ArticlesMoldova, the Capital of Europe for a Day

Moldova, the Capital of Europe for a Day

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The second European Political Community Summit to be held in the Republic of Moldova on the 1st of June represents a promising chance for the authorities in Chișinău to draw the attention of the European community to the problems faced by the Moldovan authorities, but also to the opportunities that this state can bring to the European family.

Moreover, a pre-event took place in Chisinau – the National Assembly “Moldova Europeană”, which gathered more than 70,000 Moldovan citizens who expressed their deep desire for Moldova to join the European Union and chanted “Moldova is Europe. Europe is Moldova.”

The event was also attended by Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, who stated that by the end of 2023, the Republic of Moldova will be able to open the negotiating chapters with the European Union. On the other hand, Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova, stated that the country’s integration agenda is set for 2030 – the year in which the Republic of Moldova aspires to join the European Union.

In the wake of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova has firmly positioned itself as a steadfast supporter of Ukrainian territorial integrity. It unequivocally condemns the ongoing war and actively aligns with the international community’s sanctions against the Russian state. Moreover, more than 700 thousand Ukrainian refugees have transited the Republic of Moldova initially, seeking refuge here, and 100 thousand refugees have stayed and received food, accommodation and medical services.

The benefits that the Republic of Moldova can gain from hosting the European Political Community Summit are more than one would realize at first glance.

Probably the first benefit is international visibility and an impact on Moldova’s diplomatic efforts.

The participation of 47 heads of state and government, alongside the leadership of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council demonstrates a heightened level of interest in the upcoming stages of the Republic of Moldova’s journey towards European integration. This unprecedented event provides a platform for dialogue in which the government in Chișinău can request further macro-economic assistance to implement European reforms, overcome the energy crisis, lower inflation, counter the subversive actions labeled as hybrid warfare by the Russian Federation and manage the large influx of Ukrainian refugees.

Now, diplomatic contacts with leaders on the European continent are closer than ever. Essentially, the Republic of Moldova has all doors open to pursue its political agenda. But this has not always been the case. In recent history, we have to remember that Chișinău has been in the disgrace of European officials, and economic assistance to Moldova’s budget has even been frozen. This was when the country’s institutions were captured by the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc between 2015 and 2019. Despite so many challenges, Moldova has nevertheless managed to remain resilient and maintain the peaceful status of the country, as well as to assert itself as a promoter of peace, despite the war in Ukraine.

If, before the outbreak of the war, the Foreign Ministry in Chisinau had a less busy agenda, now we see dozens of high-ranking official visits, with the majority of the high-ranking European officials having already visited Chișinău. All this culminated in Maia Sandu’s visit to Warsaw, together with the US President, Joe Biden, who addressed warm words to the Moldovan people. Moreover, the first visit of a Moldovan president or official to Canada took place in Ottawa on 11 May 2023, where Maia Sandu had an important meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The visit is noteworthy because Canada co-chairs with Germany the working group on aid for Ukrainian refugees under the Platform of Support for Moldova.

Speeding up the EU accession process for countries like Moldova and Ukraine is increasingly debated in Chișinău and Kiev, given that the war in Ukraine may further diminish the efforts that the two countries need to make, especially politically. Of course, the technical negotiation chapters remain the most challenging ones, because if we are talking about Justice and macro-economic indicators, a huge bureaucratic effort is needed, as well as time to solve all the problems in the judicial system.

Attracting foreign investment and developing economic relations with other European countries is another objective that the Republic of Moldova is pursuing by hosting this summit. The Republic of Moldova has already benefited from an entire fund-raising campaign through the three donor conferences organized in Berlin, Bucharest and Paris. The collaborative effort of France, Germany and Romania was motivated by the fact that the Republic of Moldova hosts the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita in Europe. And the outcome of donor conferences has resulted in a financial assistance package of loans and budget support approaching €1.5bn. This is why this summit must also attract macro-financial assistance and direct foreign investment to keep Moldova afloat.

The European Political Community is also a potential regional security counterpoint to the Russian Federation, since this future institution was created following the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

Russian missiles violated the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova by flying over its airspace, causing damage and endangering civilians when missile debris fell over its territory. The President of the Republic of Moldova has therefore urgently called for investment in the National Army and the upgrading of its surveillance and air defense systems.

Furthermore, the Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski informed the European Council in February of this year regarding the plan of the Russian secret services to overthrow Moldova’s democratic system and gain control of the country. This information was later confirmed by the authorities in Chișinău, who said that the information indicated a Russian plot to violently overthrow Moldova’s pro-European leadership.

Russia continues to use oligarchs and pro-Russian political forces, such as the Shor Party or the Party of Socialists, to destabilize Moldova. The Shor Party has been accused of recruiting citizens, taking advantage of their vulnerable economic situation, by offering financial incentives to participate in anti-government protests that have started as early as August 2022 and are continuing to this date. The party leader Ilan Shor fled Moldova in 2019 after he was found guilty of money laundering and embezzlement in a bank fraud case that resulted in the theft of about $1 billion from Moldova’s banking system. And more recently, in May this year, the candidate of the Shor party won elections for the Bashkan (governor) of Gagauzia, Moldova’s pro-Russian autonomous region that is also a hotbed of destabilization for the authorities in Chișinău.

All these events undermining Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty will certainly be discussed at the Summit and we hope that solutions will be found to counter the provocations, disinformation and, in general, all the hybrid attacks coming from the Russian Federation.

It remains to be seen whether the Republic of Moldova will achieve what it set out to do by hosting this major event, which qualifies it as the capital of Europe for a day. Above all, it is a way for non-EU countries to interact much more constructively with EU member states, where Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia can make their case for EU membership, especially as the first two countries received candidate status for EU membership a year ago, and Georgia EU membership prospects.

Photo credit: Laurențiu Pleșca

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