Moldova’s future is in Europe. Interview with Lars Patrick Berg MEP

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For years, the EU has always supported Moldova’s path towards a real European future and EU membership, and now the country has been granted candidate status. Achieving the goal of EU membership is not easy, which is why the right steps must be taken now, at this difficult and important time. The EU must help Moldova to make fundamental changes.  DailyEU asks MEP Lars Patrick Berg about the future of the country.

Q: Personally, I have the feeling that Moldova is not getting enough attention alongside Ukraine. I feel that there is not enough attention for Moldova in the G7 meeting. Yet it is in the difficult situation of war that the country needs help most. Everyone agrees that Moldova’s vulnerable pro-European government – which formally applied for EU membership in March this year – needs support. What are the areas where Europe can provide it?

A: After talking to various Moldovans over the past week, I have come to the conclusion that there is a danger of overestimating the military threat from Russia to the country, while underestimating the economic threat to the country. Of course, the Russian military threat should never be completely ignored, but in my opinion, the imperial ambitions of the Russian leadership far exceed its capabilities, which is to say that the Russian army is barely able to advance in eastern Ukraine.

The real threat could come from the pro-Russian separatist region on the eastern side of the Dniester, and the conflict over the Dniester could flare up at any time. True, I see no danger of that at the moment either, despite a spike in violent incidents in the area in recent months. I do not see a military threat from Transnistria as dangerous either, because almost all of the 1,500 soldiers there who call themselves ‘Russian’ are in fact locals with Russian passports.

The Moldovan Government has assured the world that Moldova will remain constitutionally neutral. However, Moldova’s internal politics are still volatile and political divisions are still strong. Europe must immediately lend a helping hand to strengthen democratic forces.

The second area is the economy. The country is currently suffering badly because of the Russian blockade of the Black Sea coast and Ukraine’s largest port, Odessa. But this issue will be resolved once the war is over.

The main problem is that the Moldovan government is currently so “overwhelmed” by crisis management that it is distracted from the most important part of the reform agenda, the fight to end systemic corruption. This is an area where the EU can also provide effective assistance.

Q: What about energy? While Europe is struggling to break away from Russia in this area, Moldova’s dependence on Russian gas is very strong. Is there a solution?

Answer. In fact, the Transnistria business model is based on free gas from Gazprom. This situation does not seem to be reversible in the short term, and one of the EU’s top priorities should be to bring some of this support to Transnistria. If the EU helps to deepen the integration of the region with the rest of the country, this could facilitate a gradual transition away from Russian gas dependence.

Q: Overall, how do you see Moldova’s future? What level of catching up with Europe will the country be able to achieve?

A: Moldova is currently at serious risk. It could survive the war, but it could still lose peace if it sinks under the weight of the socio-economic problems caused by the war.  It is therefore the responsibility of the European Union to look beyond Ukraine to Moldova and to help the country to prosper with all the means at its disposal, in addition to financial support. If this does not happen, Moldova’s candidate status will be in vain and Europe could lose Moldova for good.

Endre Barcs