Over 25 years of independence as a modern state, Moldovans have been arguing about which of our neighbors should be our closest allies when instead we should be working together to put our own house in order, writes Vlad Plahotniuc for The Hill.
Some backward-facing forces call for returning to Russia’s orbit, and others nostalgically favor restoring the union with Romania. Meanwhile, most Moldovans strongly support strengthening our relationship with the European Union (EU) because this is the best way to modernize our economy, fortify our democracy and make new friends in the West without severing our relationships in the East.
But, no matter which foreign partners we favor, Moldovans should stop seeking quick-fix solutions outside our borders and focus instead upon the challenges of defining our own identity and developing a common vision for our future. Rather than looking to Russia, Romania or even the EU, we need to join together to pursue a Moldovan Dream – we need a country plan. By building a modern Moldova, with a robust economy, good jobs and a growing middle class, we can unite our people on a common path with shared hopes and dreams, regardless of their own ideological, geopolitical or identity choices.
To be sure, our choice of foreign partners matters, not only for our place in the world but also for our progress here at home. Currently, Moldova is at a crossroads, and our course of action will be profoundly influenced by our first direct presidential election in two decades, with the initial round of voting on October 30, 2016.
By supporting a candidate who will keep us on the path toward the EU, Moldovans can continue along a comprehensive roadmap for reforms, which will benefit our country even before eventual EU membership. Or else, we can throw our recent history into reverse and revert to Russia’s sphere of influence, as some of the parties and candidates strongly advocate.
The outcome of this election will be crucial not only because of what it will mean for our relationships abroad but also for how it will determine our direction here at home. Moldova and the EU have agreed upon a roadmap of reforms in order to bring us closer to the EU. The journey to EU integration will be its own reward because our nation’s new government has been insistently pursuing this agenda for change, including strengthening the rule of law, combating corruption, empowering an independent judiciary, fostering a friendly business climate, cutting red tape, and fighting tax evasion.
These reforms are indispensable elements for economic development, social progress and political stabilization. Moldovans demand these changes, and they represent the best of our own history and heritage, as well as European ideas and ideals. As the recently selected and results-oriented government continues to pursue these policies, we can deliver on the promise of a Moldova that is sovereign, more prosperous and a place where the younger generation sees hope for the future, making the leap of faith to stay with their families and help to build a strong and modern nation.
Planning for a better future is essential, but it is not enough. Moldova’s new government has been one of action and reform. While seeking to revitalize our economy and restore public confidence, the government must meet milestones that signify true progress toward better lives for all: eradicating corruption, providing universal education, reducing unemployment, raising living standards, attracting foreign investment, encouraging domestic entrepreneurship, financing government through fair taxes, improving housing and healthcare and extending internet services for all.
Although Moldova must forge its own future, the United States and the EU have a stake in our success in building a free-market democracy in a too-often turbulent region. With the West’s friendship and support, Moldova can become your economic, diplomatic and security partner for years to come. Help us get our own house in order, and we can build together a better European home for our people.