Royal plea for the Republic of Moldova
Speech of Her Majesty Margareta Custodian of the Romanian Crown
at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs
Stockholm, 8 March 2023
Researchers and Fellows of the Institute,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My husband and I are grateful for your kind invitation to visit your distinguished Institute, and for the honour to address you today. I must begin by recalling the hospitality that this Institute extended to my late father, King Michael, when he came to talk to you about our country 21 years ago. It’s worth remembering where Romania was at that time. It was still not a member of either NATO or the European Union, although it was a candidate for both. AGERPRES
I also want to use this occasion to congratulate Sweden for her current Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Although we are yet to reach even the half-way mark of your presidency, it is already possible to conclude that we benefitted from the famous Swedish qualities: a calm determination, a clear sense of priorities and purpose, and an efficient management of European Union affairs, at a time when the continent could not be more turbulent, and when the dangers facing us could not be more pressing. ROMÂNIA LIBERĂ
I don’t think there are many people who would disagree with the priorities of the Swedish EU Presidency: security, as well as upholding democratic values and the rule of law are the tasks your government is pursuing for the benefits of our entire continent. As your Prime Minister rightly put it in his speech to the Riksdag at the start of your presidency, “our countries are different, and sometimes we have different perspectives”, but our diversity is our strength and, ultimately, the essence of our Union. The Kremlin never took us seriously, and always assumed that we would be divided and weak. Well, we proved them wrong over the past year.
Europe is also lucky, I think, that the Swedish Presidency will be followed by that of Spain. From the northern tip of our continent to its southern approaches in one year: there can hardly be a better example of our unity.
My task today, however, is draw your attention to the east, and to ask you to ponder on the potential dangers of escalation from the current horrific aggression Russia launched against Ukraine. I note that two of your colleagues here at the Institute have recently published a research paper entitled “The Fate of Europe Will be Decided in Ukraine”. I agree with their argument, but would like to add to this another country where Europe must also make a stand if the continent is to be secure: the Republic of Moldova.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have never agreed with those who argued that the war in Ukraine is a limited affair, concerning just one country. As we all know, the totally unjustified and unprovoked military invasion against Ukraine is the product of an imperialist ideology, an ideology arguing that Russia – already the biggest country on Earth – must get bigger still, and that Russia is entitled to a sphere of influence in Europe. Our nations support Ukraine’s self-defence efforts today not only because this is morally right and legally justified, but because we know that a victory for Ukraine is essential for the security of our entire continent. And you are currently applying to join NATO because you have understood that what is happening in Ukraine is overturning all our previous assumptions about European defence arrangements.
Yet well before Russian tanks violated the sovereignty of Ukraine, vulnerable Moldova was already subjected to the sort of Russian aggression and strategies that subsequently became also Ukraine’s fate.
Indeed, Moldova was one of the first former Soviet territories to experience Moscow’s techniques of destabilisation, which are by now familiar to all of us. The so-called “Transnistrian Moldavian Republic” – now better known as Transnistria – was established as far back as 1991, even before the Soviet Union was formally dissolved. No government in the world – not even that of Russia – recognises this so-called republic. But the Russian troops have been there under one guise or another for over three decades.
Moldova was subjected to these pressures and more. It has survived, but it has remained relatively poor and very vulnerable. And just when it elected a pro-Western leader and government determined to eliminate corruption and consolidate democratic institutions, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has placed Moldova in highly dangerous circumstances. The connection between the war in Ukraine and Moldova’s situation is evident for all to see and is continuing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My husband and I have shuttled in an out of Moldova countless times, and I can tell you without equivocation that the current leaders in Chisinau are genuinely committed to European integration. However, they are battling daily against destabilisation efforts and poverty. We can be sure that, even if the Ukraine war ends soon, attempts to destabilise Moldova will, paradoxically, only increase. Ensuring that Moldova remains firmly committed to its European integration policy is an inseparable part of ensuring that Ukraine prevails in its defences; the two are sides of the same coin.
Therefore, the situation in Moldova remains both precarious and perilous. The Chisinau authorities warned that Russia is now determined to destabilise the government of Moldova. And that is because turmoil in Moldova would create a real danger at the rear of Ukraine’s main forces now resisting the Russian invasion.
I sometimes hear arguments that Romania raises the alarm about Moldova because we supposedly have ulterior motives, such as the reunification of Moldova with Romania. Yes, we share the same language and the same history. And, yes, if it wasn’t for that fateful alliance between Hitler and Stalin, the people on both sides of the river Prut which separates the Republic of Moldova from Romania would have stayed together. Whenever I go to Moldova I feel at home. And since the Soviet occupation has gone, our joint history, language and traditions are flourishing again, as is the memory of King Ferdinand, my great-grand father who sealed the creation of united Romania at the end of the First World War.
But the objective I have undertaken with the support of both the Romanian and Moldovan Governments is one of simply ensuring that the Republic of Moldova is not consumed by the tragedy now afflicting Ukraine, that her reformist government is supported in achieving its objective, and that the people of Moldova are allowed to decide their own future, rather than have it decided by others.
I salute the European Union’s decision last year to grant Moldova candidate status. It is also encouraging that, during his recent speech to the European Parliament, President Zelensky singled out Moldova in his appeals. And it is clearly good that President Maia Sandu of Moldova was invited to the summit which US President Joe Biden recently held in Warsaw with the leaders of all the countries bordering on either Russia or Ukraine. Our allies have clearly noticed.
Nonetheless, I feel compelled to add that we need a sense of urgency in supporting Moldova. Having identified Moldova as a candidate country, the EU should start as quickly as possible identifying the objectives the Moldovan government must concentrate on, in order to hasten its eventual membership in the EU.
Yes, the wealth gap between Moldova and the EU remains big. And yes, there are serious governance problems in the country. But at the same time, the Moldovans are probably one of Europe’s most ardent supporters. And the population is of a modest size, so the process of integration, as well as the price that may have to be paid for this, remains modest.
Besides, as the tragic example of Ukraine amply shows, the alternative of not seizing the opportunity of European integration means a much more expensive and desperate integration effort at a later stage. Whenever the Ukraine war ends, Ukraine will need security guarantees and vast economic reconstruction funds, and neither would produce the necessary results unless Moldova is included in the equation.
Moreover, our Eastern borders won’t be peaceful unless these two countries are allowed to live in peace. And, as we have all discovered from our own experience, these nations won’t find peace unless they are part of our family. It is as clear as that.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I know that there are many other priorities facing us today, and all require our attention. But, at the risk of stating the obvious, we don’t usually get to choose the crises; the crises pick us. Let us, for once, anticipate the next crisis. By doing everything possible to ensure that Moldova remains whole, and free.
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