INTERVIEW with the German Ambassador to Moldova: “Investors look for reliable and predictable legal conditions for investment”
This year the Republic of Moldova and the Federal Republic of Germany mark 20 years of diplomatic relations. After Moldova gained its independence in 1991, Germany was the first EU country to open an embassy in Chisinau on November 2, 1992. The relations are quite dynamic, especially after Moldova started to implement reforms to have a visa-free travel regime with the European Union. Berthold Johannes is the German Ambassador to Moldova since June 2010. His Excellency accepted to give an interview exclusively to Moldova.ORG.
Moldova.ORG: Mr. Ambassador, how would you assess the relations between Germany and Moldova since the moment they have been established?
Berthold Johannes: As dynamic. Relations were established in 1992, the German embassy in Chisinau was opened the same year. At that time it was the first embassy of an EU member state in Chisinau. You know better than me how troubled the situation of Moldova was in 1992. Ever since we kept engaged in supporting Moldova's wish to secure territorial integrity in a peaceful way, to transform its economy and to establish close relations with the EU.
Since 2009 relations developed in a more dynamic way and interest in Moldova has increased manyfold. In May and June this year we have the visits of several parliamentary delegations from Germany in Moldova: on environment, on agriculture, on visa liberalization, on the political issues concerning Transnistria. Late May the Federal Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development, Dirk Niebel, will pay a two day visit to Moldova. Prime Minister Filat and many members of the government are in Germany regularly.
There is a broad spectre of activities also by the political foundations from Germany in support of democratic reforms in Moldova. Germany is a staunch supporter of Moldova's efforts to draw ever closer to the EU. The Chancellor herself takes much interest in contributing to overcoming the Transnistrian conflict by raising the issue at the highest political level and by practically supporting the OSCE in the relaunch of the official 5+2 negotiations. We would like to see the EU association of the Republic of Moldova to come soon, and we are impressed by the efforts undertaken by the Moldovan side to adapt to EU regulations. A settlement of the conflict certainly would make it easier to attain the ultimate goal of Moldova, i.e. EU membership.
Moldova.ORG: What are the top projects developed by the German Embassy since you have taken office in Moldova?
Berthold Johannes: Germany supports projects developed by the Moldovan side, Government and society. There would be no point in us as embassy developing projects for others. Ownership is the most important part of successful development. Ownership by the society. In this context we contributed to OSCE efforts to enhance confidence building between the two sides of the conflict and to get the official negotiations going again. Several meetings took place in Germany.
But since we also have more German investment in Moldova creating jobs. More grants for university studies became available. In the cultural field we were able to support quite a lot of concerts from folk to jazz to classical music including the start of the annual Bach week at the Organ Hall. We supported the international conference on nanotechnology in biomedical engineering that took place in Chisinau last year based on the regular Moldovan-German workshop of researchers from both countries. Also in the medical and social field we saw the realization of important projects: a computer tomograph at Comrat hospital, a new health station and kindergarten in the flood area of 2010, a modern day care centre for handicapped people, as few examples.
Annually the Moldova Institute at Leipzig University runs a summer school in Moldova, and earlier this year they published a substantive 800 pages manual on the Republic of Moldova that was presented at the Leipzig International Book Fair and also here in Moldova. There is an effective German Moldova Lobby in Germany.
Moldova.ORG: How is Moldova seen in Berlin given the fact that our country wants to have closer relations with the European Union?
Berthold Johannes: Germany is actively supporting that process which is a demanding one requiring much reform effort on the Moldovan side. But those reforms are worth the effort, not for pleasing the EU but for enhancing a stable economic and democratic future of Moldova. We support the reforms, we support the negotiation process, and we appreciate very much the enormous steps already taken within a relatively short period. It takes time, and implementation of laws and rules is just as, or even more demanding as drawing up those rules. Miracles can't be engineered at once, and it is the people who have to do the hard work of making the implementation of reforms work. But is a worthwhile effort, and we are willing to give further support via the EU and bilaterally.
Moldova.ORG: What are the key issues Moldova has to deal with in order to have a visa-free travel regime with the EU?
Berthold Johannes: Passing the two reform laws on anti-discrimination and in the field of fighting corruption, and then starting the second phase of successfully implementing the rules. We would like to see a successful and swift conclusion of that process in order to allow visa free travel as soon as possible.
Moldova.ORG: What does Germany expect from the Moldovan Government in order the country to be more attractive to the German investors?
Berthold Johannes: Investors look for reliable and predictable legal conditions for investment, profitability, and in case of conflict, for the rule of law and reliable courts. Moldova is working hard to ensure such conditions and progress has been made. The best method of attracting investment is the satisfaction of investors you already have in the country. We support the State chancery in this field by manpower.
Moldova.ORG: A new German regulation says the foreign highly-qualified workers from abroad are subject to a Blue Card, so they can easily find work in Germany. Does that rule apply for Moldovans, as well? If yes, how many Moldovans have already applied for such a work permit?
Berthold Johannes: Yes, also Moldovans can apply. There is no geographical limitation. Germany is looking for university graduates especially in engineering (machine building, vehicle construction, electronics) and medicine, and for IT specialists. So far, nobody from Moldova has applied under this scheme. But there are already quite some highly qualified Moldovans working in Germany. About 12000 Moldovans have a residence permit in Germany.