REC delegation looks to strengthen ties, establish environmental priorities, develop funding opportunities
A four-person delegation from the REC travelled to Moldova to visit key partner institutions and embassies in Chisinau on September 28-29, 2017. The delegation members were Mihail Dimovski, REC Executive Director; Ruza Radovic, Head of Business Development; Bruno Mesquita, Chief of Staff; and Xenia Cechina, Business Development Manager.
The mission objectives were to introduce the new REC Executive Director to key partners in Moldova, to assess the key priorities for the environment as perceived by the relevant Moldovan institutions, to identify contact points between those priorities and donor interests, to discuss ideas related to potential interventions, to discuss the ongoing process of Moldova acquiring REC membership and of opening a REC country office.
European integration, environmental priorities, administrative reforms
On September 28, the delegation met first with Svetlana, Zhekov, EU High-Level Advisor on Environment to the Minister of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment to discuss the implementation of the EU Association Agreement and central administration reforms in progress.
Afterwards, the delegation visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, meeting with Deputy Minister Daniela Morari and Counsellor Angelica Munteanu, both of whom stated that EU approximation, modernisation of Moldova and the fulfilment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are key objectives of the current government, along with closer strategic cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries.
The environment chapter under the Association Agreement is, according the ministry delegates, a high on the country’s list of national reform priorities, and that progress has been made in some areas already, such as: the adoption of the “Law on Strategic Environmental Assessment; action plans on soil conservation emissions reduction; an energy package including gas, electricity and renewables; and the implementation of a green economic framework as a basis of sustainable development.
The REC was asked to assist in building capacity and raising levels of awareness and education to support the implementation central administration reforms. Another challenge to address is to implement new legislative requirements currently included under the framework of the National Action Plan to Implement the Association Agreement for 2017-2019 and the Association Agenda detailing government priorities., in which context the REC was invited to offer its own ideas and suggestions. Regarding Moldova’s efforts to acquire REC membership, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration will restart the process after a short delay because of administrative changes.
During a visit to the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment, the REC delegation met with Ion Apostol, Deputy Ministry of Environment; Dorin Andros, State Secretary in the Ministry of Constructions and Territorial Development; Maria Nagornii, Head of the Policy Department in the Ministry of Environment; and Olga Popovic, International Relations Department. Regarding the Association Agreement, the ministerial delegation mentioned the need to harmonise national policy documents with the EU acquis, adding that Moldova has already developed strategies on waste management, biodiversity, climate adaptation, and low emissions development. The REC, for its part, offered to facilitate the process through capacity building within the ministry.
Regarding Moldova’s central administration reform, the previously eight subordinate agencies to the ministry will be reduced to four, including the establishment of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will, among other duties, be responsible for permitting. The REC is committed to assist in establishing and developing the EPA and inspectorate, as well as helping to achieve the SDGs and ‘green economy’ principles.
In terms of specific challenges, the ministerial delegation mentioned solid waste management, water-related issues, and sanitation. By the end of the year, a new law on chemicals will be passed and a special agency will be created, for which the REC has been requested to assist in capacity building. Regarding regional development, Moldova’s top priorities are water and sanitation, obtaining private sector support, solid waste management, roads, and energy efficiency in public buildings, and there is a fund in place to help finance projects in the region to achieve these goals.
Involvement with the international community
The continued its mission with a series of visits to the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Embassy of the United States of American, Embassy of Sweden, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Delegation of the European Union, Swiss Cooperation Office (SDC), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), REC Moldova and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
At the Austrian Development Agency, the REC delegation met with Alexander Karner, Counsellor and Head of the ADA Coordination Office for Technical Cooperation; and Daniela Petrusevschi, Programme Manager for Water and Environment. The ADA stated that it is open to cooperating with the REC on capacity building, specifically in supporting Moldova’s new EPA. The ADA has annual work programmes for implementing the country strategy for 2016-2020, of which the REC offered to share in implementation of the Local Initiatives for Democratic Development and Ukraine and Moldova (LINK2). In terms of future action, the ADA stated that climate will be an increasingly important area for Moldova that ought to connect with the national development strategy.
At the U.S. Embassy, the REC delegation met with Jeanette E. Tyson, Charles Vetter and Benjamin Williams from the Policial-Economic Section to discuss the REC’s plans to expand its operations in Moldova and Ukraine, and exchanged views on key environmental issues affecting Moldova.
During its visit to the Embassy of Sweden and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the REC delegation met with Adam Amberg, Deputy Head of Mission/Head of Development Cooperation; and Virgina Bilici, National Programme Officer. The host delegation mentioned the need to perform a needs assessment that would help Moldova’s state authorities to lay the ground for creating the EPA. The embassy also said that CSOs in Moldova should have a greater positive impact on the lives of citizens. In light of the REC’s ongoing support for CSOs in the country, the REC asked Sida to exchange information on their work to avoid overlaps and to make sure that both streams of aid complement each other.
During its visit to the Delegation of the European Union, the REC team met with Aneil Singh, First Counsellor and Head of Cooperation; and Christian Ballaro, Attache and Project Manager on Environment and Climate Change. The EU party explained that the approximation agenda is the main driver of policy in Moldova, and that top goals of structural administrative reforms are the consolidation of competences and to create room in the budget to increase the wages of civil servants. Concerning environmental issues, the delegation mentioned that much remains to be done regarding water and sanitation. Another domestic challenge is population reduction through emigration, which can affect the viability of investments in communities across the country. The EU delegation would like to involve CSOs in large infrastructure projects to guarantee buy-in from the from affected populations—e.g. investments in water and sanitation infrastructure requiring users to pay fees. To this end, the REC was invited to provide ideas on how to increase citizen engagement, and the EU delegation expressed its willingness to receive proposals related to environment, transport and energy.
The REC delegation later met with Matthias Leicht-Miranda, Deputy Director of Cooperation from the Swiss Cooperation Office to discuss SDC priorities, which are currently focused on water and sanitation, and particularly on small rural operation. The SDC acknowledged the REC has having the capacity to bring added value to river basin management and institutional support activities in the water sector, and as being a potential key partner in supporting CSOs through a granting mechanism.
At the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the REC delegation met with EBRD Senior Banker Alexandru Cosovan, who mentioned that his organisation is working on a new, five-year strategy that focuses on iproving municipal services, water supply and tariffs, solid waste, energy and commercialisation of public services. The REC received an offer to help with developing feasibility studies for new projects and other technical assistance components. The REC, meanwhile, offered to cooperate initiatives focusing on low emission development strategies, energy efficiency, and achieving Paris Agreement objectives.
During its visit to USAID, the REC delegation met with Daniel Thomson from the Economic Growth Office; and Corneliu Rusnac, Senior Project Management Specialist/Economic Growth. The hosts mentioned that USAID is currently focused on: developing supply clusters of high value and finding markets for their sale; working with several industries to enhance their competitiveness and foster enterprise development; implementing a structural reform project on regulatory initiatives; supporting implementation of the Association Agreement; supporting the adoption of the Energy Community’s third package; and developing combined cycle power plant in Moldova.
In concluding REC-related affairs, the visiting delegation met with Gabriela Capcelea, Executive Director of REC Moldova, and with former REC Moldova Executive Director Victor Cotruta, to discuss the legal frameworks and operational activities both REC Moldova and REC Central and Eastern Europe.