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'I want to be the president of European integration'

Vitalie Calugareanu | Anna Gluschko
December 30, 2020

In an exclusive DW interview, Moldova's new president, Maia Sandu, talks about fighting corruption and seeking to draw closer to Europe.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu
Moldovan President Maia Sandu is passionate about the European idealImage: Vitalie Calugareanu/DW

DW: During your inauguration on December 24, you emphasized that you want to become the president of European integration. What do you mean by this exactly? And do you not think Moldova's pro-Russian electorate will be critical of this?

Maia Sandu: When I said I want to become the president of European integration, I was thinking about the normality that citizens yearn for. Citizens in Moldova want to live in a liberal state where nobody is persecuted because of their political beliefs. A state where nobody loses their job because they refuse to betray their values and campaign for a politician they do not support. We all want a state where businesspeople are neither harassed nor fleeced by state institutions. We all want to live in a country where mayors are not politically instrumentalized and punished by the government by withholding financial support for their municipalities. Normality also implies a decent income for citizens so they can lead dignified lives and enjoy decent wages and pensions. We all want state institutions that serve citizens, rather than take their money in the interest of corrupt groups, precipitating crisis after crisis. This is what I had in mind when I spoke about wanting to be the president of European integration.

View from the presidential office of farmers protesting in front of the parliament building
Farmers in Moldova have recently held protests in front of parliament demanding more aid after a droughtImage: Vitalie Calugareanu/DW

Let us talk about the COVID-19 immunization campaign. EU member states, including your neighbor Romania, have begun vaccinating citizens. We have learned from your Health Ministry that Moldova will be starting vaccination much later because the government forgot to order in time. Can you do something to make sure vaccines reach Moldova faster?

I have spoken to outgoing Prime Minister Ion Chicu and learned that unfortunately there is no concrete offer available yet. We have now begun working together closely with partners abroad to obtain at least some of the necessary vaccine. I hope we will know more in the coming weeks.

Speaking of Romania: How do you assess cooperation between Chisinau and Bucharest? What are your plans to strengthen this cooperation? And what kind of support do you expect from Romania?

We want to restore our good relationship with Romania and are pursuing an ambitious short-term and long-term agenda. That applies to infrastructural projects, which will hopefully soon begin, as well as projects in the educational, cultural and environmental sectors. We will discuss the particularities with President Klaus Iohannis [Editor's note: Romanian President Iohannis visited the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, on December 29, 2020]. We have great expectations and will do everything do to push our cooperative projects ahead.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated you on your electoral victory. How do you assess this gesture?

I think it is perfectly normal. I hope that that Moldova's relationship with Russia will be good. I will do everything I can do to address urgent problems like ensuring Moldovan products become available on the Russian market again, ensuring Moldovans working in Russia enjoy social protections and working to resolve the Transnistria crisis.

 Maia Sandu with mask after the initial results of the second round were announced
Maia Sandu won the second round of the Moldovan presidential election in mid-NovemberImage: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

You are set to visit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in January. When will you visit Russia?

I will visit Russia when I am invited. Russia is part of the 5 + 2 format [Editor's note: a format created for talks on settling the conflict in Transnistria that also includes Transnistria, the OSCE, Ukraine, and observers from the EU and the US] and resolving the Transnistria crisis is important for my country.

Some political analysts say Russia is backing a new lawmaker in Moldova now that Igor Dodon has lost the presidency …

I do not know who Russia will side with. But I do know that we have honest politicians who serve their citizens and country. For this, we need strong institutions that enable parties that are transparently and properly financed to vie for political power. This is the root of all evil: Illegally financed parties bring corruption into the state structure, causing the very problems we are now confronted with.

If the Republic of Moldova ever restores its territorial integrity, what would happen to the Russian citizens who primarily live in Transnistria, beyond the Dniester River?

The region of Transnistria is part of the Republic of Moldova; the people there are our citizens. This is their country as well. Forging unity will be complicated, but there is no alternative. We will do whatever it takes to bring these people together. We need to accelerate these processes so we can ultimately reach a political solution on this issue.

This interview has been translated from German