Republic of Moldova at the core of European policy. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“From the aforementioned, we can deduce that there are preconditions for the EPC Summit of June 1, 2023 to be successful. We are to only make sure that it will be organized in the best way possible, while the security measures will be adequate...”

Why is the European political platform necessary?

On June 1, 2023, the Republic of Moldova will host the European Political Community (EPC) Summit. The local media wrote enough about the EPC Summit, but several things about this event should be underlined. The EPC consists of 44 European states: all the member states of the European Union (EU) and the UK; the candidates for EU membership; the member states of the European Free Trade Association, which do not intend to join the EU; the Eastern Partnership countries that do not have the EU candidate status. Respectively, the EPC does not include only four minuscule European states that are fully integrated into the European economy and have agreements on the use of the EU currency on their territories, and the Russia-Belarus state union. In fact, the last remark comes to note that the EPC is a consolidated response of the EU and the quasi-total majority of the European states to Russia’s aggression that is supported by Belarus by allowing using its territory for attacking Ukraine. It is also a response to Russia’s energy blackmail that was started about half a year before the launch of the aggression.

Even if the EPC Summit of June 1 is awaited, it seems that the agenda of this is not yet clear. President Maia Sandu, who hosts the summit, avoided providing details about the agenda, preferring to refer primarily to aspects related strictly to the pursued goal: “The Summit is an investment in Moldova’s future. It offers an exceptional opportunity for affirming our firm commitment to the reforms we do to become – in the near future – a member state of the European Union. We will show that we are a reliable partner that is ready to actively contribute to strengthening unity and security on the European continent”. Probably intentionally, the official highlighted the Republic of Moldova’s trenchant position against the oscillating behavior of some of the EPC members that are inclined to benefit from the cooperation with Russia by helping it to bypass the sanctions imposed by the EU and the U.S. to discourage the aggression.  

What major problems are to be discussed?

In the mentioned circumstances, we have to only intuit the issues from the agenda of the EPC Summit. For the purpose, it is enough to see the résumé of the first, inaugural summit of the EPC platform, which was held in Prague on October 6-7, 2022. As regards the priorities for future cooperation, there were identifies six areas of activity: 1) protection of critical infrastructure for which a common European strategy is needed; 2) fighting of cyber-attacks originating, for instance, in Russia or Iran, which also requires a joint European approach; 3) regional cooperation and security in the Black, Baltic and North Seas, which is yet another aspect in need of a common European vision; 4). development of an 'integrated energy strategy', in particular coordination with non-EU European partners, some of which – notably Azerbaijan and Norway – are energy producers; 5) finding of solutions to bring down the gas prices; 6) working out of a more integrated vision on youth on a continental scale. A separate area is devoted to the support for Ukraine at all levels - financial, humanitarian, political, and military – for discouraging the Russian aggression.

Most probably, the priorities emphasized at the EPC Summit in Prague will remain the same until the war in Ukraine is brought to an end. It is important to achieve progress in the mentioned priority areas that will be also debated at the summit of June 1, 2023. Surely, we all hope that the aggression will end swiftly and things will return to normality, but it is hard to forecast when this will happen. When it happens, there will definitely appear new priorities – the EPC’s assistance in rebuilding Ukraine for helping it get ready for accession to the EU; discouragement of Russia’s future aggressive attempts against its neighbors, etc.

Developments after first EPC Summit

From the aforementioned, we can deduce that the EPC project can be a long-lasting one and it is therefore worth insisting slightly on the recent developments seen through the angle of the mentioned priorities. First of all, from the viewpoint of the security of the European continent, between the first EPC Summit and the summit of June 1, 2023, a remarkable consolidation process took place together with Finland’s entry into NATO, which will be soon followed by Sweden’s entry. This is an eloquent response to Russia’s threats and blackmail and an example that is worth being followed by other EPC members.

Secondly, there were announced the results of the efforts to ensure energy security through the EU Energy Platform, which plays a key role in the common submission of the application, coordination of the use of infrastructure, negotiation with international partners and preparation for common purchases of gas and hydrogen. Only half a year was needed since the project was accepted by the European Council and the necessary regulations were adopted for the launch of requests to be announced, on April 25, 2023. Respectively, the Energy Platform already focuses on the organization of the aggregation of requests and the purchase in common of the necessary volumes of gas for storing gas in reservoirs for the 2023-2024 winter season. The European Commission, the EU member states and the industrial enterprises only need to establish close cooperation, with the Commission having also the duty to guide the applicants so as to ensure the functionality of the designed common purchase mechanisms by obeying competition rules.

Thirdly, the efforts to diminish the gas prices on the European market also ended with remarkable success. The gas prices after the first EPC Summit decreased dramatically from approximately 160 €/MWh in October 2022 to 37 €/MWh in May 2023. The given examples come to dissipate the initial skepticism about the EPC initiative, showing that the combination of forces of states against the aggressor and blackmail can produce the expected results.

Status of host country obliges the Republic of Moldova

The initiators of the EPC established from the start that the summits of the platform will take place two times a year by alternating the host countries – a member state of the EU with a non-member. After the first summit held in the Czech Republic, the second summit will take place in the Republic of Moldova. Evidently, it is very important for the future summit to be successful both for the platform in general and for the Republic of Moldova in particular. In this connection, it is opportune to return to the message of President Maia Sandu, who noted that the June 1 summit is an exceptional opportunity for affirming our firm commitment to the reforms we do to become – in the near future – a member state of the European Union.

Indeed, as the host country, the Republic of Moldova should show by concrete examples that it deserves to be in the center of the European policy even if only for the day of the summit. In this regard, the Moldova authorities took a number of measures supported by events that confirm a particular level of efficiency in the fight against oligarchic clans, breaking of the impasse in the justice sector reform, etc. Respectively, ahead of the summit, we can note that:

  • Parliament on March 2, 2023 adopted a Statement on the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, which unequivocally condemns the war against Ukraine;
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration on March 3 declared that the Republic of Moldova will gradually align itself with the international sanctions imposed against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, with the given statement being preceded by the announcement of the withdrawal from CIS bodies;
  • President Maia Sandu on March 11 addressed Parliament and the citizens, asking to set the goal of joining the EU by 2030;  
  • The contribution to the future EU enlargement report, concerning the accession negotiations on 33 chapters, was compiled and transmitted to the European Commission;
  • The Chisinau International Airport returned under state management after it had been leased out to its detriment to oligarchic groups;
  • There was announced the first conviction of a culprit in the bank fraud case that in time has been in the focus of European institutions that insisted on the investigation of the crime and punishment of those to blame;
  • Unlocking of the justice sector reform following the convocation of the General Assembly of Judges and election of members to the Superior Council of Magistracy, who passed the required vetting, etc.

From the aforementioned, we can deduce that there are preconditions for the EPC Summit of June 1, 2023 to be successful. We are to only make sure that it will be organized in the best way possible, while the security measures will be adequate.

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