EU enlargement after collapse of USSR: causes and effects. Moldova’s lesson. IPN debate

Many of the events that took place recently, including Europe Day and Victory Day, the 20th anniversary of the first big wave of enlargement of the European Union, as well as the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the liberalized visa regime for Moldovan citizens, wouldn’t have happened if the dissolution of the former USSR, as the last empire located in a part of the European space, which effectively controlled another important part of the European space, hadn’t taken place in 1991. What connection is there between the enlargement of the European Union, on the one hand, and the breakup of the Soviet Union, on the other hand, what the interest of many ex-Communist and ex-Soviet states to join the EU was and also what lessons does the Republic of Moldova have to learn from other states’ experience of joining the EU were among the issues discussed by experts invited to IPN’s public debate “EU enlargement after the collapse of the USSR: causes and effects. Moldova’s lesson”.

Igor Boțan, the permanent expert of the project, explained that the European Union (EU), is a political and economic union of 27 member states. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that are applied in all the Member States. The EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the internal market, adopt legislation in the area of justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen area, passport control has been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and entered into force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU Member States using the euro.

According to the expert, the EU originates from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), established in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris and in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, respectively. The initial members of the European Community were: France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands. The EU’s population is over 7% of the world’s population. The EU has a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of over €20 trillion, representing around 25% of the global nominal GDP. The EU is a voluntary, law-based, legally institutionalized union with equal subjects. A proof is the fact that the United Kingdom signaled its intention to leave the Union following a referendum in June 2016. Thus, on January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union for good. Currently, 2/3 of Britons regret the Brexit, according to a survey released by The Economist magazine on April 11, 2024.

Anatol Petrencu, doctor habilitate in history, president of “Alexandru Moșanu” Association of Historians of Moldova, said that World War II ended in Europe in May 1945. Germany was defeated and was occupied by four great powers: the Soviet Union, the USA, Great Britain and France, which divided it into occupation zones. The war ended on September 2 with the defeat of Japan and it ended with heavy losses. An estimated 65 million people died during World War II in all theatres of war. After the war, politicians, especially those in France, asked themselves how to avoid a new war in Europe in the first place, because the main events took place here.

“At the basis of the establishment of the EU community of states was the issue of national security, the problem of arms control and, then, also problems related to the economy, to the social condition of the population, legislation, other issues regarding these peoples and states. Then, the President of France at that time, Charles de Gaulle, came up with some accents, namely, that this union of European states should not be similar to the USA. De Gaulle was for a “Europe of homelands”, which means every people joining the European Union must preserve their culture, language, traditions, and come with the heritage they inherit,” said the historian.

Andrei Curăraru, expert of WatchDog Community, said that initially, the reasoning of the union of states within the EU was related to cooperation in the field of coal and steel and later extended to the field of atomic energy, coupled with a single market, developed through that European economic community, but towards the 1990s, they talked about a union already with a political dimension. “It goes to cooperation and a foreign policy in formation, a union that included practically all the most important forces in Western Europe and forces that represented a model of development for Central and Western Europe, including the states of the former Warsaw Pact, including the Baltic states, for example, which immediately turned to European integration, somehow rejecting other development models such as the CIS or other integrationist elements that existed on the European continent,” he said.

According to Andrei Curăraru, the motivations for joining the EU that existed in the 1990s refer to the essential economic growth presented by any state that integrated into the European Union, the very large market for these states in Central and Western Europe. “Those standards that the EU could offer already in the 1990s were clearly superior to the standards existing in those countries, in areas such as the rule of law, protection of minorities, good functioning and good governance, but also a number of elements related to foreign policy, geopolitics,” he added.

The public debate entitled “EU enlargement after the collapse of the USSR. Moldova’s lesson” was the 36th installment of the series “Impact of the past on confidence- and peace-building processes”. IPN News Agency carries out this project with the support of the German “Hanns Seidel” Foundation.

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