Chişinau, Moldova

09 May 2022

Secretary-General's remarks to the Media in Chişinau, Moldova

Watch the video on media.un.org.

I thank the Government and people of Moldova for your warm welcome on my first visit to Chişinau.

As I told Prime Minister Gavrilita, I am here on a mission of solidarity and gratitude, to thank Moldova for your steadfast support for peace, and for your generosity in opening your borders, your homes and your hearts to almost half a million Ukrainian refugees.

Moldova is not just another country receiving refugees.

The most fragile of Ukraine’s neighbours, Moldova is by far the country that has received the most refugees, as proportion of its own population.

Moldova needs and deserves massive support to match, including budget support to match its generosity and to preserve stability.

The impact of the war in Ukraine across the region and the world is profound and far-reaching. The consequences of escalation are too frightening to contemplate.

I am deeply concerned about the continuation and possible spread of the war Russia is waging in Ukraine, and by the impact it is having not only in the region but around the world.

Neighbouring countries like Moldova are already struggling with the socio-economic ramifications of this war coming on top of COVID and the uneven recovery that unfortunately has happened in our world for lack of effective solidarity of the rich with the poor. 

The United Nations is committed to supporting not only the people of Ukraine, but also the people of Moldova during these difficult times.

Your sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and the solid progress you have made over the past three decades, must not be threatened or undermined.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine must stop. The guns must be silenced.

I urge Russia and Ukraine to step up diplomatic efforts through dialogue to urgently achieve a negotiated settlement, in line with international law and the UN Charter.

And I call on regional and international partners to support this process in the interests of global stability.

I repeat my offer to provide my good offices at any time to put an end to this senseless war.

On 9 May, of all days, we remember that dialogue and cooperation based on mutual respect are the bedrock of peace and security, in Europe and around the world.

I congratulate the Republic of Moldova on the thirtieth anniversary of joining the United Nations and thank you for your contributions and strong partnership in areas including peacekeeping, sustainable development, gender equality, climate change and I could go on and on. 

Despite the difficult and indeed tragic circumstances of my visit, I have already experienced the hospitality that is a hallmark of your country. I thank you for extending that hospitality to the 100,000 Ukrainian refugees staying in Moldova – an increase of almost 4 percent of your population.

Moldova may not be the largest or wealthiest country in Europe, but its tremendous humanity and generosity are clear for all to see.

I witnessed the horrific humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine for myself. But by standing in solidarity with Ukrainians, Moldova, together with other neighbouring countries have mounted a highly effective response to the regional refugee crisis.

I also welcome the steps Moldova and other neighbouring countries are taking to protect refugees against human trafficking, gender-based violence, and other forms of abuse.

The United Nations is supporting refugees, displaced people and host communities both inside and outside Ukraine. So far, more than 200 partners – mostly national NGOs – have reached more than 5.4 million people inside the country with aid including food, shelter, blankets, medicines and water.

But obviously, this is not enough. We need to do much more.  We are working to double our reach in some areas over the coming months. Everywhere, our operations in Ukraine focus on the most vulnerable: children, women, elderly people and those with disabilities.

Here in Moldova, and I have to say that it was not easy for the UN to readapt to a humanitarian crisis in Europe, Here, we do not have refugee camps. 

Refugees live with the families of Moldovans.  Here, we don’t have the traditional forms of humanitarian support in crisis areas of the developing world, in fragile states.  So it took some time to fully organize our work and to fully correspond to the needs of cooperation that Moldova expects in relation to the UN.  But now, we are doing everything we can in order to scale up our programs and in particular the most effective of those programs, cash assistance – because we must trust that people know what their needs are. 

We aim to support over 90,000 refugees and 55,000 Moldovan hosts, in coordination with the Government and other partners.

So far, 12 Member States have joined the EU Solidarity Platform and made pledges to transfer Ukrainian refugees from Moldova.

I encourage others to demonstrate joint responsibility and solidarity by joining this initiative.

Moldova is a small country with a big heart.

But its resources are limited.

The United Nations and our partner organizations can only support governments to meet the needs of everyone affected by this war if our two humanitarian appeals for $2.25 billion inside Ukraine and $1.85 billion for the refugee response are fully funded.

I urge all countries to give generously. In global terms, these are minuscule sums.

I also urge all countries to consider upgrading their economic partnership with Moldova, and to support opportunities for its young women and men.

The war is having a devastating impact on the Moldovan economy, with supply chains broken and fuel and food prices rising fast.

For its European Union neighbours, massive solidarity with Moldova is not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of enlightened self-interest.

Many young Moldovans are considering leaving or have already left. While many remain active in support of their country from outside, Moldova needs peace for the sake of these dynamic young agents of change, who have so much to offer.

I am speaking from personal knowledge of this subject, as one of my own youth climate advisors, Vladislav Kaim, is from Moldova. 

Our United Nations Country Team in Moldova will continue to do its best to support the Government and people throughout these serious challenges.

But above all, I want to thank Moldova for its generosity and solidarity, for its steadfast support for peace and multilateral solutions, and for its example of humanity.  

Thank you very much. 

MODERATOR: Dear Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary-General, there will be a question-and-answer session from the media. We'll take two questions for each of you, and we'll start with the question from the local media from the Republic of Moldova.

 QUESTION: Mr. Guterres, the question is to you. I would like to ask you why have you chosen to pay a visit to the Republic of Moldova today, on 9th of May, and how you see the situation in the Republic of Moldova, in the context of the war in Ukraine, the tensions which have been happening lately in the Transnistrian region, and if you think Moldova is threatened.

 SECRETARY-GENERAL: The fact that I am here on the 9th of May is a pure coincidence. This visit is programmed in association with the meeting of the [United Nations] Chief Executives Board in Vienna, and so, it was convenient, both for the Government of Moldova and for me – it is a pure coincidence. 
 I have to say that Moldova is in the front line of preservation, peace and stability in the world, with a war so close and with the divisions that we have now. My hope is that there will be a clear sense of responsibility of all the actors on both sides of the river, and that that sense of responsibility will prevent any threat to the Republic of Moldova, because the Republic of Moldova deserves peace, deserves stability, and deserves international massive support to face this enormous challenge of refugees.

QUESTION: I would like to ask you a combined question about the rising tension in the region in terms of the so-called separatist republic of Transnistria. We received different reviews and reports from there, from Ukraine intelligence, from Moldovian intelligence, and also from Russian intelligence, about rising tension, mobilization there, drone strikes. And today is the Victory Day here in Moldova, it has been celebrated, and also it has also been celebrated in Russia, and today, the Russian President told that, and he used the Monday holiday, to justify again the war in Ukraine. What is your response to this? Do you plan a mobilization here? I mean, the military? And what is the response for misinformation? Here in the region, do you expect a threat here? And, Mr. Secretary-General, I should ask you, Ukrainian refugees who are in Bulgaria are a lot. Do you planned to visit Bulgaria as well, just to see how the refugee crisis is going on, how the authorities are coping with the problem there?

 SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you very much for your question. 

Our position is very clear. We respect, and we ask the whole world to respect, the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Moldova. As I said in my initial statement, it is absolutely essential to preserve the territorial integrity, and any violation of the territorial integrity of any country, including Moldova, is a violation to international law, and it's a violation to the UN Charter. So, our position is very clear.

 Now, there are problems to be solved. The OSCE was in charge with the 5 + 2. I know that the five now are in kind of low, I would say, but the two are maintaining their contacts, as far as I know. It's important that those contacts are maintained. And the United Nations has never been part of any mediation, but we are always at the disposal for whatever we will be necessary. 

The objective is clear. Independently of small incidents that might occur or independently of false information that is propagated, the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova must be preserved. 

Now, I do not intend to visit all countries that have received refugees from Ukraine. I decided to come to Moldova for a very clear reason: Moldova does not benefit from the fact of being a member of the European Union. My country [of Portugal], even if today I do not belong to my country, but my country has benefited enormously from being a member of the European Union. The massive investment of the European Union in my country has involved the support we have during the COVID-19 and the recovery plans that were approved. 

Moldova has no access to these benefits. Moldova is a small country, with a relatively small and fragile economy, is a landlocked country with all the problems and inconveniences that a landlocked country has when there is a war. Odessa was, I suppose, the harbor from where your imports and exports more easily could reach the global markets. That harbor is closed. 

So, Moldova is by far the country that has been more impacted, having received the largest percentage of refugees in relation to its own population. So, if I wanted to see the difficult situations, if I wanted to see where it’s more problematic to support refugees, and they are being well-supported thanks to the generosity of Moldova, if I wanted to see all these things, I think I've chosen the right country to visit. Of course, I might go to other countries. 

 But, for me, the visit to Moldova is a must because Moldova is the country more impacted by this war, with less resources to face the consequences of the war, and with more generosity in receiving refugees from Ukraine.

 QUESTION: The UN tries to reach peace. On the other hand, NATO seems to go somewhere else. Don't you think that the action of NATO and the action of the UN will erase each other with serious damage to the very function of the United Nations?

 SECRETARY-GENERAL: NATO and the UN are two completely different organizations. NATO is a voluntary association of countries with the objective of ensuring their collective defence. The UN is the platform that gathers all countries in the world with the objectives that go from sustainable development, climate change, to the peace and security problems all over the world, and especially, in areas of greater fragility, like the African continent, or others of the same nature. The UN has a strong commitment to human rights, the UN has a global program for the Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals. And the UN is the platform where all countries can exchange views and can cooperate. 

 So, I think each organization has its vocation, the vocation of each must be respected, but I don't see any problem that would undermine the role of the UN.