Opinion: “The Government Self-Promotes through the European Integration during the War”

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Moldova has no chance of getting into the EU in the coming decades, signing an application for membership is a symbolic act to strengthen the positions of the president and the PAS, and not to accelerate European integration, expert Vladimir Rotari believes
Vladimir ROTARI, RTA: It is already the ninth day of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Despite the meetings of the delegations of the conflicting parties in Belarus, the fighting is not even going to stop. Moreover, they affect all new regions of Ukraine. There is a considerable probability that soon the neighboring Odessa region will also be in the epicenter of the fighting. In this case, we should expect an increase in migration flows to Moldova, the volume of which already exceeds our objective capacity to receive refugees. Add to this the expected increase in tension in Moldovan society, the generous impulse of which is slowly giving way to irritation amid episodes of not too decent behavior of individual Ukrainian citizens in our country. Given the fact that this problem arose only a week after the crisis began, it’s scary to imagine what lies ahead. Nevertheless, as we can see, the republic’s leadership, which has already managed to push back on the topic of refugees, now has more pressing issues. And the first of them is how to properly catch and profit from the suddenly opened window of opportunity in the feeble process of European integration. Ukraine’s application to join the European Union under an accelerated procedure was a pretty good move by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is thus trying to convert the obvious sympathy of the Western community for his country into a sharp increase in its status in relations with the EU. Which, under other circumstances, would be almost impossible to achieve in the foreseeable future. At the same time, such a step by Ukraine motivates to reflect on similar actions of other members of the Association Trio, who are also trying to ride the wave and use the Russian threat factor to their advantage in a similar way. So, yesterday Maia Sandu, who communicates non-stop and meets with prominent European and American representatives, decided to pattern after Zelensky and in a grandiose atmosphere in the presence of the Speaker of parliament and the Prime Minister signed the application for EU membership. The authorities, of course, were smart enough not to advertise this step as automatic accession to the union. However, the public is actively being inspired now by the idea that this is inevitable once the application is submitted. Is that true? Absolutely not, and here's why. The first thing I want to note is a rather cool response to this whole undertaking in the European Union itself. Yes, we can count on the support of Romania and some other Central and Eastern European states. But at the same time, the high-ranking European officials and the core countries of the European Union, who basically “pay” for this whole “European festival”, are now openly saying that the issue is not timely and it's necessary first to end the war in Ukraine and only then to proceed with the European integration. Or rather, not to proceed. Secondly, the status of a candidate, even if granted to Moldova, does not mean anything at all. This is more of a symbolic act, indicating movement towards the European Union but not accelerating it simply by the fact of its existence. As we can see, many Balkan countries have been living with this status for many years (some of them haven’t even engaged in relevant negotiations), and Turkey, for example, for decades. The third point is that in 2020, the procedures for EU accession negotiations were changed. And if earlier their start meant they would surely end with a country's admission into the ranks of the bloc, now Brussels can suspend, restart or completely terminate them at any time. Not to mention that the present-day Moldova, apart from its geographical aspect, in no way meets the Copenhagen criteria, especially with regard to law, justice and available market and competitive economy. In addition, the unresolved territorial conflict obviously does not strengthen our positions. That is, applying right now has no practical sense. As before, we will stand in the vestibule of the European Union without any prospects. With a more beautiful status as the only difference, or maybe without it – although there may be options here, everything depends on future agreements on the region between Russia and the West. Therefore, yesterday's “on-camera ceremonial” can only be described as the president and the ruling party’s attempt to hype. By the way, we should applaud them since they managed to successfully seize the initiative and change the information agenda in the country after the invasion of Ukraine began. I already see how “Sandu’s application” will be presented to the population during the next election campaign as a historical achievement and almost a milestone on our thorny path toward the European integration – although, in fact, nothing has changed since yesterday.