Written by IDU Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, MEP David McAllister
Let us continue to support President Maja Sandu
For the first time since the country was granted EU candidate status, the EU-Moldova Association Council met in Brussels this week. Assigning the Republic of Moldova candidate status last year was a firm recognition of the country’s European aspirations and of its determination to implement the necessary reforms. It marked the beginning of the next important stage of Moldova’s European integration. The message is clear: Moldova’s place is in Europe and we will do everything necessary to support the country on the path towards EU membership.
Yet, the status of a candidate country also brings additional responsibility to demonstrate progress and results. The European Commission has recently published analytical reports on the alignment of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia with the 33 chapters of the EU acquis. The next evaluation of Moldova’s progress is expected in October, as part of the enlargement package. Each candidate country is assessed on its own merits in meeting the same criteria.
Moldova’s strength lies in the fact that it has President Maia Sandu, a government led by Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița and a parliamentary majority that are all pro-European and committed to tackling corruption and implementing long-overdue reforms. The ruling Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) is a respected member of the International Democrat Union. In July last year, President Maia Sandu received the Bush-Thatcher Award for Freedom at our IDU Forum in Berlin.
Ever since President Sandu and the PAS secured an overall majority in parliamentary elections in 2021, she has been at the forefront of implementing an ambitious reform program based on respect for democratic principles, human rights, and fundamental freedoms. Major legislative initiatives, tailored to the nine conditions set by the European Commission for opening EU accession negotiations have been introduced over the past year. Particularly the adoption of the comprehensive strategy for the justice sector and the decisive steps taken towards its implementation are to be commended as are the measures taken to combat corruption.
Despite such progress, we are well aware of the fact that the Moldovan government has had to deal with multiple crises exacerbated by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The activities of pro-Russian political forces remain very concerning. In addition, the country is being openly targeted by the Kremlin for its pro-European position and its solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Moldova’s energy security is under constant threat from Russia, which has weaponized its dominant position as a gas supplier to put the Moldovan government under pressure. Moldova has managed not to succumb to such energy blackmail. Yet, maintaining popular support in such a political atmosphere is a challenge for any government.
Russia continues to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova through the presence of its troops in the region of Transnistria. The violation of the Moldovan airspace by Russian missiles that were targeted at Ukraine was a worrying escalation. The recent statements of the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, identifying Moldova as Russia’s possible next target, are a further indication of this hostile and threatening attitude and are utterly unacceptable.
The actions taken by the Moldovan authorities in response have been well coordinated with the European Union and the Member States. To assist the Moldovan government in escaping the permanent crisis-mode, the EU and all our international partners must continue to live up to their commitments at a political level. Moldova has already joined the EU’s Fiscalis customs and taxation programme and the EU4Health programme. An action plan on trade relations should be considered the next priority, advancing key areas of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and accelerating Moldova’s access to the EU Single Market.
More sustainable means of diplomatic engagement, sectoral cooperation and financial assistance are needed. When it comes to the latter, progress in tangible. In January, the European Commission proposed to increase the ongoing Macro-financial Assistance to the Republic of Moldova with up to 145 million Euro, increasing the total to 295 million Euro. The European Parliament will need to give its consent to this proposal, and I trust that the procedure will be completed as soon as possible. Let us continue to support President Maia Sandu!