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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article31 May 2023Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Moldovan President Sandu

Moldova: Lower roaming tariffs

President Sandu, dear Maia,

It is wonderful to be back in Chișinău. Indeed, Moldova is this week the political heart of Europe. And I think it is natural and self-explaining that the second Summit of the European Political Community takes place in Moldova. Because your country embodies Europe's core values. That is solidarity, which you showed towards the Ukrainian refugees; resilience, which you showed to Russia's blackmail; and unity which you showed to link your destiny to the European Union. It was very moving to see a sea of European flags here in Chișinău's streets last week.

And my message to the people of Moldova is that we stand by you. We support you every step of the way on your path to the European Union. And today, I am glad to announce a new support package for Moldova with a double objective: We want to support you to address the impact of the war on your doorstep. And we want to bring you closer to the European Union. This package has five very concrete initiatives.

First, indeed, we will lower the roaming charges between the European Union and Moldova. Today, the telecom operators signed an agreement, which I warmly welcome, to lower data and voice roaming starting next year. And I think it is a very good step which will benefit the people and our companies. Because indeed, cheaper roaming is good for the business, and it is good for the people. This is our experience, too. It literally connects people.

The second point is that we will provide additional economic support. Since October 2021, the European Union has provided more than EUR 1 billion to Moldova. This includes EUR 300 million in macro-financial assistance for this year. Now on top of this, we are stepping up support with our Economic and Investment Plan for Moldova. Our initial target was to reach EUR 600 million of additional investments. The good news is that we will be almost tripling that amount. Indeed, with the additional financing that we will mobilise, we can now leverage up to EUR 1.6 billion. And that will bring great opportunities for Moldova's companies, so this will be a direct investment into the economy.

The third strand of the package is support for the energy sector – you mentioned it. The energy crisis provoked by Russia is still hurting Moldova. We are here to support you both with short-term and with long-term measures. For the short term, we will provide more than EUR 100 million to cover the immediate needs. That is, for example, to help the vulnerable people and households, to make residential buildings more energy efficient and, of course, to prepare for the next winter. I am very pleased that Moldova is participating in our European Union's common gas purchasing mechanism. This is a platform where all the Member States are aligned, and we go to the gas market to have the best offers. Moldova is part of this gas purchasing platform. And it is already a big success because we could see that 80% of the volumes of gas that you have requested via this platform have already been matched. This is very important because it means better prices and reliable suppliers. I think this will help ensure Moldova's security of gas supply enormously.

And looking at the long term for energy, we are working together in a way that we will fund projects to facilitate Moldova's integration into our European Union's energy market. So, we will invest in renewable energy, which is crucial to reduce your dependency on fossil fuels. And we will work on electricity interconnections, with two new high voltage power lines between Moldova and Romania. Finally, a brief look at the transport networks: For this, we will make available EUR 50 million for the rehabilitation of railway lines as part of the European solidarity lanes.

My fourth point is on security and resilience. Earlier this month, the European Union agreed a EUR 40 million package for Moldova to finance military supplies and strengthen your armed forces, including through technical training. Now we want to further increase the European Peace Facility support to Moldova. We clearly see, dear Maia, how Russia is trying to destabilise Moldova with hybrid actions. So, we are stepping up our support to increase your resilience against Russia's hybrid threats. We have just launched a Partnership Mission to provide you with strategic advice on crisis management and hybrid threats, for instance cybersecurity and countering foreign interference.

My final point is about Moldova's reforms to advance on the EU path. I can clearly see that you are making big progress. This is good to see, and it is amazing. And we will support you to advance even faster. This is why we will now significantly increase the number of staff of our EU Delegation in Chișinău. It is basically to support you in the development of the reforms but also to support you to build the administrative capacity that is necessary.

Let me end, dear Maia, by thanking you for hosting us here in Chișinău. The presence of 50 European leaders, 50 Heads of State or Government right now in Moldova, in Chișinău, gives a very strong message. Moldova is at the heart of Europe. Moldova is Europe. And today and tomorrow, the whole of Europe is Moldova. 

Thank you very much.