SIGHISOARA, Romania (TUSEN) — The European Union announced Thursday that it has granted EU candidate status to Moldova, a poor non-NATO member of Eastern Europe bordering the War-torn Ukraine, which is unlikely to enjoy the benefits of full bloc membership for years. come.
Along the way, Moldova will need to adopt reforms in areas such as the fight against corruption, organized crime, strengthening human rights and the rule of law. The former Soviet republic – landlocked between Romania and Ukraine – applied to join the 27-nation bloc just days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council and Chair of the EU Summit, tweeted the decision to grant Moldova and Ukraine candidate status, calling it a “historic moment” that “marks a crucial step on your way to the EU”.
Since its independence in 1991, Moldova has been plagued by endemic corruption and powerful oligarchs. He is often seen as being caught between pro-Russian forces and those, like pro-Western President Maia Sandu, who seek to forge closer ties with the West.
“We are starting on the path to the EU, which will bring Moldovans more prosperity, more opportunities and more order in their country,” Sandu wrote online after the EU decision.
“We have a difficult road ahead of us, which will require a lot of work and effort – and which we are ready to travel, together, to ensure a better future for citizens”, she added. “Moldova has a future in the European Union.”
In an article published this week in various media, Sandu described Moldova, Europe’s poorest country with a population of around 2.6 million, as “a European land caught in geopolitical battles”.
“The ruthless and meaningless war against Ukraine reminds us that peace and freedom are no longer a given,” Sandu wrote, adding that Moldova’s EU candidacy stems “from a strong desire to remain in the free world”.
In April, tensions in the country soared following a series of explosions in Transnistria – a Russian-backed separatist region of Moldova where Russia bases around 1,500 troops – and raised fears that it not be drawn into war.
Transnistria has a population of around 470,000 and has been under the control of separatist authorities since a civil war in 1992.
EU membership would not offer Moldova, which is constitutionally neutral, any guarantee of security as NATO membership would.
The Commission said it would monitor Moldova’s progress in meeting the set criteria and present a “detailed assessment” by the end of 2022.
The EU is Moldova’s biggest trading partner and biggest investor. In 2020, around two-thirds of Moldova’s exports went to the EU and more than half of its total trade was with the bloc.
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