Dear student, colleagues, friends,
Thank you for your presence today at Comrat University. I am grateful to Mr. Rector, Mr. Zaharia, and the leadership of the autonomy for the invitation. As always, I am glad to be in Comrat. I am grateful also for the warm welcome that the Gagauz people are famous for. Gagauzia is an integral part of the cultural, social, economic and political life of the Republic of Moldova.
I am glad to see many young people and students here. Our country can become prosperous only if we improve the quality of education. Our youth must be prepared to meet today's and tomorrow's challenges. We need good specialists in all areas: pedagogy, engineering, economics, agronomy. We need an education system that fosters patriotism, unity and solidarity. It should educate young people in the spirit of freedom and respect for people, it should contribute to the creation of a state in which each of its citizens is valued; and in which each person can fulfill his or her dream through his or her own work.
The Ministry of Education has launched a reform intended to improve education’s quality and relevance. We expect universities to raise both the requirements for students and the quality of teaching.
But today I am in Gagauzia not only to talk about the education system, although this is very important. I want to talk openly and in detail with you about the difficult situation in which our country, the entire region finds itself. I want to talk to you frankly, without omissions. We have always valued honesty and sincerity in dealing with each other. This has always been the case in our history - we found a common language and achieved common goals, despite the obstacles.
I will start this difficult, but very necessary, conversation with the war in Ukraine. It is obvious that today both the region and the country are going through difficult times. The world in which we lived during thirty years after gaining independence has changed beyond recognition. Even now, many refuse to believe in these changes and acknowledge what they mean for us.
It is no longer a world of cooperation and good neighbourly relations. The peace we have known has been replaced by war and destruction. I will be very frank with you - this war Russia is waging against Ukraine is affecting you and me in a very direct way. We all - with horror - see that it is a war in which children, women, civilians who were living peaceful, quiet lives are being killed.
For the past six months Ukrainians have been defending their homes, their freedom, their country, their people and their right to choose. Because to be free means to have the right to choose. Ukrainians want to live in peace and tranquility in their own homes, in their own country and decide their own fate.
To defend one's home, one's family and loved ones, without sparing one's own life isn't that worthy of respect? Would any of us do otherwise? I saw with my own eyes the suffering of the people of Ukraine. It is impossible to convey the despair of a man who lost his family and friends. An entire generation bears the imprint of a terrible war. It is impossible to forget or to justify it. I have not seen a single Ukrainian who has asked for such a liberation - destruction of homes and peaceful lives.
What does this mean for us, for the Republic of Moldova? First of all, we cannot treat this as something that does not concern us. This is happening right next to us.
Secondly, it means that we in Moldova, all together, have to do everything we can to maintain peace and stability for our people. Moldova is a small country. Many people say that little depends on us. This is not true. It depends on us, on each of us, whether we will be wise enough to preserve peace, stability and harmony inside the country, despite the war near our borders.
Preservation of peace is the main task for all of us. And we will do everything possible for this. It is important not to allow attempts to sow chaos in Moldova, to divide citizens on national, ethnic or territorial grounds. We must not allow someone to instill suspicion and distrust towards each other. Some in this country do not want to assume responsibility for their own theft, lawlessness and corruption, and therefore seek to create chaos.
But do our citizens in Comrat, Balti, Chisinau, Taraclia or Nisporeni want this? Certainly not! The slogan of the vast majority of Moldovan citizens is peace and understanding! We are all Moldova. We are one country. Sadi birlik hem annașmak! Biz hepsimiz Moldovayız! Biz bir Devletiz!
Nothing today can be more precious for us than peace. I appeal to you, each of you in your position, to do your utmost to preserve interethnic peace, consolidation and tranquility in these difficult times. Today, when war and destruction are all around us, we cannot allow anyone to divide us, set us against each other.
We must be united! We must all be patriots of our country! We love Moldova. We are obliged to preserve it. We lived on our land for centuries and figured out by ourselves what to do.
We promised each other to build a strong state. Today we strengthen our state by removing problems, removing corruption and cartel interests from state institutions. We are fighting to protect our national interests. And our national interest today is the preservation of peace and stability in Moldova, the protection of citizens and raising living standards.
Historically, mutual respect and consideration for each other's opinions has been and will continue to be a solid foundation for our common future. All citizens of Moldova are our citizens. All are equally important. We are free. We live in a free country and we are proud of it.
Civil rights in Moldova are inviolable. This is one of the main achievements of the country. There is no discrimination in Moldova on ethnic, linguistic or political grounds. In our country, people are not afraid to openly express their opinion, criticize the authorities or protest. Human rights, a free society, a state power that is elected by the people and represents the people. This is Moldova. This is how it should be in the free world. We are obliged to preserve a free Moldova.
I know that today we are all concerned about rising prices, gas supplies, jobs, the economic situation. I understand and share this concern. I reaffirm that the leadership of Moldova will support you in these difficult times.
The energy crisis began last year. The government has allocated significant sums - billions of lei - to compensate for the heating costs of all citizens of the country - in Chisinau, Briceni and Comrat.
Prices have risen even more because of the war. Our country is vulnerable from an energy point of view. For three decades nothing has been done to diversify energy sources and the country's energy security. This winter, too, the government will help citizens pay their bills.
The government has increased pensions, social benefits and announced additional payments to retired citizens and state employees. We will not leave a single citizen of Moldova one-on-one with the problems. The country will be provided with energy resources and heating. Yes, the state has few funds, but these small resources will be distributed fairly to help people who need help in the first place.
Of course, that's not what we had in mind. In the first year, we planned to double capital investments. We planned to repair more roads. Unfortunately, the reality turned out to be different. Today, we have to think about how to maintain peace and stability. We all together. We haven't abandoned our plans of developing Moldova. These plans are what we came to power for. And these plans will be implemented, albeit with a delay due to war and crises.
In Gagauzia many national projects and programs have been implemented, as well as projects financed by the European Union and various countries. Chisinau encouraged these investments in the autonomy, in its infrastructure, education institutions and healthcare. The European Union is the biggest donor in Gagauzia. Infrastructure projects, agriculture and local development are just some of the areas where European Union invested.
We understand the concerns about tomorrow and we are doing our best to prepare as best we can for the new challenges. The situation is difficult not only for Gagauzia. The situation is also difficult in Chisinau, Balti, Basarabeasca and Donduseni.
Now many say that Chisinau hasn’t done enough. I have consulted many experts. I want to speak to you about the opinion of recognized international and world specialists, including experts from Gagauzia itself. They concluded that not a single autonomy in the European Union has such wide powers as Gagauz-Yeri in Moldova. And there are many autonomous entities in the EU. The constituent entities of the Russian Federation, be it a republic, a territory, an autonomous region or a district, do not have such powers as Gagauz-Yeri. For the first time in their history, the Gagauz received these powers precisely in the independent Moldova. This is the truth that needs to be spoken openly!
And this is a solid basis for moving forward. Yes, the powers of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomy still have to be regulated and brought in line with the legislation. However, these powers can and should be used. There is a dialogue between central and local authorities on delimitation of competences that are spelled out in the legislation. Of course, everyone would like this harmonisation work to progress much faster. But this is a technical issue, not a political one. For example, in the autonomous province of South Tyrol, this technical work took much longer than in our case. It's a laborious process.
When they blame the central government, they sometimes do it to cover their own failures and often to steal budgetary funds. Yes, perhaps the government does not always react in time. But Chisinau has never intended to limit the autonomy. A solid foundation respecting the cultural and national rights of the Gagauz, was laid in 1994 and we have to take care and appreciate it! This foundation cannot be called into question today! If we question our achievements, our descendants will not forgive it.
Emotions aside, there is not a single objective reason to doubt the functionality of the design laid down in 1994, or to demand its change. Autonomy exists in the law, it is functional, it has powers, and the technical specialists need to align those powers. The central government is committed to this harmonization work.
One of the main objectives linked to the creation of the autonomy in 1994 was the preservation of the linguistic and national identity of the Gagauz, as well as the revival of the Gagauz culture. Unfortunately, this task has not yet been completed.
The University of Comrat has been functioning since 1991. Excellent scientists, pedagogues, teachers of the Gagauz language and literature, history graduated the university. The Comrat Pedagogical College tries to work in the native Gagauz language. There are 137 amateur art groups, 45 libraries, art schools and museums in Gagauzia.
However, the Gagauz language is used to a lesser extent in schools and even in ordinary speech. The Gagauz language is on the list of endangered languages and we cannot allow this! We must work together to solve this problem. Serious efforts are needed to preserve the Gagauz language and culture for present and future generations. And today such an opportunity exists and there is a full commitment of the central authorities. You cannot lose the unique Gagauz language, you cannot lose the unique Gagauz culture!
Learning the Romanian language is also important. One of the foundations of social cohesion is the inclusion of Gagauzia in the cultural, social and political life of the country. I know that there is a demand for learning Romanian. Bashkan of Gagauzia, Irina Vlah set a worthy example by declaring and proving that she speaks Romanian. It is necessary to provide all the inhabitants of the autonomy with the opportunity to learn the Romanian language in order to create more opportunities for everyone. Starting with January 1, 2023, we are launching a national program for learning Romanian.
Perhaps multilingual education - teaching various subjects in several languages in kindergartens and schools in Gagauzia - can be a solution for both preserving the Gagauz language and learning the Romanian language.
Dear friends, before I proceed to answer your questions, I would like to stress once again the main point of my speech - it depends on each one of us today to preserve peace in Moldova, as well as common prosperity. We should work to build a strong state, a strong economy, to fight corruption together and to have a free country that respects every citizen. Saa olun!