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Hearing on Moldova Features Prime Minister Filat

WASHINGTON — In the first Helsinki Commission hearing in 15 years to feature a head of government, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S.Helsinki Commission), and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) today examined the political impasse in Moldova with Prime Minister Vlad Filat. For photos, click here.

Nearly a decade of Communist rule ended in Moldova in 2009 following massive street demonstrations and two elections that brought Filat to power. The ruling Alliance for European Integration however has not been able to gather the 61 votes needed in parliament to elect a new president. “Moldova’s geographic position between historic empires and modern alliances has been both a curse and a blessing. Moldova’s unique location offers tremendous promise to securing the hope of a Europe whole and free.” Chairman Cardin told the Prime Minister at the hearing. “Your country is still struggling to find a durable consensus in the aftermath of recent events, but that is what democracy is all about – the constant struggle to govern fairly and openly.” (Full opening statement below.)

“While the United States has been supportive of Moldova’s aspirations for further integration into western organizations, especially the European Union, it will be up to country’s political leadership to chart a course of action that moves Moldova beyond political and economic stagnation and holds out the prospect for real change,” Co-Chairman Hastings said. (Full opening statement below.)

Opening statement of Chairman Cardin: I would like to welcome you all to this important hearing on the political impasse in Moldova. In our Commission’s 33 years of existence, this is the first full hearing on Moldova’s domestic political situation. This fact, however, should not cause anyone to conclude that Moldova is not important to this Commission or to the United States. Moldova’s geographic position between historic empires and modern alliances has been both a curse and a blessing.

Wars have been fought and atrocities committed on your soil, but Moldova’s unique location offers tremendous promise to securing the hope of a Europe whole and free. Mr. Prime Minister, we watched the political events of 2009 in your country with great interest.

Elections were held, twice, and Europe’s only ruling Communist party left power. Your country is still struggling to find a durable consensus in the aftermath of these events, but that is what democracy is all about – the constant struggle to govern fairly and openly.

I commend you and your fellow citizens on the great progress already achieved and I look forward to hearing your views on the future of Moldova and U.S.-Moldova relations.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the United States Congress, we are honored by your presence and look forward to your testimony.

Opening Statement of Co-Chairman Hastings: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your convening today’s hearing as part of the Helsinki Commission’s ongoing monitoring of developments in the Republic of Moldova. I am particularly pleased to welcome Prime Minister Filat to Washington for his first visit since his selection in September. Welcome.

Much of our attention following independence was focused on the continued presence of foreign troops and military equipment on Moldovan territory. The Commission continually pressed for implementation of related commitments agreed to at the 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit and remains steadfast in its support for core principles, including territorial integrity and sovereign equality, enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act.

As President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I was pleased to support the work of the Assembly’s Parliamentary Team on Moldova, a group of fellow parliamentarians dedicated to promoting peace, stability and the rule of law in Moldova while encouraging dialogue across a wide spectrum of the Moldovan population.

While Moldova has faced a myriad of external pressures over the years, our focus today is on the current political impasse following last year’s parliamentary elections. Popular sentiment of change was evident last spring when thousands of Moldovans took to the streets to have their voices heard following the April balloting. Those protests attracted large numbers of young voters savvy in the use of new technologies and united in their demands for change in their country. The political stalemate and street violence following the spring elections led to a fresh round of parliamentary elections in late July. The result was a coalition of opposition parties led by the Prime Minister’s Liberal Democratic Party. The current impasse results from the inability of any party or group in parliament to muster the 61 votes required by the Moldovan constitution to elect a new president. Meanwhile, a host of domestic issues remain largely on hold awaiting a resolution of the deadlock.

Amid a global economic downturn, Moldovans face particular challenges, including a sharp reduction from remittances from relatives previously working abroad. Corruption remains a significant concern along with trafficking in small arms and human beings, mainly for commercial sexual exploitation.

While the United States has been supportive of Moldova’s aspirations for further integration into western organizations, especially the European Union, it will be up to country’s political leadership to chart a course of action that moves Moldova beyond political and economic stagnation and holds out the prospect for real change.

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