State Secretary of Finance Dr Hubert Fuchs initiates positive economic and social stimulus in Europe's poorest country

At the centre of an official working visit by State Secretary of Finance Hubert Fuchs to the Republic of Moldova last week, collegial discussions with Moldovan President Igor Dodon and departmental ministers on further economic cooperation between the two countries were at the focus. The still-smouldering Transnistrian conflict was also on the agenda. The visit also included meetings with Austrian companies engaged in Moldova.

The Republic of Moldova is still the poorest country in Europe and dependent on support from international donors. Thus, for Moldovan departmental ministers, it is difficult to have an exchange on an equal footing with their Western departmental colleagues. As a former OSCE election observer, and someone familiar with the Republic of Moldova over many years, State Secretary of Finance Mr Fuchs was given a top-level reception last week.

Bilateral transfer of knowledge on economic and social-policy issues

At the meeting with President Igor Dodon, Finance Minister Octavian Armasu, central-bank governor Sergiu Cioclea, Minister of Economics Chiril Gaburici and opposition politicians and local representatives, Mr Fuchs discussed matters relating to economic and financial-policy reforms intended to further stimulate the current level of economic growth in Moldova of 4.5% and at the same time aimed at reinforcing social cohesion. "The Austrian experience of preparing a sound budget met with particular interest; in the social domain too, and with regard to questions of social partnership, Austrian know-how is of great interest," declared Fuchs.

Austria's substantial engagement in Moldova

Austria is a key partner for Moldova as regards "helping people to help themselves". For example, in the capital Chisinau, not only does the Austrian Development Agency have a representative office, but various Austrian ministries also have a local presence there in the form of aid projects. Furthermore, private aid organisations such as Concordia, Caritas, Diakonie and Hilfswerk Austria are undertaking vital work. State Finance Secretary Fuchs was able to see for himself at the Caritas Child Crisis Centre "Petruska" how are necessary and targeted this assistance is.

In addition, in the capital Chisinau, as well as in the city of Comrat, Fuchs met with entrepreneurs operating in Moldova. He took the opportunity to stress the prospects on offer and encourage them to continue their engagement in the country. Dr Fuchs also visited the Holocaust Memorial in Chisinau.

Trust-building steps in the Transnistrian conflict

State Secretary Fuchs, who has previously worked in the Republic of Moldova as an election observer for the OSCE, also addressed the unresolved Transnistrian conflict, which has been dividing the country for many years. In discussions with the de facto Foreign Minister of Transnistria and chief negotiator in the "Transdniestrian settlement process", Vitaly Ignatiev, the latter expressed his gratitude for Austrian mediation efforts during the OSCE chairmanship in 2017.

State Secretary Fuchs declared that, "after many years of deadlock in the Transnistrian conflict, under the Austrian OSCE chairmanship, five protocol declarations were successfully signed. Their content related to reopening of the Gura Bicului – Bychok Bridge on 18 November 2017 and four other agreements at the 5+2 meeting in Vienna on 27 November 2017". Actual implementation of one of the protocols, the agreement on a mechanism for the participation of vehicles from Transnistria in international road traffic (the so-called "Licence Plate Agreement") was officially signed by the chief negotiators on both sides immediately following Fuchs's visit. "All of this contributes to the political and economic stabilisation of this post-Soviet country and of the whole region between the Danube and the Black Sea," affirmed Fuchs.