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19th Oct 2018

Romania lobbies for EU entry 'perspective' for Moldova

Brussels should give Moldova a clear perspective for future EU entry on the model of the Western Balkan states, Romanian president Traian Basescu said in the European Parliament on Wednesday (31 January) in a sign of how Europe's poorest state stands to benefit from the Bucharest lobby inside the EU.

"The people of Moldova susbcribe to European values. I'm not talking about the Republic of Moldova, but the values of the people of Moldova who feel extremely European," he said. "If we think of countries that have a European perspective we should think of Moldova and the Western Balkans."

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The president showed sensitivity to Europe's current anti-enlargement climate by adding that "Romania absolutely agrees the EU's first priority is the constitutional treaty and institutional reform."

His aside about "the Republic" referred to Moldova president Vladimir Voronin's recent pro-Moscow swing.

But the linkage of Moldova with the Western Balkan countries - some of which are already EU candidates and all of which got a firm promise that their "future lies in the EU" at the December 2006 EU summit - runs counter to prevalent EU thinking on Moldova as a European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) state instead.

The ENP, which covers 19 countries in a ring stretching from Morocco to Belarus, gives zero promise of enlargement with EU-hopefuls such as Moldova or Ukraine seeing the policy as a 10-year or more waiting room before any talks on accession can even begin.

Moldova wants to break out of the ENP club by converting its current "Partnership and Cooperation Agreement" with the EU - which expires in mid-2008 - into a new "Association Agreement" with a declaration that gives clear commitments on future accession: a feat that Ukraine is also trying and failing to accomplish.

"We have to take one step at a time," Hans-Gert Poettering, the European Parliament president and self-proclaimed confidante of German leader Angela Merkel, said on Mr Basescu's ideas.

"We have to assist Moldova in moving along its European line. But we've got to bridge the next few years with a neighbourhood policy."

A Moldovan diplomat told EUobserver "we are not asking for detailed terms but we do want a clear perspective to be built into the commitments," comparing his country to EU candidate Macedonia. "We have the same level of development, the territory is about the same size, the population is about the same size."

He acknowledged that Moldova's problem with Trasdniestria - a breakaway republic on its eastern border stuffed with Russian ammunition dumps and soldiers - will not make the EU any more keen to give acccession promises, but said an EU entry horizon "could help conflict resolution in this region."

Romania joined the EU in January 2007 in a move that has seen over half a million of Moldovans scramble to get Romanian (and so EU) citizenship, on the basis of the close historical ties between the two states: Moldova was part of Romania as recently as 1939.

"You know these people are really Romanians - they speak the same language, they have the same values. Moldova is still really part of Romania [in a spiritual sense]," a senior Romanian diplomat told EUobserver, with the two countries flirting with the idea of reunification in the early 1990s but with talks coming to nothing in the end.

"Romania will lobby relentlessly for Moldova's eventual accession to the EU despite an unfavourable climate in the EU toward further enlargement, offering to act as Moldova's 'advocate' in the EU and other international forums," CEPS analyst George Dura recently wrote.

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