The Russian invasion of Ukraine became a turning point in the political history of the Republic of Moldova. As one of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova faced severe economic problems due to the war in Ukraine, being seriously hit by a series of crises as it had to accept instantaneously almost 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. The energy crisis worsened the economic crisis and caused the inflation to soar, bringing the Moldovan economy close to collapse. Most of the Moldovan citizens felt the consequences of the crisis through the lowering living standards. But thanks to the EU’s assistance, the Moldovan state managed to save the social sphere from the imminent collapse and to almost fully get rid of the dependence on Russian gas imports, even if the prices on the domestic market remained at record highs.
Unexpected opportunity created by war
Ukraine saved Moldova from the gloomiest scenario when it distanced the warzone from Odessa following the successful Ukrainian offensive against the invading Russian troops. Last June, Chisinau, together with Kyiv, received the EU candidate status and this happened in less than six months of the start of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. The pro-European President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu and her staff undertook to take the unexpected opportunity created by the war, intending to open the negotiations for accession to the EU until the end of this year.
As Russia failed, at least for now, to invade Moldova militarily according to the scenario used in the case of Ukraine, Moscow applies the soft power instruments and also the controlled media and the Russian church to influence politically Chisinau. Trying to influence the future elections in the Republic of Moldova, Russia can bank on the anti-western political forces employed in its service or can also use the Moldovans’ dissatisfaction with the economic situation. This way, it resorted to the tactic of street protests animated with ill-gotten gains by the Shor Party, to the stirring up of things in Gagauzia, to public provocations by using the ribbon of Saint George in the May 9 events by the Socialists and Communists. Moscow also has in hand the Transnistrian factor, which can be activated in a critical moment for the political stability in the Republic of Moldova.
Necessity of mobilization action
Meanwhile, the effects of the multiple crises caused by the war didn’t pass without effects for the President of the Republic of Moldova and her government. Their assessments decreased significantly compared with the level of 2020, when Sandu was elected President, and a year later, when her party won the parliamentary elections. According to polls, both the President and especially the government have high anti-ratings, while the anti-European parties could together win the next parliamentary elections. The voters are primarily preoccupied with the economic problems, especially the higher utility bills.
Against the accumulation of the multiple problems experienced by the pro-European government, which are skillfully speculated by the pro-Russian and anti-European political forces, the necessity of a successful action of political mobilization and of stimulation of the feeling of solidarity on the majority European segment of society was pressingly felt. The idea of calling the European Moldova National Assembly, which was formulated by President Maia Sandu, took shape this way. The European solidarity rally was held in Chisinau on May 21, bringing together about 100,000 people. The scale of the rally demonstrated the Moldovan society’s extensive adherence to the values of European civilization, becoming a powerful discouraging factor for the anti-European forces.
Own concept for Europeanizing Moldova
At that large-scale rally in support of the integration with Europe, speeches were given by Maia Sandu and by the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola. “We came to say straightforwardly: the Moldovans are Europeans and Moldova belongs to the EU,” the head of state said from the rally’s rostrum. In her speech that lasted for over half an hour, in front of 100,000 supporters of the European course, who came together in the Great National Assembly Square, the President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu had a pragmatic position through which she presented her view on the European integration policy for the Moldovan state she leads. In fact, President Maia Sandu, by her speech at the National Assembly of May 21, proved the ambition to formulate the principles of the own concept of Europeanization of the Republic of Moldova, a kind of “Sandu doctrine” for Moldova.
The Sandu doctrine is embodied in a country project for the Republic of Moldova, many of whose details are yet to be finalized. For now, this concept contains the basic principles that were expressly formulated by Maia Sandu in her speech at the rally. “Our country project and our objective are for Moldova to become a full-fledged member of the European family until 2030. This is not only my commitment. We enjoy the European Union’s support on this road. This is what the people of the Republic of Moldova demand,” stated Maia Sandu.
Main cause of Moldova’s backsliding
In her speech, President Maia Sandu identified the main cause of the Republic of Moldova’s backsliding, accusing Russia, without speaking directly about this, of hampering Moldova’s development during over 30 years. “During 34 years, they have tried to block our future, to divide us, to keep us in poverty, to blackmail us. They wanted us to be dependent, to get frozen and fall. But we resisted”! So, the logic of the country concept formulated by Maia Sandu contains the desideratum of separation from the “Russian world” in favor of the “European world”. This objective is supported by the following fragment from the President’s speech: “Moldova detached itself with difficulty from the past, when it depended on the Kremlin too much and now looks with price towards a European future”.
When invoking the European development path, the official noted that this choice was made “because this is the only chance for Moldova to develop. It is the road that we, the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, chose for our country NOT to be any longer on the outskirts of Europe and not to live under Russian blackmail, poverty and corruption”.
What follows after resistance period...
The whole history of the independent state Republic of Moldova until now has been characterized by a period of resistance. The obtaining of the EU candidate status signifies the start of a new period in the history of the Moldovan state. “After a period of resistance, the next years will be about our transformation into a European state equal to the most developed states of the world. Moldova develops. The Moldovans unite. Together we will build a European Moldova of which we will be proud”.
In the current “civilizational war”, the Republic of Moldova is urged to make an unequivocal choice in favor of the western civilization and in support of Ukraine, which resists the Russian military aggression. “The war is now far from the homes of Moldovans because the Ukrainians fight heroically and sacrifice their lives for their land and nation. This war clearly shows that we no longer want to be blackmailed by the Kremlin”. While the national security of the Republic of Moldova can be guaranteed only in the case of a European Moldova, “which means a Moldova with powerful and reliable friends who will not abandon us in front of the aggressors that bring wars and kill people. We can be safe only together with the European family.”
Unity of society as a guarantor
One of the fundamental theses of the Sandu doctrine under creation focuses on the necessity of guaranteeing the unity of Moldovan society through the embracing by most of the Moldovan citizens of the European integration desideratum. “We are united by hope that in seven years we will look into the eyes of Moldova’s children proud of our decisions and will see in them optimism and joy. If these are things that unite us all, regardless of ethnicity, mother tongue or political ideology, Moldova will definitely be in the European Union. Being a member state of the EU means being respected, while our independence and democracy will be protected”.
Politically assumed approach
The absence of clear reference to the Romanian factor in the European integration of the Republic of Moldova in Maia Sandu’s speech is evident. But in Moldovan society, they are now actively debating two methods of accession to the EU - the long path, as an independent state, and the short path, through the Union with Romania. The omission of the Union option in Maia Sandu’s concept concerning the European integration model shows that priority is given to the “independist” integration model in the “Sandu doctrine” of the Republic of Moldova’s accession to the EU. It is a politically assumed approach of the Sandu-PAS pro-European government, which will necessitate a very precise adjustment of the electoral tactics in the future elections. It also obliges the unionist parties in the Republic of Moldova to formulate a principled political and electoral attitude towards the current pro-European government in Chisinau, concerning the identification of the optimal way of achieving the national unity ideal under the European integration policies.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.