Sigisola, Romania (AP) — The European Union announced Thursday that it has granted EU candidate status to Moldova, a poor non-NATO Eastern European country that borders war-torn Ukraine, which could have been in danger for years Neither can enjoy the privileges of EU member states.
In the process, Moldova will need reforms in areas such as fighting corruption, organized crime, strengthening human rights and the rule of law. Days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the former Soviet republic — a landlocked country between Romania and Ukraine — applied to join the 27-nation bloc.
European Council President and EU Summit President Charles Michel tweeted the decision to give Moldova and Ukraine candidacy status, calling it a “historic moment” that “marks you on the road to the EU” A critical step has been taken.”
Since gaining independence in 1991, Moldova has been plagued by rampant corruption and a powerful oligarch. It is often seen as caught between pro-Russian forces and those who want closer ties to the West, such as pro-Western President Maya Sandu.
“We are on our way to the EU, which will bring more prosperity, more opportunities and more order to Moldovans,” Sandu wrote online after the EU’s decision.
“The road ahead of us is difficult and requires a lot of work and effort – we are ready to go together to ensure a better future for our citizens,” she added. “Moldova has a future in the EU.”
In an article published in multiple media outlets this week, Sandu described Moldova, Europe’s poorest country with a population of about 2.6 million, as “European land caught in a geopolitical struggle”.
“The relentless and senseless war against Ukraine reminds us that peace and freedom are no longer a given,” Sandu wrote, adding that Moldova’s application to join the EU came from a “strong desire to remain part of the free world.”
In April, tensions soared in the country following a spate of bombings along Transnistria — the Russian-backed separatist region of Moldova, where some 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed — and sparked concerns over the possible Fear of being dragged into war.
Transnistria, with a population of about 470,000, has been under the control of separatist authorities since the 1992 civil war.
Joining the EU would not provide constitutionally neutral Moldova with any security guarantees, such as joining NATO.
The European Commission said it would monitor Moldova’s progress in meeting established standards and present a “detailed assessment” by the end of 2022.
The EU is Moldova’s largest trading partner and largest investor. In 2020, about two-thirds of Moldova’s exports went to the EU, and more than half of its total trade came from the EU.
Dionis Senusa, an analyst at the Chisinau think tank expert group, said that while it was “too early to talk about membership”, Moldova’s candidacy could provide “a general direction for the country’s long-term development.”
“In the context of a security crisis triggered by Russia’s war against Ukraine, the government may use the EU candidacy to reassure people and businesses (communities),” he told The Associated Press. “Reforms in Moldova will depend on the professionalism of the government and the development of Ukraine.”
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