„On March 21, 2022, during the meeting in Brussels of the EU foreign ministers with the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, the foreign ministers of Romania, France and Germany made an important announcement about plans to establish a “Moldova Support Platform”. This European initiative comes at a time marked by Russia's unprovoked war against Ukraine, the unprecedented humanitarian crisis and its impact on the Republic of Moldova. The platform is due to be launched tomorrow, April 5, at the international conference in Berlin…”
The way in which the Republic of Moldova copes with the refugee crisis was appreciated by the entire international community. Moldova's image of a "small country with a big heart" can be found more and more often in the international press. In less than a month, Moldova was the scene of a series of high-level visits. Heads of states and governments, as well as high-ranking diplomats from over 18 Western countries came to Chisinau to express their appreciation for the efforts made by Moldova in managing the refugee crisis. These gestures of solidarity have a very large symbolic charge and come to stress that the Republic of Moldova is not alone.
In addition to the wave of refugees from Ukraine, today, Moldova is affected by a set of multiple crises. The French president Emmanuel Macron spoke about the challenges Moldova is facing at the EU Summit in Versailles, declaring that "Moldova cannot be abandoned" by the European Union, being "extremely vulnerable", energetically dependent on Russia and having foreign troops on its territory.
On the occasion of the Berlin conference, international support is to be mobilized to support a national anti-crisis and resilience program of the Republic of Moldova. The conference will discuss the set of priorities proposed by the Moldovan Government to be supported by the EU, its member states, the G7 group, international financial institutions, and other development partners of the Republic of Moldova. The agenda of the debates will focus on several critical areas, which require immediate and targeted interventions, such as: management of the humanitarian crisis, border management and security, energy, macro-financial stability, increasing the resilience and relaunching Moldova’s economy, strengthening the rule of law and international support in the fight against high-level corruption in the Republic of Moldova.
A special topic in the discussions of the Berlin conference will be dedicated to energy security, a relevant aspect especially against the background of rising prices on international markets and a potential European embargo on energy resources from the Russian Federation. During the last year, Moldova has taken the first steps in strengthening energy resilience. The national legislation in the field of natural gas has been amended, so that suppliers are obliged to make stocks of natural gas. Recently, our country was included in the EU commitment aimed at setting-up a joint platform for purchasing natural gas, LNG and hydrogen. Romania has declared its readiness to build a gas storage. In addition, Moldovan and Ukrainian electricity grids successfully synchronized with the European Transmission System Operators - ENTSO-E. However, Moldova still needs an enhanced support to strengthen its energy infrastructure, expand connectivity with the EU, and diversify its sources of gas and electricity supply.
The war in Ukraine deepens the negative effects of the crises that are already affecting our country over the last year. The EU's macro-financial assistance package, approved by the European Parliament, comes to cover part of the external financing needs. However, the Republic of Moldova needs a more consolidated financial support, including through massive investments from abroad in its strategic infrastructure, which would also amplify the commercial-economic opportunities offered by the Association Agreement. At the same time, in addition to addressing the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the economic crisis, but also the energy crisis, Moldova needs to continue carrying out its systemic reforms, including ensuring the integrity and the independence of the judiciary, but also to fight high-level corruption and impunity.
EU member states are increasingly aware that the war in Ukraine generates collateral victims, which in turn can become additional hotspots of instability. It is in the EU's fundamental interest to restore security and ensure stability in its neighbourhood. The European Union can only exist in peace and security if it is surrounded by stable and secure countries. Thus, the war against Ukraine highlights that Moldova critically needs an urgent international support to be able to protect itself against the ongoing hybrid aggression, but also to deter and prevent a potential conventional Russia’s aggression on our country.
The Berlin Conference also comes in a broader context, linked with evaluation by the European Commission of the EU membership applications from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. This process will get into full speed soon. In today's context, Ukraine needs to get a clear political promise of accession to the EU as a matter of priority. However, considering that European integration in essence is a complex process of internal transformation, each aspirant or candidate country will be valued on its own merits. The European Commission will submit its evaluation questionnaire in the coming weeks.
Most likely, in a first phase, this evaluation process will include a set of questions that will assess the level of compliance of the three aspiring countries with the EU's political and economic criteria. As a result, the European Commission could come up with a preliminary opinion on the possible chances and conditions for recognizing the potential candidate status. At the same time, the European Commission will deepen its detailed assessment of the degree of transposition and implementation of the EU acquis, across all 35 chapters that will become the grounds for negotiations of a future EU accession treaty. In this respect, the progress in the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU, as well as the Moldova’s participation together with the Western Balkans countries in the Regional Cooperation Council, CEFTA and the South-Eastern European Cooperation Process, could be decisive for the advancement of our country on its European path.
Today, however, Moldova’s European path, prosperity and security, more than ever, needs a joint effort from the EU, the US, the G7 and the other international partners, beyond the political messages of support and timely assistance. Moldova needs a pivot point for its European reset, recovery, and resilience. The Berlin Conference offers this opportunity and Moldova should make full use of it.
Iulian Groza is the executive director of the Institute for European Policies and Reforms. He previously held the position of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova.
Victoria Olari is a program coordinator at the Institute for Strategic Initiatives.
The op-ed is published within the project ""Policy Bridges with the EU: Securing the Europeanization process of the Republic of Moldova", implemented with the support of the Soros Foundation Moldova, as well as the result of an IPRE partnership with IPN within the project "We and Europe" supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in the Republic of Moldova. The views expressed belong to the authors.