Moldova Looks to European Union

Moldova exists in a bad neighborhood.  It is a Romanian speaking nation which borders on Romania and Ukraine and is involved in a bitter dispute over the breakaway Russian-speaking territory of Transdniestr.

After political scandal caused the fall of the previous liberal coalition government, a new administration headed by diplomat Luri Leanca took over.  The U.S. State Department has described Moldova’s greatest political problem as corruption, which undermines the government’s authority.  The country also has been slumping in economic ratings, falling to number 85 in the Economic Freedom of the World index.

Nevertheless, Chisinau continues to press westward.  The Cooperation Council between the European Union and Moldova recently met and offered a positive assessment for the future.  Substantive negotiations were completed over an Association Agreement between the EU and Moldova, which includes establishing a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.  The accord is to be initialed in November and will be formally signed after technical issues are resolved.

The Council cited “Moldova’s European aspirations, the very positive dynamics in bilateral relations throughout 2012, and the recommendations and priorities for action conveyed in the latest [European Neighborhood Partnership] Progress Report” and reaffirmed the EU’s “full readiness to continue supporting Moldova towards these goals.”  The Council also pointed to Moldova’s security cooperation through the EU Border Assistance Mission.

In fact, Chisinau has been pushing for European integration across-the-board.  Prime Minister Leanca cited European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso’s “total support of the European Union for Moldova’s European agenda” and argued that joining the European free trade area was a necessity, not a choice.  The country has been relying on the European Investment Bank for loans for infrastructure development and is expected to gain access to the European Fund ENPARD.

Moreover, in June a new International Monetary Fund mission visited Chisinau.  The head of the IMF mission explained:  “The main objectives are the maintenance of the macroeconomic stability and the promotion of reforms in the Republic of Moldova, actions that will ensure economic growth, which, at its turn, will create a solid ground for increasing people’s living standard.”

Moldova also is cooperating with NATO.  The prime minister visited the alliance’s headquarters in June, offering support for the NATO mission in Kosovo.  Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen observed:  “We agree that we should make the most of the Individual Partnership Action Plan between NATO and Moldova and develop it further.”

The main obstacle to Chisinau’s progress westward may be Transdniestr, one of the region’s “frozen” conflicts which involves Russia and could flare into violence again.  Nevertheless, Moldova’s expanded economic ties with the EU, in particular, offer the prospect of increased trade and investment, and thus growth.  That promises a better life for the country’s people, which should be Chisinau’s most important immediate objective.

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