Prime Minister Leanca, thank you very much for your warm welcome here. And Minister of Agriculture Bumacov, thank you very much also. It’s an honor to – where is he – to have you over here.
I was just looking over here at this beautiful dress. I didn’t know I was attending a wedding underground. As long as it’s not me you’re trying to marry off. (Laughter.)
I’m really delighted to be here in Moldova and very, very grateful for the opportunity to visit Cricova this afternoon. It’s not every day that I get to visit a place where a legacy from the 15th century, winemaking, is being carried on in this extraordinary underground facility with 21st century technology.
I’m told that people in this region have practiced winemaking really since – for centuries, dating back to the early ties with the Romans. So this winery is really a fitting reminder of how Moldova’s rich history is intimately tied to its now very promising future. And it’s also a reminder of how Moldova’s future and past are both rooted in Europe.
But today and this visit is really much more than a celebration of winemaking, important as that is. I am here today for a larger purpose. I’m here to congratulate the people of Moldova for initiating an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union at the Vilnius Summit last week and to pledge the support of the United States of America to you as you finalize this agreement over the course of this next year.
The United States believes deeply that European integration is the best road for both security and prosperity for Moldova. The European Union has offered Moldova a historic opportunity to be able to cement a European future for its people, and you have seized that opportunity through the leadership of your government. There’s also no doubt that Moldova’s commitment to reform is going to encourage, inspire greater investment and also greater confidence from financial institutions across the continent.
Moldova may be a landlocked nation, but there is no way that its potential or its future is locked in to any one place or to any one relationship. This is about building bridges of opportunity and it’s about reaching out to be able to touch the possibilities of the future and define them for yourselves. It is about building the bridges and the opportunity and defining the future through your own hopes and your own aspirations.
And to the people of the Ukraine, we say the same thing: You, too, deserve the opportunity to choose your own future. Let me make it clear: The United States and the European Union strongly believe that European integration does not have to be a zero-sum game. Today, Moldova has an opportunity to be able to shape its future with partners in Europe and across the world. This nation’s future can really be defined by the strength of its connections, which reach out to a dynamic continent, as well as providing Moldova with a diverse and pluralistic set of options in the world.
Here at Cricova, I’m very proud to say that United States assistance programs have actually facilitated advances in the wine industry, and that has helped to increase the effectiveness and the competitiveness of this historic sector of your economy. And in order to help tap into that set of possibilities, I’m really delighted this evening to be able to join with Prime Minister Leanca in unveiling and displaying to all of you a new “Wine of Moldova” branding logo, which we have developed and worked on together and which will promote Moldova wine in the international marketplace.
I’m also proud to announce that we will create – the United States will sponsor a reverse trade mission, where we will actually send some of your best wine makers from Moldova to the United States so that they can work at the whole set of questions of how to break into the American marketplace, and we can help together to make that happen. And after walking by the huge barrels of wine as I came in here and looking at this display in front of me, I know that Moldova’s winemakers will have a few things to share with our winemakers also. And we look forward to that exchange.
I’m also happy to say that this is not a beginning for the United States. Vice President Biden was here, as the prime minister mentioned, in 2011. And we are – we have proudly been supportive of Moldova’s journey over these last years. The United States has, very proudly and happily, provided some $1.1 billion in support of this country’s democracy, prosperity, security, and rule of law.
And this year, we’ve provided some $22 million to help to implement the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. This includes about $4.4 million for peace and security programs, about $10.8 million to support democracy and good governance and rule of law, and $6.4 million for economic growth, competitiveness, and market diversification.
And I’m pleased to say that Moldova – I think the prime minister mentioned this – is benefitting from a $262 million Millennium Challenge grant – Corporation Compact, which supports the rehabilitation of road and irrigation systems. The prime minister was telling me, as we drove over here, that he’s looking forward in June to going back and talking with a woman that he promised would have a road in that period of time. And we’re happy to be able to be helpful in that kind of infrastructure development. These roads are obviously nice to drive on, and they’re smoother, but the fact is they’re also a critical way to be able to get products to the marketplace. And they increase efficiency, and they increase opportunity, and they create jobs.
The United States is also looking forward to working with our friends here to help develop programs that will further energy independence and energy security for Moldova. And in the short term, in order to be able to help reduce reliance on existing natural gas supplies, USAID, which is a division of the State Department, is going to work with the Swedish International Development Agency, and it will leverage 3.5 million in local bank capital for energy efficiency projects.
In closing, let me just say to all of you, I know as a person engaged in public life that our schedules are intense, and we don’t always get as much done to be able to stop and meet people and spend time in a country as we would like. But short as this time is, I wanted to make certain that I came here today. I wanted to make certain that I stopped in order to celebrate this journey that Moldova is on, which is exciting and filled with possibilities, and which we intend to support as much as we can.
Just the few moments I’ve been here, as we drove through town and the prime minister described to me the buildings, some of which obviously represented a very different period of time, when the Soviet Union existed, and now people are living with a whole different set of opportunities, I was excited, and I felt the sense of possibilities that people believe in here.
Before I came here, I learned that the word “Chisinau” – perfect timing – (laughter and applause.) I learned that the word “Chisinau” comes from a root that means “new spring.” I can’t think of a better way to capture what is happening here now or a better thing to celebrate.
So it’s my great pleasure – if I may, I’m going to make a toast. And I would like for us to be able to drink – obviously it’s just the prime minister and me who get this privilege. I’m sorry for that. (Laughter.) But we’ll drink for all of you. And I want to drink to the partnership and the friendship between the United States of America and Moldova and in the great spirit of generosity and the daring and the courage with which your government is moving to embrace a new future. And we drink to that future, to the reintegration of Europe, to the journey ahead, and to the commitment of the United States of America to help achieve that goal. Thank you. (Applause.)