The White House
Office of the Vice President
Opera House Square
2:15 P.M. (Local)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Filat, and most importantly, Tina, your daughter who is sitting there with my granddaughter Finnegan. They’re 12-years-old each. I’m not sure if Finnegan is going to come home with me. This is so beautiful.
Hello, Chisinau. (Applause.) And hello to everyone across the street. (Applause.) I want to thank you all on behalf of me and Jill, my wife, and our granddaughter for according us such a great honor on such a beautiful day.
And I’d like to also thank all the people of Moldova for hosting this visit. I have heard about your hospitality, but what I heard does not do justice to the hospitality I’ve received. Again, thank you very, very much. (Applause.)
On behalf of President Obama, I want to say that this is truly a special privilege — a privilege to be here at this transformative moment in your history, and quite frankly the history of the world. There is much, much that is changing not only here in Central and Eastern Europe, but in North Africa, in the Middle East and throughout the world. Freedom is in the air. (Applause.) And democracy is emerging in countries that for generations have known nothing but authoritarian rule.
In Tunisia and Egypt, people stood up for their rights, and they’re now taking their first tentative steps toward democracy. In Libya, people are fighting for those same rights in the face of violence from their own government. And here — here in this region, it has been over 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the United States has worked with you for a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. (Applause.)
We’re not quite there yet, but let me tell you this we will stand-by-side with you as we finish this job. (Applause.) I come to Moldova from Moscow. Russia and America are partners on a wide range of global challenges. And over the past two years, we have reset our relations and produced real benefits — not only for the Russian people and the American people, but I believe for the people of this region and the world, as well.
When I was in Russia, I spoke with the leaders of the Russian government as well as the political opposition, leaders of business as well as civil society. I spoke with them straightforwardly about the need to fight corruption, the need to strengthen democratic institutions, the need for a judicial system that is both trusted and fair.
In Georgia, we support the emergence of a strong democracy and free markets, and the integrity of Georgia’s territory. We also are working with both parties — Russians and Georgians — to reduce the threat of renewed conflict. In Ukraine, the world welcomed the Orange Revolution, but there is much hard work remaining to be done to sustain its success. The Ukrainian people want a future that is democratic and European, and we intend to help them see it through.
The people of Belarus have demanded and they deserve basic rights. We have condemned the government of Belarus for the repression of its own citizens. We’ve joined the European Union in imposing sanctions against that government, and we call for the immediate release of all political prisoners. (Applause.)
I am here today to congratulate you, not only on the 20th anniversary of your independence, but for the powerful — (Applause.) Yes, you can clap for yourselves. (Applause.) But also for the powerful message your journey toward democracy has sent to millions of people beyond your border.
You should be proud — proud of what you have done. Your experience here in Moldova proves that political transition can be peaceful, that free and fair elections and a genuine commitment to reform can turn democratic values into reality, and that around the world — people around the world yearn for basic rights and freedom, no matter what language they use to demand them.
You know from your own experience that achieving democracy is not easy, but you also know it is worth the struggle. (Applause.) President Obama and I along with the American people have watched that struggle and celebrated your successes, and we are determined to help you build on your achievements. We strongly support your commitment to political and economic reforms and taking on hard issues.
While we applaud your progress, let me be clear, there can be no democracy without a transparent legal system, without a commitment to fight corruption and an end to human trafficking. (Applause.)
On Transnistria, America has supported and will continue to support a settlement — not any settlement, but a settlement that preserves Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity — (applause) — within — within your internationally recognized borders.
Formal negotiations with a real agenda should resume as soon as possible. Transnistria’s future lies inside Moldova — (applause) — within — within the community of Europe. The people of Moldova deserve an end to a dispute that has divided this great country for far too long. (Applause.)
Folks, political change is hard. Economic reform can be even harder, especially when unemployment is high and prices are rising. People everywhere, including in my own country, America, worry about jobs and prices, as well. But as you reform your economy, more foreign investment will flow into Moldova, more of Moldova’s businesses will enter foreign markets. And that will add up to higher paying jobs and more jobs.
As you continue on this journey, I promise you, America will be your partner. Over five years, the United States — over the next five years, the United States will provide a quarter of a billion dollars — $262 million to support your agricultural industry. (Applause.) This assistance, God willing, will improve your roads to help your farmers get their goods to market, will make it easier for your farmers to secure the loans they need to buy better equipment. We will work with the Moldovan government on economic policies to grow your economy to attract foreign investment, train civil society to become more effective advocates and help improve Moldova’s schools.
And by the way, Moldova has made its own contributions — significant contributions to American society and to American culture. Let me give you two recent examples. A fellow named Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, who is the newly elected mayor of Chicago in Illinois, America’s third largest city, he says that he has inherited his legendary toughness from his Moldovan grandfather. (Applause.) I’m serious. Who became a labor leader in America after emigrating to the United States.
And someone we appreciate even more, Natalie Portman, who last month won an Academy Award for best actress in America, I don’t know whether you know this, but she told us she carries in her wallet a picture, a photograph of her Moldovan grandmother. (Applause.)
And I know this is not on the teleprompter, but she’s a heck of a lot better looking than Rahm Emmanuel. (laughter.)
Look, folks, what Moldovans — what all of you want for your future America supports, as well: a democratic and prosperous European state, a better life for you and your families.
America will walk with you on this journey you’ve undertaken for a simple reason: because a successful Moldova will benefit this region; it will benefit Europe; and it will benefit the United States of America. You’re small. You’re a small country, but you are tackling large consequential issues head-on. I believe you and your leaders are up to that challenge. A better future is within your reach.
Take a look around you. Think about your families. Think about your children. Think about what you left 20 years ago. Think about freedom, democracy and prosperity — what it will mean to your families and your children. When you do that, I assure you no matter how tough the road, it will never be too hard.
And I’m proud — I’m proud to have had the opportunity to stand with you today to offer my country’s congratulations and support on your 20th anniversary of independence and your continued — your continued move toward democratic institutions and becoming part of Europe.
Thank you. May God bless America and may God bless Moldova. Thank you. (Applause.)