we remain very vulnerable.

Map showing the location of the Republic of Moldova and its neighbors Ukraine and Romania

Projects like this have been delayed many times over the years. Why do you believe they will be implemented now?

There was no political will. The Iasi–Chisinau gas pipeline [from Romania to Moldova — Editor's note] only went into operation in October — in other words, after we came to power. That was after the first case of energy blackmail [by Russia — Editor's note] in 2021, but this pipeline is now helping us to get access to alternative sources of gas.

Although we signed the contract that will connect us to the Romanian grid via the Vulcanesti–Isaccea line in 2019, the financing of the high-voltage transmission line to Chisinau has, unfortunately, only just begun.

We are certain that all these projects are going to be implemented now because there is the political will to do so, because we understand that the diversification of energy sources is directly linked to our security.

Ursula von der Leyen (left) shakes hands with Moldovan President Maia Sandu, Chisinau, Moldova, November 10, 2022
Gavrilita said the government, parliament and President Maia Sandu (at right, with EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen) all share 'the same desire to anchor Moldova in the free world'Image: Elena Covalenco

To what extent could domestic unrest have a destabilizing effect on Moldova?

We are in the middle of a hybrid war with a lot of fake information, with oligarchs financing protests who have been put on international sanctions lists. We cannot claim that there is no discontent against a backdrop of rising prices and falling purchasing power.

But what has been happening on the streets of Chisinau in recent weeks is a provocation that is being organized with the support of foreign services.

Do you think that Russia's influence is still strong enough to destabilize Moldova or are there enough forces within the country that support the government's course?    

To begin with, we have a strong parliamentary majority, we hold 63 of 100 seats in parliament. The government, president and parliament all work very well together. We are all pursuing the same policy of European integration, the same desire to anchor Moldova in the free world.

We have a mandate and the legitimacy, which were given to us by the people. We were elected for four years and are establishing order step by step. People can see this. We are succeeding in maintaining stability — even under these difficult conditions.

Protesters outside the Presidential Palace in Chisinau hold up placards highlighting drastic price increases, Moldova, November 16, 2022
Socialist Party members and representatives of its 'Young Guard' youth branch protesting about a drastic increase in the cost of living in ChisinauImage: Vudi Xhymshiti/VX/picture alliance

Do you have data on cyberattacks and other kinds of attacks on Moldova that have been orchestrated by Russia and that we don't know about, but which are being felt in your country?    

We've had about 300 bomb alerts this year alone. Just this morning, as we were about to fly to Bucharest, there was a bomb alert for the airplane we wanted to use. We have new procedures for managing such crisis situations.

We've also had 200 cyberattacks. The one in August was the biggest. Together with our partners, we are working to increase our ability to defend ourselves and to confront this hybrid warfare.

We also face a hostile information environment: There is a lot of disinformation, a lot of Telegram channels or websites that are difficult to control — even for countries that have greater capacities than the Republic of Moldova.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu (right) and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis review the honour guard during an official welcoming ceremony, Cotroceni Palace, Bucharest, July 29, 2022
'We know that Romania is already doing a lot for the Republic of Moldova,' said Gavrilita, of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (left, with President Maia Sandu)Image: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images

In Moldova, former Defense Minister Anatol Salaru has triggered a debate about unification with Romania in the event of an attack on Moldova. Do you think that it is a good idea to discuss this matter at this point in time or is it more of a provocation?    

Right now, we have to maintain peace and stability in the Republic of Moldova. We have to acknowledge that we have a multi-ethnic society. This is why we have to adopt a balanced approach at this moment in time and ensure social cohesion.

Even though it is necessary to discuss issues relating to the global changes happening all around us and their significance for us, we must focus on stability and social cohesion.

Can you tell us three really important things you still need from Romania?         

We need support when it comes to accessing alternative sources of energy, we need support in tackling the logistics crisis, which means that we have to ramp up our customs capacity at the border, and, of course, we need financial support. We know that Romania is already doing a lot for the Republic of Moldova.

We have also seen the efforts being made by Romania at the conference of the heads of state and government of the countries of the Munich Leaders Meeting in Bucharest to draw the attention of the international community to the Republic of Moldova. We will continue to work with the Romanian government and together, we will be successful.

This article was originally published in Romanian.

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