The Democratic Party of Moldova President Vlad Plahotniuc gave an exclusive interview for Deschide.md in which he said Moldova will not cancel or renegotiate the Association Agreement with the EU, and will not sign an agreement with Eurasian Union, also saying the statements of Igor Dodon in Moscow were purely election.
According to Plahotniuc, the price Vlad Filat is paying for his mistakes is too high. The PD president denies involvement in the Jurnal TV situation but makes an offer for the media trust. In the interview, Plahotniuc talked about the issues related early elections, government's restructuring, the "Landromat" bank fraud, the relations with Romania and Russia, and other current topics.
Reporter: Mr. Plahotniuc, you are considered by many as the man who builds and directs the moves on Moldovan political scene. For years, you have preferred to stay in the shadow of the political decisions, being called the "puppeteer" on the local political scene. Things have changed lately, after taking the lead of the Democratic Party of Moldova was not an unexpected surprise. The more frequent public appearances, the attitude, all have built the way for the exit from the shadow. Vlad Plahotniuc has made a step forward, both in 2010 and in January 2016. What is different this time?
VP: This time the differences are big. Back in 2010, when I entered the political scene, I hoped I'm getting myself into the competition based on promoting the ideas and projects. I thought that's how the politics will develop after removing communists from power. I was wrong, I was getting myself into a great chaos, a lack of organization of parties, populism, few political ideas, much pride, frustration, fights for power. I entered politics with unrealistic expectations, but I quickly understood and took a step aside. Not back, but aside. A step that would allow me to watch everything from a neutral zone, and will help me understand what to do further.
R: Some say tat this step aside was actually a step into the the shadow of politics.
VP: If we analyze how some parties are squeezing on the scene of politics, then, yes, I can say I was not on the scene. I was behind the scenes, and I let certain plays and people play their role, and people assisting the give some feedback. There were some political changes.
R: Why did you want to candidate as premier, was that an attempt to move forward?
VP: For those who can leave aside the emotions and the wrong image projected in public, I think they can clearly see why have I done it. It didn't cost much for me to step aside from the media campaign, meaning that the final outcome was the stabilization of the country and a government who started working. We need to be less superficial and not limit ourselves on understanding of the first step, and see the whole image and the following steps. And more important to understand them. Everything that happened back then had a positive outcome.
R: So it was a good move back then?
VP: No, it was a political move in the context that you remember very well, dominated by the hysteria of two parties led by criminals who wanted to cause chaos. There were several ways we could solve this crisis. I chose the one less complicated, which turned out to be a good one.
"Vlad Filat pays a price too expensive"
R: You have withdrawn from the political scene in order to start wars with the political opponents, and now the scene is cleaner and you can play with the lights?
What I mean is that Filat is convicted, Platon - imprisoned, Topa - refugees in Germany, Usatîi - refugee in Russia, Maia Sandu, Nastase and Leanca - in post-election "hibernation", Voronin - doesn't matter, Ghimpu - with 1 8% of voters. What big opponents have left? There are fears that we might end up with an authoritarian regime in the absence of opponents of the "coordinator of majority"?
VP: If we would have to talk about each other in part, you would see many of those you mentioned have withdrawn themselves from the political scene. Remind me please with whom have I started a war, from those mentioned? If you would analyze what happened in recent years, you would see the one who really started this war. Time has not shown yet, but the reality starts to show herself. I am patient, and if you are too, I will suggest to return to this subject when things will be clearer. Now I will say I don;t believe in solving problems through wars cause they leave everyone damaged. That's why I try to avoid them and look for peaceful solutions, even if it requires ore time.
R: Why do you avoid answering allegations made by Vlad Filat?
VP: Because it would not be right, humanly speaking. Vlad Filat pays for some of his mistakes, for the environment of people he formed, he pays too much, too expensive. I look at things subjectively, indeed, from the perspective that he was a colleague in the coalition, when some positive things important to the country have been done.
R: But Platon?
VP: He was never a real politician and did nothing good for the country, do not confuse things.
R: Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase?
VP: Like I said in the speech at the congress, they are a funny imitation of Vlad Tepes and Snow White. They never had a political project, they both entered politics with a single obsession, the thing missed by Topa for several times. They didn't came up with anything new, nothing concrete for people. Their only project was to withdraw people from power and put theirs, and that could have trigged into a big social crisis. They tried to block foreign funding for Moldova, the IMF agreement. It did not matter to them that people could have remained without pensions and salaries. The important thing for them was that they wanted power. Two adventurers that are struggling to come up with something to say before people. The big problem of the political opposition is that they can not show better ideas and solutions that the ones of the ruling parties.
R: Those who accuse you of forming the current ruling parties behind the scenes with various more convincing methods, to what extent are they right?
VP: The paradox is that some of those who are saying this, are indirectly the authors of the majority coalition. The mistakes they made and the way they tried to trig a political and social crisis has created the coalition, joined by people who were against chaos. And here I will give you just one example: PLDM party. If they would have wanted changes for the country, they would have remained in power, generate changes while having the whole party, they could have done more.. But they chose to form an alliance with Topa criminals in their project to take power, who have probably promised more features and benefits.
R: What was the most inspired decision that you took as "coordinator in the shadow"? But the most unfortunate?
VP: I will not limit myself on the decision taken by me because the coalition take collective decisions. A very good decision was the appointment of a Pavel Filip as premier, he is a man who work very seriously. There were also some very difficult decisions on voting laws in order to clean the banking sector. Also the IMF program. I do not doubt that there were some unfortunate ideas or actions, some we may have already corrected, others are in the process of correcting. The important thing is to correct ourselves when we make mistakes. And since I took over the power we have shown that we can do that. And the results were seen both by improving the international country's rating from negative to stable, and the fact that the lowest rate of inflation has been registered in 2016.
“Reforming the government is the premier’s attribute. We won’t have early parliamentary elections”
R: How are the relations within the present parliamentary majority, are there any divergences within the coalition? How have the ruling partners got the idea of reforming the government and cutting back on the ministries? What are you going to do if any of your ruling partners does not accept the adjustments?
VP: The relations within the Coalition are political: we have a common general view on the basis of which we act, but certainly there emerge different opinions as to some subjects, it’s normal: we are different. It would be strange not to be so. It’s however important to discuss openly, we listen to one another and find compromise solutions on diverging issues, so that we can act efficiently. As for reforming the government, I won’t go into the technicalities, it’s the premier’s attribute. The coalition has the political will to make this reform. The government is to come up with the final view and we’ll make the political decision.
R: What’s the probability of reforming the present majority in terms of removing or bringing in new entities into the coalition?
VP: Why would one need reforming, when things go well? We have a stable majority and have no reason to think of that. It’s another theme that there may be MPs willing to join the coalition: the doors have always been open.
R: How should the reformed political class look like? You talked about it at the PDM’s convention. A goal announced then was “Optimizing the Parliament so that citizens can sanction the ones not doing their job." Shall we understand a joint system of electing parliamentarians is to be applied, voting in constituencies?
VP: Reforming politics shall start by leaving the area of showoff and populism, returning to the people and their needs. But this is not going to happen as long the people do not control the politicians. This control takes place once in four years, at this stage, what is not sufficient, neither efficient. We’ll have to seek the patterns by which to give the people more power over the political class. As for the uninominal voting system, this cannot be decided by me. I came up with this solution, the foreign partners I consulted then endorsed the idea per se, but some from within got very scared that the citizens may exercise a stricter control over them. Many politicians prefer to hide behind party signs and party lists, as if being ashamed of their names and past. If they don’t want the uninominal system, other methods may be found to help the people control the politicians. It’s important that we all should accept it’s the people’s right to have more control over politicians.
R: An opposition politician has said you intend to trigger early parliamentary elections this year and to introduce the uninominal system in advance. What is true from all this?
VP: Do you see how far from reality are the politicians you’re talking about? They have tried hard to unleash the early elections until recently, they have seen they cannot and now they blame for willing early elections. This allegation is ridiculous. No early parliamentary election will be there, neither unleashed by the opposition, nor by the coalition in power. Moldova needs stability and quiet, so that it starts evolving for real. Moreover, I specify no change touching the electoral system is possible a year before the poll. So, all this allegation about the early elections preceded by changes to the electoral system is but a manipulation to cause confusion within society. One more lie from the opposition, to be clearer.
R: Does Pavel Filip stay as a premier to the end of the term?
VP: Yes, he’s got the party’s full support and does a great job. He will go through his full term and I’m sure it will be a term with results important for the country.
“Attempts to blackmail me”
R: You stated at the convention that all the ones who must get behind bars would get there. But, so far, but minor chiefs get behind bars, not nay grand names. The big ones are fired, at most. Do they plan to get to another level, to civil servants in higher ranks?
VP: There have been top functionaries, especially this year. It’s also crucial that they fight phenomena directly affecting the population, as there are things happening at customs offices, healthcare, police, etc. Certain positive signs are seen but it’s still a long way to go. What we could do as politicians was to pass the laws offering the law-enforcers the necessary tools to efficiently fight corruption. We’ll see how these tools are being used.
R: We’re already at the beginning of 2017 and... where is the billion, where the guilty ones, who’s to pay? There emerged accusations addressed to you. Did you have any benefit from the BEM fraud? Any political benefit?
VP: It is no wonder that there were accusations to my address, especially from the ones having directly benefited from the bank fraud: that’s how they understand to defend themselves. Someone’s big suffering is they can never prove their accusations and that they know I have no involvement.
But it’s not the false accusations that are interested, but the fact there have been attempts to blackmail me, from abroad. I speak for the first time publicly about this. Some thought to profit from the situation, to make some fallacies to take me as a political hostage of the interests they have linked to Moldova. That’s what I consider grave and I responded very categorically at this type of blackmailing. It was a battle not waged in public, perhaps but some sparks were seen in public. It certain I have not yielded to such attempts and will never do, regardless of the direction such attempts come from, of the fallacies which will be used.
As for recuperating the money siphoned up from BEM and punishing the guilty, it’s the competence of the law-enforcers and of the judiciary to clear the things out. Stealing from BEM unfolded during many years and under many governments, the investigation must be complex, and the people should learn who are the ones laying the bases of the fraudulent scams and the beneficiaries.
R: Laundering over $20 bn through our judiciary has made us an image not only of a failed state, but of a mob state. Did you know about this case? What is true from the statements made by Platon and his people to your address?
VP: This case triggered major changes within the banking system. All those laws from the package for the IMF were meant to strengthen the banking system so that such situation may never happen. These changes were made last year, including through my political involvement and disturbed a lot the ones behind money laundering scams. It was not by chance that the accusations against me grew tenser when those transformations occurred. It’s suitable for some to further use this country as a money laundry, not to have this legal strengthening of the banking sector. Now you may judge logically: if at least something from what the ones you mentioned said had been true, would I have supported these bills only for the sake of the program with the IMF?! The ones launching such accusations are actually the ones having been used in implementing these scams, who now hide in different countries and victimize themselves to disguise their involvement. But time will set everyones to his place, according to one’s deeds. The millions they pay to NGOs abroad or in Moldova to cover up their criminal activity are not going to help them. The law-enforcers must further seek for all the truth and the guilty.
R: In the laundry case you said: "Platon did not manage his money, he was just the man with the ,money laundering scams, but important people stood behind him. Do you know who they are? Are we going to find out?
VP: I referred to people outside Moldova, we don’t have such important people here, having so big money.
R: From Russia?
VP: This question must be answered by the ones hiding from justice, the ones further serving those people in order to hinder the state institutions to find out the truth.
"I expect Jurnal TV top give me a request with the due technical data. I can offer them a good solution"
R: Another accusation is linked to the Jurnal TV situation. You allegedly stood behind the initiative to oust them from the office so that they may not fully broadcast their programs, what led to big employee bleedings.
VP: As for their office I am not aware of the situation. I have not link to them and I public assert that I am ready to seek for a solution for them to have a decent office, so that the ones from Jurnal may overpass this problem, may hire the people again, if it really was the problem they were sacked for. I expect them to send me a request with the due technical data in order to work and I am sure I can offer them a good solution. Although they criticize me all day long, I think it’s good that they should broadcast as they used to, I find rather political advantages in their critique: all the untruths said about me do nothing but show, at the right moment, the difference between them and reality. Therefore I am ready to help to solving this problem, especially if the final result is that all those journalists fired unfairly, in my opinion, could go back to work. I am however afraid all we have is a victimization campaign, hiding something even uglier. We’ll see. I proposal I public and I am ready to get involved in finding a solution.
R: You were also accused of pressing certain institutions as the Audiovisual Council (CCA)?
VP: The CCA has been an institution under steady attacks all these years, it has got to work rather slowly, and that’s because that institution has not been reformed profoundly. I think it needs be reformed radically, its powers. The same is true about the contest of selecting its members: it should be reviewed so that they be specialists, renowned personalities, but not people from politics. The discussion about the CCA should be wider and refer to a big reform of this institution.
As for Jurnal TV’s accusations to the CCA’s address, the answer is exactly residing in the fact that this television has been able to broadcast without any obstacles on behalf of the CCA.
"The Association Agreement with the EU will not be scrapped, we won’t sign an accord with the Eurasian Union"
R: How do you assess Igor Dodon’s visit to Moscow? There were a lot of tough statements. Are they going to be applied to practice?
VP: The answer is already in your question: there have been tough political statements. Actually we have had a materialization of president Igor Dodon’s electoral statements. But these statements are going to stay political. There will be no cancelation or renegotiation of the Association Agreement with the EU, nor signing an accord with the Eurasian Union. All those run counter Moldova’s strategical interest. On the other hand, we’re interested to a most open and constructive dialog with the Russian partners, in order to find the best ways of developing and speeding up the strategic partnership. But those ways are going to be found in the functioning governmental format.
R: There are voices saying this conflict of yours and of the PDM with Igor Dodon is actually a makeup. Did you know what the president was going to do in Moscow?
VP: Did not you know? Evidently he was expected to make tough statements, even you, the media, anticipated them. But I said it back in the electoral race what my position was going to be on issues as the Association Agreement and staying on the European model of country development. All we have done now is to send this stance officially, politically, in the PDM’s name. Unfortunately it’s not a setup conflict, it’s a real, totally different vision of developing the country, what should not however hinder the institutions to work efficiently and on the basis of the ruling program attached to the present Cabinet.
R: How will you build your relation with the president Igor Dodon?
VP: Why should I build a relation with Igor Dodon? The institutions should discuss with him, this in the limit of Constitution. The prime minister and Parliament speaker are those who will determine the way of cooperation with the presidential institution. What we asked as coalition representatives was to not allow any constitutional slip. And here I will also intervene personally, so that we could block politically any slips against the state or citizens. Moldova is led at decisional level by a pro-European governance, not a pro-Russian president.
R: What do you and PDM think about the identity war brought by Igor Dodon: Romanian-Moldovan, Moldovan language-Romanian language, Romanian history versus the history of Moldova?
VP: Feelings, this way our country was kept all these years. People want to live better, but some politicians try to feed them bad feelings, to make them fight between themselves, so that people will have their minds busy. This is one of the things I want to change in politics, which we discussed thoroughly during the PDM Congress
“President’s declarations cannot affect our relations with Romania”
R: What is your opinion on PSRM and Igor Dodon proposal for federalization of Moldova?
VP: I think that a solution for the Transnistrian problem cannot be found by Igor Dodon, it has to be found through dialogue, in the 5+2 format, and not outside it. There have to be analyzed the solutions, arguments accompanying them, evaluated how they are reflecting the interest of citizens from both sides of Dniester river.
R: How will you build the relation, dialogue with the right-side opposition – PLDM, PAS, DA Party? How do you see this relation?
VP: I am for a constructive relation with the opposition, when the opposition is one politically real, which comes with solutions, does not express only frustrations and emotions. Now we do not have a real, a political, a constructive right-side opposition. But I hope it will appear. It is also important for governance to discuss with politicians form opposition, who are coming with critics accompanied by realist solutions, which might be implemented.
R: Romania is the most important supporter of Moldova. Will Igor Dodon’s actions affect relations with Romania? Which is the red line Igor Dodon should not cross when it is about Romania?
VP: I saw that the last declarations of the president did not pass unobserved in Bucharest. But we have a very solid partnership with Romania both as governance, and as party, PDM being the political partner of PSD, the party winning the elections. Categorically, president’s declarations cannot affect our relations with Romania.
R: As PDM president and as a man who has important relations in the Romanian political environment, how do you see the relations between Bucharest and Chisinau now and especially in the future?
VP: I see them galvanized, especially now when our political partner won the elections so categorically. But I see pragmatically this activation, through elements which will help Moldovan people. In the last years Romania did very important things to Moldova and we rely on this support which will help modernize our country.
R: But how do you see the Moldovan-Russian relations? With whom do you communicate and cooperate more from Russia (parties and institutions from this country)?
VP: Aside from that which is promoted sometimes falsely in the public space, our relation with Russia is one a positive tendency. Of course there is room for improvement, and we as governance and parliamentary majority will make everything possible to stimulate this relation. It matters less with whom and how much we communicate, what is important is to make it efficiently. I said that Moldova is not in the situation to make geopolitical choices, we have to make one choice, to collaborate efficiently with all people, so that we will obtain specific benefits for our citizens.
"I don’t build my political project around one position"
R: As the leader of PDM already officially, not only unofficially, in what position do you see yourself in the future? President or prime minister of Moldova?
VP: I build my project around the final objective, not a position. Positions are relative and not always help you reach your objectives. The support you find, the team you build in order to reach your goal is more important. Thus, my answer is that I don’t target a position.
R: For how long will you stay in politics? Recently I said that you don’t see yourself in politics for an unlimited period.
VP: If I would send a message for enemies, whom I am hindering to get the country in their hands to do their interests, I would say that I will stay in politics forever. In reality I will stay until I will see that Moldova is a solid country, is not vulnerable anymore, and entered a definitive way of modernization.
R: The position of PDM president obliges to a better communication with the media and in general with the society. Will you organize press conferences? Will you accept “confrontation” with the media?
VP: The position of PDM president will oblige me to a better communication with people, especially direct communication and through actions for them. Of course I will also talk to media, more active than before, but don’t expect to see me daily with press conferences or on TV. Politicians should go and listen to people, and not make speeches in front of the camera.