17th Nov 2019

Russian gas battles EU free trade for future of Moldova

  • Russian gas politics strike again in Moldova as the Communists strive to come back to power (Photo: eastpole)

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has told EUobserver that the prospect of an EU free trade pact is better for the future of Moldova than cheap Russian gas as neighbouring powers seek to build influence in post-election Moldova.

"We did not offer any gas, Sweden is very bad at that. So is Poland, by the way," Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told EUobserver on the margins of an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday (13 December) after visiting Chisinau with his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, last week.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"We took note that the head of the Russian presidential administration was there a couple of days before [us]. That was information that was difficult to avoid taking note of," he added. "What there is on the European agenda for Moldova is the association agreement. If you look at what the Moldovan economy needs, it is deep and comprehensive free trade with the EU. That is what can over time lead to a better development of what is today the poorest country in Europe. I'm not saying that cheap gas is bad, but economies and prosperity can't be built on cheap gas."

The EU and the Russian missions to Moldova come after elections on 28 November failed to give either the pro-EU camp or the pro-Russian Communist party enough mandates for a 'presidential majority' - a parliamentary majority that can elect the country's head of state, ending a year-long political stalemate in the country.

The pro-EU side - the Liberal Democrats of the Prime Minister Vlad Filat, the Liberal Party of acting president Mihai Ghimpu and the Democratic Party of Marian Lupu, a former Communist who switched sides following the brutal crackdown on protesters ordered by the ruling Communists in April 2009 - scooped the overall majority but fell just two seats short of the presidential one.

Earlier this month, Sergey Nariskin, the chief of staff of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, travelled to Chisinau and held talks with all party leaders except Mr Filat. According to Economic Review, a Russian-speaking Moldovan newspaper, the Russian envoy offered cheaper gas and a resumption of Moldovan wine imports if the politicians cobbled together a Moscow-friendly coalition centred on the Communist party.

For his part Mr Bildt warned that a Communist comeback "would mean that there would be a slowing down of the pace of reforms necessary from their side. We would remain committed to supporting Moldova, needless to say, but I think it's a safe prediction to say that the pace of reforms would slow down."

Romanian foreign minister Theodor Baconschi also told journalists in Brussels on Monday that all 27 EU states are willing to give the pro-EU camp in Moldova their support.

"We observed sympathy and spontaneous consensus among member states for the need to remake the pro-EU alliance in Moldova capable of continuing reforms," he said, adding that Moldova's pro-European track is a "test case" for the EU's neighbourhood policy.

The EU is getting used to Russian gas politics, which have in the past impacted developments in Belarus and Ukraine. "There is little we can actually do, it is up to the Moldovan parties to stand firm to this kind of bullying," one EU diplomat told this website.

A leaked US cable indicates that the pro-Russian side has other tricks up its sleeve as well.

According to a US cable sent on 8 September 2009 by the US mission in Chisinau and published in The Guardian and Le Monde, Mr Lupu, the kingmaker, was offered $10 million by the Communists to switch sides again and to derail the "Alliance for European Integration."

The US cable reports that Communist leader Vladimir Voronin first offered him a cool $5 million: "[Mr] Lupu said he stated that he was not interested. According to [Mr] Lupu, [Mr] Voronin then doubled the offer to USD ten million, which he also turned down." The cable adds: "Though we have often heard stories of bribery and influence peddling within the GOM [Government of Moldova], [Mr] Lupu's claim that [Mr] Voronin offered him USD ten million to cut a power-sharing deal is the most brazen tale to date."

Both Mr Lupu and Mr Voronin have denied the information.

Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

A total of 48 MEPs from GUE/NGL, the Greens and the Socialists have demanded the EU to comply with the democracy clause of the EU-Chile agreement to ensure that Chile respects fundamental rights.

Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark

Bosnia requested an interview with the French ambassador to Sarajevo, after Emmanuel Macron described the country as a "ticking time bomb" and one of the greatest concerns for Europe due to the "problem of returning jihadists".

Up to 750 European children trapped in north-east Syria

Between 700 and 750 children from different EU member states are trapped in camps in north-east Syria with parents who are suspected Islamic State fighters. Many are under the age of six, victims of war and conflict.

EU enlargement freeze prompts Serbia rethink

The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, said the Balkan region needs to take care of itself after the EU blocked enlargement talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election


These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. France unveils new model EU enlargement
  2. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  3. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  4. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  5. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  6. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  7. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  8. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us