Modern day Moldova – Past, present, future defined

Ambassador Oleg Țulea was born and raised in the small town of Căușeni, in the south-east of his country. After graduating from Moldova State University with a licentiate degree in political sciences in 2002, he completed two master’s programs in political sciences and political management at Moldova State University and at the Post-Academic School "Ovidiu Șincai" in Bucharest, Romania.

In 2005, following a period of activity in the nongovernmental sector, he was elected as a Member of Parliament at the age of 25. Ambassador Țulea served two terms in Parliament and held the position of Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports between these terms.

His diplomatic career began in 2016 here in Hungary. Leveraging his experience in parliament and government, the still youngish Țulea took to the idea of accepting the challenge of another new chapter in his distinguished journey and professional career by joining the diplomatic service as the Ambassador of Moldova to Hungary, as well as to Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and serving as the Permanent Representative to the Danube Commission, which is based in Budapest. This remarkable ambassadorship has enabled him to contribute to strengthening the already excellent relations between Hungary and Moldova, which are two friendly countries bonded by a Strategic Partnership signed during Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s visit to Chișinău in 2020.

For nine months in 2020, Ambassador Țulea had the honour to serve as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration back home. Following the dissolution of the governmental coalition in November 2020, he concluded his ministerial duties and returned to Budapest in both a new and old capacity as Ambassador to Hungary for a second term.

In his home life, the Țulea family finds great inspiration with reading and music. Professionally, he much enjoys leading a team of like-minded people, achieved by fostering the growth of each team member, and setting and achieving collective goals. Together with his wife, Lilia, they are proud parents of two children, Calliope (16) and Magnus (11).


It has been a remarkable 30-plus years for your country, as it has been for post-1989 Europe in general. What have been Moldova’s greatest and most memorable achievements in this memorable time?

Thank you for your warm welcome. Over the last 30 years Moldova has achieved significant milestones that I would like to highlight. First of all, the independence, democratic governance and freedoms that were gained under very dramatic circumstances were finally fulfilled. The fundamental change in the political and social systems within Moldova brought about many major reforms, sometimes very difficult and painful, in all spheres within our people. In the first few years post-1991, Moldova joined various international organizations, established bilateral diplomatic relations with countries all over the world, and signed international treaties vital for the internal and foreign policy of a sovereign and democratic state.

Another notable achievement is the consolidation of our democratic institutions and our commitment to a European path, which led to the signing of the association treaty with the European Union and gaining visa-free travel for our citizens to the Schengen Area. This was a significant achievement, improving mobility for all Moldovans and symbolizing closer ties with Europe. Not to be forgotten is also the Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement, which continues to provide great opportunities for our economy. Over 65% of our exports go to the EU. This was a major breakthrough and defines Moldova’s commitment to aligning with EU standards and practices, helping us reorient from a historical dependency on the Russian Federation market to a more stable and predictable modern-day EU market. With the implementation of the Association Agreement, the liberalization of the visa regime, and the gradual integration into the EU internal market, the de-facto integration of Moldova into the European political and economic area is now assuringly taking place with great results.

In 2023, we celebrated a truly monumental moment in our history. After these and other important periods, we successfully made our bid for European Union membership. The Member States of the joint Union issued a positive vote for the opening of accession talks with my country. This remarkable decision marked the most important step so far towards our accession to the great family of the European Union.

In recent years we have worked closely with all state institutions to implement essential reforms. There is a common understanding that this is just the beginning of our journey to full EU membership. Important negotiations and continued reforms still await us, but we are determined to follow this path because we know that joining the EU is the only real way to prosperity, stability, and security.


Unfortunately Moldova, alongside the rest of the world, is still generally unsure about Russia’s next move and when this all-out war with Ukraine will finally end. Who is winning? Or if no one is to win, will this lead to another Cold War era?

Allow me, first, to mention that Moldova firmly condemns this unprovoked and illegal aggression, which is highly destabilizing for Moldova too. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of our neighboring country, Moldova has faced many challenges, which clearly contribute to high inflation, disrupted trade, energy issues and a refugee crisis. The war has highlighted Moldova’s national security fragility and the need to enhance its resilience to the various security challenges, including the hybrid threats emanating from the Russian Federation, such as illicitly injecting funds into Moldovan politics, using energy as a persuasive tool, disseminating disinformation, launching cyber-attacks, or training fake protesters to target law enforcement and state institutions, to which we are constantly exposed. As we have already seen in the past few years, the primary objective of these hybrid operations is to undermine the European Union and the pro-EU position of the current Government in Chișinău, primarily through manipulation and propaganda, use of Russia-controlled mass media and sympathetic politicians to shape narratives portraying the EU as a threat to Moldovan identity and values.

The Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine is the biggest security crisis in Europe since World War II. The uncertainty and instability this brings affects us all. While it is and will be difficult to declare a “winner” in such a devastating situation, a clear thing is the profound impact this war will continue to have, when theoretically over and away from the battlefield, on human lives, the environment, as well as with regional and global security. But as you rightly pointed out in your question, there are uncertainties on how and when the war in Ukraine will end. But it is clear that the confrontation between Russia and the West can still continue to grow on a global scale even if some kind of ceasefire or settlement is reached between Ukraine and Russia, and it can definitely lead to a new Cold War era, with new aftermath characteristics. Of course, the global context is more complex today. I see this as a negative scenario, especially as a citizen of a country which is neighboring Ukraine and which, as many other countries in the world, relies on the rules-based international order.


With my recent trip to your country, I very much received the impression that pro-EU President Maia Sandu, in EU flag-waving Chișinău, is very popular. But I can imagine she has critics too, especially those who live in the breakaway Transnistria region. But regardless of them and anyone else similar, she and the majority still want to join the EU as soon as possible and move away from the Russian sphere, despite continual threats. How do you, the EU politicians and your country people deal with these concerns in honour of your future generational aspirations? And can you give me an EU ascension date too?

While it’s true that there are critics, the majority of Moldovans are in favor of our country joining the EU anytime in the near future. Every public survey since the beginning of the 2000s has indicated a clear pro-EU majority in our society. Every general election since 2010, including the most recent one, has shown clear support for the EU parties. The last election was won by a party with a clear pro-EU agenda. We address these concerns through continuous dialogue and by demonstrating the tangible benefits of European integration, which is valid for every corner of Moldova, including the Transnistrian region.

While it is still a challenge to provide an exact accession date, we are diligently working towards this goal with much support and guidance from our European partners. We have set our mindset to achieve joining the EU in 2030 and are even having an internal political debate about whether this timeline is realistic. I personally believe it is, given that some Member States had a much shorter negotiation period for their accession. The process of extensive reforms in all areas must contribute to this rapprochement of the Republic of Moldova with the European Union. We must be honest: it will depend on our capacity to implement these reforms, on our human resources, and on our technical capacity to deliver the necessary legislative approximations and structural reforms in various areas, from justice to agriculture, so that we are ready to be a member of the European Union when the time is right.

The first stage of assessing the degree of compliance of national legislation with the European one, called screening, was finalized in May, and in June Moldova aims to meet the only remaining condition of the European Commission, the justice reform, in order to officially start accession talks from here onwards.


Moving away from politics and onto Moldovan life and culture, whilst I was in your capital in April I noticed there are many flight connections to various parts of Europe to and from your capital. I also noticed that there are many new campaigns to promote local tourism, as noticed at the Chișinău tourist information centre on the main, central St. Stefan Boulevard. Please tell me something more about the Moldovan tourist market and who are the main visitors?

Moldova has been actively promoting its tourism sector, focusing on our rich cultural heritage, beautiful landscapes, and world-renowned wine industry. In 2021, after the pandemic, Moldova launched a country promotion campaign with the message “Moldova: A place to find yourself,” dedicated to redefining its position on the international tourist scene. This campaign illustrates the unexplored potential we have, expressed through the symbiosis between nature and music, gastronomy and wine, adventure, and other authentic experiences through which anyone can find and refresh themselves in a convincing and positive way.

Moldova is a charming country between Romania and Ukraine, and if you like to bring back from your visit not only souvenirs but also unforgettable impressions and fond memories, Moldova, with its friendly people will deliver and will continually surprise you – especially if you are an active outdoor enthusiast and wine connoisseur or enthusiast. There are many great landscaped adventures and impressions ahead when hiking through ancient forests. One can also explore Moldova by kayak, sail on the Dniester and Prut rivers, photograph highly scenic lavender fields and sleep in barrels, (This exclusive matter literally relates to accommodation inside a wine barrel – as seen here. This also leads to exploring the galleries of the world’s largest winery, witness the hordes of pelicans on Lake Beleu, and visit captivating cave monasteries, all of which will bring newfound charms to anyone’s horizons.

The capital, Chișinău, serves as a hub with numerous flight connections to a number of destinations around Europe, facilitating easier access for tourists. Nowadays, travel visas are no longer required for many outside visitors to enter Moldova. The majority of tourists come from neighboring countries but we are increasingly seeing visitors from Western Europe and beyond. According to official statistics, in 2023 our country was visited by tourists from Romania (38.9%), Italy (14.4%), Ukraine (14.0%), Germany (5.3%), the United States of America (5.2%), Belgium (4.5%), France (3.3%), and Poland (3.0%).


What are the main features of Moldovan life and culture? I sensed that local traditions are very apparent. There is a defining wine culture too. How does Moldovan wine compare to others?

Moldovan life is deeply rooted in traditions and culture. Our festivals, music, and dance reflect the rich cultural tapestry of our nation. As you probably know, some of the reasons that make Moldova an amazing country are the world’s largest underground cellars, ancient wine-making culture, and incredible local cuisine. Due to our favourable climate, as well as our rich, fertile soil, one of the most defining aspects of our culture is our wine industry, but we should not forget that Moldovan fruits and vegetables have rich, special textures too.

Wine-making is deeply ingrained in our culture through history and tradition, and it is true that 25% of the country’s people are involved in producing various quantities of wines. My country has one of the oldest wine cultures in the world, dating back thousands of years, and our vintage and recent time wines are constantly gaining international recognition. Compared to other wines from elsewhere, Our wines are distinguished by their unique flavors and the use of indigenous grape varieties such as Feteasca Neagră, Rară Neagră, and Viorica.


For those new to Moldova, where would you recommend first-timers to go for a holiday?

I am aware that my country is not yet discovered by the majority of outside tourist markets, but I assure you it has much to offer and is waiting to be discovered in terms of natural beauty, distinct culture and timely history. For those keen on wine and vineyard cultures, check out our industrious local scene as well as visiting the largest wine cellars in the world, which have earned recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records. Moldova is also a destination for religious tourism, offering its guests much tranquility and an authentic rural life experience. I am pleased to learn that foreign guests are keen to visit our church caves and are also enthusiastic to explore agrotourism in the rural areas. The picturesque countryside and traditional villages offer a peaceful and genuine repast to the real and enchanting Moldovan lifestyles.

For first-time visitors, I highly recommend exploring Chișinău, with its beautiful parks, historical buildings, fine museums and vibrant open-air markets. Additionally, the Orheiul Vechi archaeological complex offers a glimpse into our bygone past. Then there are the wine cellars such as Cricova, Milestii Mici, Asconi, Purcari fairly nearby.


Please tell me something about Saint Stefan and why he is so symbolically important to Moldova today? Does St. Stefan have any famous words of wisdom?

Stephen the Great, also known as Stephen III of Moldavia, was the greatest ruler of the Principality of Moldavia, reigning from 1457 to 1504. His qualities as a good strategist and diplomat, the initiatives undertaken to develop culture by founding an impressive number of churches and monasteries, and the battles fought and won to defend the integrity of the country turned him into a symbol of our national pride and the main historical figure. The main street in Chișinău is named after him, his statue in the center of the capital also acts as a clear meeting point, and you will find his portrait on each Moldovan banknote.

The image of the symbolic ruler is linked to the famous phrase: “Moldova did not belong to my ancestors, it was not mine and it is not yours, but of your descendants and of the descendants of your descendants forever.” For those who are interested in learning more about Stephen the Great, I would recommend a great tourist route: Stephen the Great Travel.


Is there a Moldovan community in Budapest? When do your compatriots celebrate the next independence anniversary?

Yes, there is a small vibrant Moldovan community here, which includes the students at Hungarian universities. The Embassy is a great host of all the events and gatherings organized by our diaspora, which includes celebrating the anniversary of independence on August 27. These celebrations are a testament to our strong national identity and the bonds we share with our compatriots abroad.


Finally, what are your professional, personal highlights and memories from your time in Hungary?

Serving as the Ambassador of my country to Hungary has been an enriching experience both professionally and personally. Building bridges between our peoples and promoting mutual understanding has been a deeply rewarding endeavor. Moldova and Hungary are connected by a Strategic Partnership, formalized in Chișinău during Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s visit in March 2020. This partnership is governed by an advanced bilateral legal framework, emphasizing Hungary’s role as one of Moldova’s most faithful and trustworthy partners.

Our bilateral cooperation spans various areas, including the economy, tourism, security, culture, and education. Hungary’s support for Moldova’s European integration, especially through sharing its experience with EU-related reforms, is truly exemplary.

A highlight of this year has been the strengthening of our high-level political dialogue, marked by several important visits. These include Prime Minister Dorin Recean’s visit to Budapest in January, the visits of Minister of Foreign Affairs Mihai Popșoi and Deputy Minister for European Integration Cristina Gherasimov in May, and Hungarian Minister of Agriculture István Nagy’s visit to Chișinău in April. The Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, László Kövér, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, will visit Chișinău this September.

In terms of bilateral economic cooperation, there is great potential for business communities from both sides. Bilateral trade is growing steadily, reaching approximately USD 230 million in 2023. The cooperation between our parliaments is exemplary, especially within the framework of twinning projects, and friendship groups have been established in both legislative bodies.

Each year, 40 Moldovan students benefit from the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship program. Recent cultural exchanges have been noteworthy, including a memorable concert by our great composer Eugen Doga in Székesfehérvár and performances by our National Theatre “Mihai Eminescu” on the stage of the National Theatre of Hungary.

After my first tenure, and still today, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been posted to Hungary. It became a second home to my family and myself. I am extremely grateful to my Hungarian friends, both officials and to local people, who made us feel welcome and supported me professionally in many ways. I always advise my fellow citizens to visit Budapest, especially now that it is so easy to reach from Chișinău with Wizz Air. I suggest they follow my personal itineraries while discovering Hungary and its people and culture.

Start with Budapest, the enchanting “Pearl of the Danube,” at the magnificent Buda Castle, and explore the impressive Parliament. The city itself is a living museum, adorned with architectural marvels such as the Parliament and the Opera House. Experiencing the thermal baths, enjoying Hungarian cuisine – especially Mangalica pork – and exploring the capital are the best ways to start discovering Hungarian culture.

I also recommend exploring the nearby countryside, starting with Szentendre and continuing to Visegrád and the magnificent Esztergom. Additionally, there are wonderful places to visit all around Hungary, such as the amazing Lake Balaton and historical cities such as Eger, Székesfehérvár, Pécs, and Győr.

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