There is a common saying in Moldova.
And I have been told that you can roughly translate it as “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
And I believe, this is why we are all here today, standing together as friends. Because a friend of us really needs us and this is not only Ukraine but this is also Moldova.
And therefore I welcome from the bottom of our heart Prime Minister Gavrilita, dear Natalia, and also our colleague Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu today in Berlin.
You and your compatriots have turned these words - “A friend in need is a friend indeed” - into concrete humanitarian action over the past few weeks.
When I travelled to Chisinau and the Moldovan-Ukrainian border last month, what struck me above all was the immense solidarity displayed by your citizens.
Around 400,000 refugees have crossed from Ukraine into Moldova over the past few weeks. They arrived in a country of some 2.6 million inhabitants - this is roughly as many as in Chicago, Toronto or Rome.
Chisinau’s mayor, Ion Ceban, showed me how the people of his city have welcomed their Ukrainian friends and neighbours with – quite literally – open arms. Despite freezing temperatures, officials and many volunteers have been organising shelters, beds and buses; they have opened their private homes, their childrens’ rooms, their living rooms. They have been handing out hot tea and food - reaching out their hands to friends in need.
It is truly impressive what they have been doing over the last weeks and we all applaud you for it.
Talking to refugees at the border highlighted to me just how dire the situation is. Many of these women and children do not have relatives they can join in other parts of Europe.
They are on their own – often with babies who need shelter, with children who obviously should be in school or in kindergarten.
It is abundantly clear that no country in the world, neither Germany, nor France, nor Romania – nor Moldova – can handle this huge challenge on its own. We can only shoulder this together as friends.
And there is another wise saying in Moldova: “I may not have 100 roubles, but I have 100 friends.”
And this also reflects what it is happening today in Berlin. We started to plan this conference only a few days ago. But within minutes, many of you said: “Yes, we will come. And we will come in person”. We are welcoming 47 delegations today, 39 directly in Berlin, the rest digitally, many ministers, prime ministers, many international organisations. It is good to see you all here together in Berlin. I would like to especially welcome my dear colleague and friend Jean-Yves Le Drian, Bogdan Aurescu who have the co-chair of the conference today.
The Moldova Support Platform is a bridge of solidarity between friends, but only as a starting point. Because this is not just a single-day event but this is a bridge for the future.
The goal of the platform, and today’s conference, is two-fold:
First of all, we want to mobilise immediate support for Moldova - politically, financially, and in-kind – according to the requirements of our Moldovan partners.
But this is not a favour to Moldova. This is about us, it’s also about our security. It’s about our common European peace project, it’s our responsibility. This conference here today - this bridge between friends - is bigger than Moldova. It is a bridge for human security and human solidarity.
One crucial aspect will be to show solidarity in the relocation of Ukrainian refugees. And I‘m glad that we have already been able to organise many flights - from Chisinau to Germany for 300 people and many partners have joined with planes also leaving from Chisinau. We will call on other partners to join this effort.
Because what we need now are concrete commitments and we are giving them today at this common platform.
And we have a second goal: the need to look beyond the here and now and to help address Moldova’s longer-term needs and security.
Let me be very clear on this: Russia’s war is not just an attack on the Ukrainian people. It is also an attack on our rule-based international order and our values that connect us all. This is also what this conference is all about. It is about freedom, peace and the right to self-determination.
All people have the right to decide their own future.
No one should be at the mercy of their stronger neighbour - neither the people of Ukraine, nor the people of Moldova.
That’s why we want to strengthen our cooperation with Moldova beyond immediate needs, for the long term. Together with our Moldovan partners, we want to assess how we can help reduce Moldova’s dependency on Russia – economically, financially, and with a view to energy needs – and to strengthen the country’s resilience.
And I’m very thankful that not only 47 delegations are here but also that many partners have agreed to co-chair the different thematic baskets. So besides France, Romania and Germany, Canada, the US, Italy, UK, Sweden and the European Commission will serve as co-chairs.
In the field of energy, we want to look at dependency and see how Moldova can diversify and enhance its renewable energies to become more energy efficient – particularly in the light of rising prices.
We will look at how to support the government’s efforts to fight against corruption and to strengthen the rule of law. We want to identify the main challenges and opportunities regarding the next steps for justice reform.
Thirdly, we will look at border management because the situation is - as has shown in the last few days again - very tense. So therefore we also support border management and border control at this conference.
And we will discuss how Moldova’s economic resilience can be strengthened so that the government can undertake its planned reforms. To this end - and as a starting point for today’s conference - we, Germany, have made an untied financial loan of 50 million euros available to meet the financial needs of the Moldovan government.
We have also ramped up our humanitarian assistance to the whole region with 370 million euros: this contribution will also be used to address acute humanitarian needs in Moldova.
This afternoon -and this is what this conference is all about - we will elaborate on our contributions in the other tracks on how we can support Moldova.
I want to thank the co-leads for their willingness to work on these five themes, in close cooperation with the Moldovan government. And I’m grateful that we have crucial international organisations and international financial institutions at this table but also on board for the upcoming months.
It is clear to me that we can only respond to this crisis effectively if we act together as friends who stand up for each other, as friends to be united - and with concrete actions, with concrete solidarity and with concrete financial support.
Thanks to you all for being here today and thank you especially to the Moldovan government for joining us today, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, with a strong delegation here today in Berlin.