I am on my way to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. It will be the first time I travel there as Commissioner for Trade, but I have been there before. I was very happy to be able to grant visa freedom to Moldova as Commissioner for Home Affairs in April of last year. Thanks to that visa freedom, hundreds of thousands of Moldovan citizens have been able to enjoy visa free travel to the EU.
Moldova is a country in the EU's Eastern Partnership. A little more than a year ago, a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) went into effect between us. It has lowered barriers to trade and ensured that Moldovan exports to the EU are rising, even though the country is going through tough economic times.
The DCFTA is important, because more than half of all Moldovan exports go to the EU, and there is now a lot of potential for a growth, jobs and economic development, providing a vitamin injection to the Moldovan economy. The agreement is also promoting foreign investment in the country that can further spur growth.
But all is not rosy. Recently, a major banking scandal was revealed, and Moldova also faces trade restrictions with other major partners, which has made a dent in growth and slowed down the pace of reform. I go there to confirm that the EU is continuously providing assistance to help with the reform process.
In Chisinau today and tomorrow, I will meet with the President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Economy. My message in these meetings will be that the EU has a strong partnership with Moldova, and that I am pleased that the DCFTA has now been in place for more than a year. There is however significant work to be done - the reform agenda needs to brought back up to speed and the fight against corruption must continue. The EU is committed to our Eastern Partners and we will do all that we can in order to support them in their reform efforts.