Moldova and prospects of joining EU – lack of political, institutional and emotional readiness on both sides, OP-ED



The political validation of the European perspective for Moldova will result from the increased attractiveness of this for the EU...


Dionis Cenuşa

Moldova’s prospects of joining the European Union have been discussed for a period in the national public sphere, both before and after the Brussels summit (IPN, November 27, 2017). In order to save the country’s European course, the Moldovan rulers, led by the president of the Democratic Party Vladimir Plahotniuc, underlined the importance of enshrining the pro-EU course in Moldova’s Constitution (EuObserver, November 24, 2017). Simultaneously, pro-Russian President Igor Dodon said he is sure that Moldova’s chances of entering the EU are “almost nil”, connecting the pro-European rhetoric strictly to political and electoral activities of the so-called pro-EU forces (, November 27, 2017).

At the same time, the EU’s disinterest in an eventual enlargement to the East is mentioned as practically a key obstacle to Moldova’s European perspective not only by the President, but also by representatives of civil society. The main arguments are reduced to the Europeans’ tiredness or fear of enlargement in terms of policies or society. The reality is yet that none of these, the EU and Moldova, are ready for something like this. The arguments differ for each of the two sides.

For the EU, the current discussions about the enlargement are secondary or even more insignificant. Until the foundations are not strengthened, the future enlargement of the European project is on abeyance. Neither the Western Balkans, which already benefit from guaranteed European perspective and have dialogues on the entry into the EU, have a concrete calendar concerning the own accession.

In relation to Moldova, things seem even more evident. A European perspective can take shape and have a weight in the political negotiations with the EU only after the Association Agreement is at least 90% implemented. This rate of fulfilling the commitments to the EU will show if Moldova is really coherent from political viewpoint, societally united around the European idea and institutionally capable to come closer to even more profound European integration circles. Until then, the discussions about the European perspective are useless and even harmful as they frustrate the Europeans who are astounded by the size of Eastern-European corruption, but also disapprove of the misinformation of Russian origin.

Far from Copenhagen criteria

The real distance from the European perspective should be measured by the level of minimum compliance with the three Copenhagen criteria (set out in 1993), whose mandatory fulfillment is stimulated in the Treaty on the European Union.

First of all, there should be ensured the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. The first criterion is a precondition for launching EU accession negotiations. The second set of criteria includes the existence of a functional market economy and the ability to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the EU. The third category of criteria includes the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including the capacity to effectively implement the rules, standards and policies that make up the body of EU law and adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

The Moldovan authorities and some experts consider that the entry process itself is the driving force for meeting the criteria, which can be achieved if the European perspective derives expressly from the EU’s legal and political vocabulary. However, Moldova is not Turkey or a country of the Western Balkans (Serbia, Montenegro), which, against a favorable geostrategic background or an enormous emotional loan (violent dismemberment of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, war crimes, migration waves) benefit from a preferential treatment. On the contrary, each handicap of Moldova and the other countries of the Eastern Partnership, such as the post-Soviet economy, “frozen conflicts” or endemic corruption weigh more than all the accomplishments taken together.

The influence of political decisions and geopolitical calculations at the European level on the openness to enlargement is incontestable. That’s why the European perspective for Moldova can become something feasible only after large-scale internal transformations take place through the Association Agreement, with geopolitical effects felt in Brussels too.

After the Western Balkans…

The limitation of pre-accession funds for Turkey, following the worsening of the demographic climate, is a clear signal that the process of joining the EU weakens. As a result, this can free room for other countries with European aspirations, such as Moldova. Surely, it is rather improbable that Brussels and Ankara will abandon each other and in a sudden way. But Moldova can exploit this context to increase its visibility in the regional competition for EU attention, but only by bringing the situation at the national democratic institutions, including the electoral legislation, in order de jure and de facto.

The chances of obtaining a European perspective, alongside the appropriate implementation of the Association Agreement, also depend on the progress made by the Western Balkans. The entry by at least one Western Balkan state (in addition to Slovene and Croatia) could be the best stimulus for reinvigorating the discussions on the enlargement to the East. So, until the EU enlargement does not move on further inside the Western Balkans, there will be no explicit perspective for Moldova, Ukraine or Georgia (See Table below).

Major stages in EU accession process









Recognition of status of European state

Explicit European perspective

Submission of application for entering EU

Assessment by European Commission and recommendation to provide status of membership candidate

Adoption of a unanimous decision by Council of EU (national governments) on provision of status of membership candidate

Launch and holding of accession negotiations


1. Moldova

2. Ukraine

3. Georgia (Eastern Europe)


1. Kosovo (2008)

2. Bosnia and Herzegovina (2016)


1. FYR Macedonia (2005)

2. Albania (2014)

1. Turkey (2005)

2.  Montenegro (2012)

3.  Serbia (2014)

Internal political dynamics – Transnistrian conflict and ATU Gagauzia

Traditionally, Moldova was powerfully affected by geopolitical divisions (IPN, November 13, 2017), which divide society and even the country’s geography. Consequently, it is hard to see an all-inclusive European perspective. The Gagauz minority and the population of the Transnistrian region, which are powerfully associated with Russian integrationist processes, total about 500,000 persons. That’s why, in the conditions of depopulation of the country, which now has fewer than 3 million citizens, the perception of the people with pro-Russian views mad, respectively, moderate or skeptical views of the EU will count more and more.

No intervention in the Constitution or forcing of the public to like the EU will produce positive effects for sustainably advancing the European integration. The citizens should be converted into the European ideas by voluntary ways, preferably by testing some of the direct benefits of the rapprochement with the EU. Some of the gradual positive changes already take place in the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, but fewer changes are yet witnessed in the separatist region, owing to the absence of a clear country reunification perspective, for the benefit of democratic processes.

So, it is practically impossible to ensure a European perspective without ensuring wider unity in society. In this regard, there should be a unified position among most of the political parties. In 2004-2005, the Party of Communists and Vladimir Voronin could be attracted to the European synergy, even if these had clear pro-Russian views. It would be harder to implement a similar scenario with the Party of Socialists and Igor Dodon because the EU’s attention is dispersed. In the European neighborhood, there are a series of crises (Russia’s interference in Ukraine, war in Siberia, illegal migration, etc.), while Russia is powerfully interested in remodeling the Moldovan political class with the help of pro-Russian forces.

Instead of conclusion…

The political validation of the European perspective for Moldova will result from the increased attractiveness of this for the EU, which is possible only through the materialization of the Association Agreement.

More exactly, Moldova should struggle, by reforming and modernizing the country, to show to the EU that it deserves an explicit and guaranteed European perspective. At the same time, synergy is needed at the level of society and political forces, which cannot be imagined with a government that is not able to fully ensure the European integration and to minimize the effects of the Russian factor.

The more profound and qualitative the changes generated by the Association Agreement are, the more vulnerable will be the counterarguments of the Russian forces, which will be forced to gradually soften the position to the EU.

Ultimately, the European perspective implies the reciprocal readiness of the EU and Moldova. Unlike the Western Balkans and owing to the negative image produced by the pro-European Moldovan governments of 2009-2017, the future governments will be obliged to double the efforts to justify a solid pro-European course for Moldova. All these internal processes should be hastened to outstrip the protectionist and populist tendencies inside Europe, which imply risks of blocking the enlargement of the European project further than the Western Balkans.

Dionis Cenuşa


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.

Вы используете модуль ADS Blocker .
IPN поддерживается от рекламы.
Поддержи свободную прессу!
Некоторые функции могут быть заблокированы, отключите модуль ADS Blocker .
Спасибо за понимание!
Команда IPN.