Wednesday

7th Dec 2022

Opinion

Moldova's EU candidacy — a geopolitical opportunity

  • President Maia Sandu: 'We demand no shortcuts and we don't expect concessions' (Photo: Office of the president of Moldova)
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In the midst of the biggest security crisis in the region and in Europe, Moldova finds itself at a historic juncture. The choice to submit its EU membership application on 3 March confirmed Moldova's unequivocal desire to firmly anchor itself in the free world.

The aspiration of the Moldovan citizens to join the European Union has only grown stronger over 30 years since independence. It has not been a smooth ride but today, we find ourselves at a point of a historic decision: that of granting the Republic of Moldova EU candidate status.

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  • 'Moldova has always been a European land caught in geopolitical brawls' (Photo: Wikimedia)

We hope the leaders of the European Union will recognise this unique geopolitical opportunity and endorse our membership bid during 23-24 June European Council. A geopolitical opportunity that extends security, defends EU values and makes the union stronger.

Our road towards European integration has not been easy. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova, like the Baltics states, had a chance at European integration but missed it. We watched in delight how Romania, our closest partner and ally, became an EU member, inspiring us to take the same road. But during the first two decades, independent Moldova went instead through painful economic and social transitions.

The conflict in the Transnistrian region further hampered our development efforts.

Despite numerous disappointments with the political class over the years, our European aspirations always came ahead of Soviet nostalgia. Democracy always found a way to prevail.

In 30 years, every Moldovan government change was through peaceful elections. All governments that tried to instil autocracy or to derail democracy were ousted. And most importantly, all governments, good or bad, have sought close relations with the EU.

In 2019, the people of Moldova threw the crooks out of the government. They overwhelmingly voted for a new, clean, pro-European political class during the presidential elections in 2020 and parliamentary elections in 2021.

The newly-elected political class promotes integrity, transparency and clean political funding. Since last year, the country has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda, led by a strongly committed, pro-European president, parliament and government.

The vetting of judges and prosecutors is well underway as we work to strengthen the integrity and independence of our justice system. According to the World Press Freedom Index for 2022, Moldova ranks 40th, up by a whopping 49 positions in just one year, and is next to flourishing democracies such as Australia and many EU countries.

Moreover, the EU has become our main political, trading, and investment partner.

Two-thirds of the country's exports already go to the EU market, contributing to Moldova's EU integration. The reformist government introduced policies to improve the ease of doing business and the investment climate in Moldova.

Moldova's positive growth trend seemed unstoppable until the first Russian bombs hit our neighbour Ukraine in the early morning of 24 February. The devastation of the Russian war in Ukraine is felt in Moldova every day. The inflation rate soared to 29 percent. The gas prices rose more than five-fold in less than a year, many Eastern trade routes were closed and the security risk has increased, hampering investments.

Despite all this, Moldovans opened their hearts and homes to thousands of Ukrainian refugees. Nearly half a million of them crossed Moldova's borders since the beginning of the war. About 80,000 are still in Moldova, which is an increase of our population by nearly three percent. It was a major challenge, but nothing dissuaded us from doing all we could to help those fleeing the war.

'Consolidate our democracy'

This senseless war against Ukraine reminds us that peace and freedom cannot be taken for granted. Moldova's EU accession bid comes from our strong desire to remain part of the free world. We truly believe that we can consolidate and remain a democracy only as part of the EU.

Moldova's EU application is a choice based on the aspirations of our people. One in three Moldovans is already a EU citizen. Many work and study in the EU. You've likely met us — we're your banker, your nurse, your child's university colleague. Moldovans live side by side with Europeans, contributing to social security systems, paying taxes and enriching the EU's cultural heritage.

A European Moldova will not only bring greater stability in Europe and in the East, it will also increase trade, extend prosperity and stabilise the region.

It also provides an opportunity to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Transnistria, allowing us to reintegrate the region with Moldova and further strengthen our country. But most importantly, a European Moldova will help achieve the EU's core objective — to maintain peace on the continent.

A lot of work remains to be done at home. Many of the reforms required by the EU are exactly the same changes our citizens are demanding from the government. And we will deliver. We demand no shortcuts and we don't expect concessions. During these difficult times, Moldova only asks for an opportunity to give hope to its citizens. Hope that a more secure, democratic and peaceful Moldova is still possible. Hope that they can still return to a free and a pro-European Moldova.

It is said that history repeats itself. Moldova has always been a European land caught in geopolitical brawls. This time around, we count on your support to bring Moldova back into the big European family and support its European perspective for a more peaceful and stable region.

Author bio

Maia Sandu is the president of Moldova.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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