Moldavi European locomotive; two steps forward and one step back

The Republic of Moldova, with a population of more than ۳ million people, is located in the peripheral region of the Black Sea and is adjacent to Romania as the mother language and Ukraine, and is connected to the Danube River through a canal; it is an agricultural territory full of vast vineyards that benefit from the ۱۳۰۰ kilometers Dnister River that flows in Ukraine and Moldavia.
25 October 2023
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Ali Beman Eghbali Zarch

The Republic of Moldova, with a population of more than 3 million people, is located in the peripheral region of the Black Sea and is adjacent to Romania as the mother language and Ukraine, and is connected to the Danube River through a canal; it is an agricultural territory full of vast vineyards that benefit from the 1300 kilometers Dnister River that flows in Ukraine and Moldavia. In historical periods, ownership of this land has changed between the major countries of the region, including Poland, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, and the countries of Russia and Romania. After World War II, it was separated from Romania and became part of the political structure of the former Soviet Union. With the collapse of Communism in 1991, it became an independent state, with 70 % of the population of the Moldavi and the rest being the Russians, who are mainly in the Transnistria region with a self-proclaimed republic political form.

The people of this country, while breathing the air of Europe, are somewhat under a cultural mix with strong Russian influences, at least visually, on the street. However, the war in Ukraine and the presence of a pro-Western party in power has influenced geopolitical preferences in this republic, and therefore, more than any other time in its history as an independent country, it has the chance to start accession negotiations and make reforms for membership in the European Union (EU), and it is no secret that the Moldova government will have the undisputed support of Romanian sovereignty in the process of accession. Nevertheless, the Russian lobby is very strong in this country, and Moscow has realized that it has to create political projects combined with pro-European discourse in the Republic of Moldova. Educated Russophile elites have realized that to integrate and enjoy economic benefits from the country of the Republic of Moldova, knowledge of the Romanian language is a necessary asset. Therefore, educated Russians send their children to Romanian schools because they realize that if they want to stay in the Republic of Moldova, there is no future if this small country is not integrated into the European Union. Another fact is that only the population over 60 has the exclusive preference to preserve the Moldova Republic in the field of Russian influence.

At the political level, European integration is supported not only by President Maia Sandu and the PAS party, which holds the majority in parliament and the government (63 out of 101 representatives), but also by the political forces associated with the world of local oligarchy. Also, the mayor of Chisinau, Ivan Saban, supports the country's political and party figures to join the Republic of Moldova in the European Union. Of course, Saban's pro-European orientation is relatively new. He was appointed as the mayor of Chisinau in 2019, and in 2023, with the local and council elections approaching in November this year, Saban has repeatedly stated that European integration should be a national idea in the Republic of Moldova. Of course, his opponents, the new political group created by Ivan Saban, were supported by a team of Russian advisers.

Ukraine and Moldova were officially accepted as candidates for membership in the European Union in June this year with the approval of the heads of 27 member states of the European Union. Georgia also joined the queue to accept the candidates for membership in the European Union. Although the membership course of the three countries in the European Union has been more paved than ever before, they must implement significant reforms in their judicial system and adapt it to the EU's fundamental standards and values in civil and human rights freedoms. Also, fighting against administrative and economic corruption and reducing the level of money laundering are among other time-consuming reforms that make the membership of these countries impossible in the short term. The important thing is that the newly arrived population in the European Union currently has a low GDP per capita compared to the average of the Union. In contrast, the average GDP per capita among the 27 current members of the European Union is 32,330 euros. This index for the three countries of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova is between 4000 and 4500 euros. Therefore, the comparison of the important economic indices of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia with the European Union shows that these countries, in addition to the envisaged reforms in the judicial, political, and anti-corruption sectors, also need to adapt their economic perspective to the European Union in the economic sector.

In summary, it should be acknowledged that despite some kind of enthusiasm by both parties, Brussels and Chisinau, especially after Russian military operations in Ukraine, there are serious obstacles to the European path. On the other hand, in general, the institutional structure of the Republic of Moldova does not have a high level of stability. This country has a severe lack of human resources, so for many competitive positions, no candidate is presented. The economic structure and system of the country are weak, and the salary level is still very low, although it has increased in the last year. The prospect of immigration to European Union countries is still much more attractive. On the other hand, within the government, the resistance from some interest-seeking groups is very strong. This must be analyzed and justified either by Russian influence or by the activities of those who are dependent on the Tiraspol or Moscow region and are still led by the escaped oligarchs.

Ali Bemaneqbali Zarch, a senior expert in Eurasia

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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