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INTERVIEW Moldova's ForMin Popescu: Moldova is Ukraine's most fragile neighbour, help urgently needed

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Nicu Popescu

Moldova's Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu has told AGERPRES in a recent interview that his country is "Ukraine's most fragile neighbour," which is why it needs European support and funding because, the diplomat adds, "no one has any interest in the realities of the Republic of Moldova further deteriorating."

"Obviously, the tragedy in Ukraine is much worse than in Moldova, but absolutely no one has any interest in the realities of the Republic of Moldova further deteriorating. We are communicating that to external partners and we urgently need continued humanitarian assistance to refugees, but we also need funding to continue to help our citizens, to contain the major negative impact of the ongoing war on our economy, our society, and our energy prices. And we urgently need refugee relocation mechanisms so that those refugees who want to continue their journey to the rest of the European Union may do so as soon as possible, as Moldova's capacities to take care of this wave are very limited," said Popescu, Agerpres.ro informs.

He also spoke about the state of the play in the region, underscoring that the Moldovan government was preparing for "a whole spectrum of scenarios in the region."

AGERPRES: Minister, how has the Republic of Moldova positioned itself on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

Nicu Popescu: The Republic of Moldova has condemned this absolutely unjustified Russian aggression against an independent, sovereign state, which is Ukraine. The Republic of Moldova has strongly condemned the attack. It continues to back up and promote respect for Ukraine's territorial integrity within the internationally recognised borders. That is the clear position of the Republic of Moldova. At the same time, the Republic of Moldova is a neutral state, under its 1994 Constitution, and obviously it must also take into account the provision of neutrality. Our diplomatic position is clear; it is firm. At the same time, the position must be made within the limits of the constraints and constitutional realities of the Republic of Moldova.

AGERPRES: In this totally undesirable context, do you consider it timely, from a political, diplomatic and social point of view, to open a dialogue for the organisation of a referendum on unification with Romania?

Nicu Popescu: Any major decision on the future of this country is to be taken by the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, and the citizens will decide what the future of the Republic of Moldova is.

AGERPRES: But can holding a referendum on this issue be discussed at this time?

Nicu Popescu: Citizens discuss various issues. At this junction, as you can see, the subject is not being discussed by the political class. It is discussed by the society, but in the end, the situation is absolutely clear: the citizens of the Republic of Moldova will decide what the future of their country is. You have seen that we have also applied to join the European Union. To our society, our country, our citizens, it is very important to anchor the Republic of Moldova in the European space, in the European value space, in the European space which, to us, means peace, freedom, solidarity. It allows us to secure a dignified future for our people, and our desire to get closer to Europe at this stage is focused on our effort to bring the Republic of Moldova within the European Union.

AGERPRES: From the perspective of the Republic of Moldova, what do you consider to be the safest defence "umbrella" in the current context?

Nicu Popescu: We cannot operate with theoretical constructions, we cannot make predictions, we cannot speculate. What we can do is remind people that in 1994 the Republic of Moldova adopted a Constitution that provides for the neutrality of the country. Since then, this constitutional provision has not been put to the test or modified and, therefore, we are acting within the existing Constitution in the Republic of Moldova.

AGERPRES: What is the position of the Republic of Moldova on Transnistria's demand for independence?

Nicu Popescu: Transnistria periodically reiterates such requests. Obviously, in this very tense context in the region, this reiteration has not been good for the efforts to keep calm in our country. At the same time, we all know very well that Transnistria, the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, continues and wants to benefit from Moldova's links to the European space, including trade links, and, in fact, most of the products exported from the Transnistrian region go to the European Union. In that sense, the Transnistrian region of the Republic Moldova is also a beneficiary of Moldova's very close relationship with the European Union.

AGERPRES: Since we have mentioned Transnistria, how is the Republic of Moldova securing its energy sources at the moment?

Nicu Popescu: At the moment, the energy sources of the Republic of Moldova are purchased only from the Russian Federation, if we mean natural gas, and when we mean electricity, most of Moldova's needed electricity is purchased on the left side of the of the Dniester in the Transnistrian region.

AGERPRES: Is there a danger of a blockade?

Nicu Popescu: Now, in the region where we live, there are many dangers, in many areas, both in the social field, in the economic field, in the energy field, in the military field. I am not just referring to the Republic of Moldova, I am referring to absolutely all the countries in the region and, obviously, the Republic of Moldova also has to face a lot of regional dangers, including in the above mentioned areas.

AGERPRES: Is the Republic of Moldova affected by the sanctions imposed by the international community on Russia?

Nicu Popescu: At this junction, I have not seen any calculation or assessment of these restrictions. It is very important for the war in Ukraine to end, it is very important for the governance, stability and democracy in Ukraine to prevail, and our hope, and we say it firmly, is that we support a diplomatic solution as soon as possible and a cessation of this war.

AGERPRES: On the grounds of a Russian-Ukrainian conflict, have there been taken measures to protect the domestic economy of the Republic of Moldova?

Nicu Popescu: For several months, the Government of the Republic of Moldova has prepared for the entire range of scenarios in the region, including for this wave of refugees, whom we are dealing with and, through our actions, we have secured a transit as well as a dignified presence for these poor people who are forced to flee their homes by the military actions against Ukraine. In this sense, I will give you only one example of the manner in which the Government of the Republic of Moldova has prepared for the entire range of possible scenarios in our region, including for the refugee issue and this work of preparation, planning of our state, our institutions for negative scenarios continues.

AGERPRES: Does the Republic of Moldova need an emergency aid, both human and logistics resources as well as financial ones from the European Union member states?

Nicu Popescu: The Republic of Moldova urgently needs help. The Republic of Moldova has the highest rate of refugees per capita, in relation to our country's population, over three percent of our country's population are refugees. If you apply this number to the population of other European countries, if I may take France, Italy or the UK for example, three percent would have represented approximately 1.8 million refugees in a big European country. We are trying to explain this to our European partners, so they understand how urgent and serious the situation in the Republic of Moldova is. At the same time, the Republic of Moldova is the most fragile neighbour of Ukraine, when we look at economic aspects, at the resilience capacity. Obviously, Ukraine's tragedy is much serious than our situation, but absolutely no one has any interest in the realities in the Republic of Moldova degrading even more. We are communicating this to the foreign partners and we urgently need to continue the humanitarian aid offered to the refugees, but we also need funds to continue to help our citizens, to limit the major negative impact of this war on our economy, on our society, on energy prices. We urgently need mechanisms to relocate refugees, so that those refugees wanting to continue their journey in the rest of the European Union can do so as fast as possible, because in the Republic of Moldova the capacities to take care of this wave are very limited.

AGERPRES: Are there any powerful Russian investors in the Republic of Moldova? If so, have you taken measures against them?

Nicu Popescu: At this stage, the Government's main concern is managing the migration crisis. There hasn't been an assessment of the situation. For now, we are only beginning to analyse the situation, the impact of the current situation on the economy.

AGERPRES: Is the Republic of Moldova prepared to deal with a possible attack of Russia against it?

Nicu Popescu: The Republic of Moldova and the Government of the Republic of Moldova are preparing for the entire range of scenarios. We have been doing this for several months. At the same time, the Republic of Moldova is a neutral state and there is absolutely no reason to attract the Republic of Moldova in this degradation of the regional situation.

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