Last European Chance for Moldova

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Moldova is more and more deeply incorporating into the common European area; however, the strategic goal of the authorities remains the launch of negotiations on accession to the EU. And there may not be better opportunities for this than in 2023
Yesterday, Chisinau hosted another distinguished guest, President of the European Council Charles Michel. Maia Sandu discussed with him the European focus of Moldova, hybrid attacks and challenges for the security of our country. It is still difficult to say what the EU representative exactly brought, but it is obvious that it was anything but an ordinary visit. Indeed, several important decisions were taken at the meeting of the European Council in Brussels last week, including, according to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, with respect to Moldova, which will receive additional and considerable support of the European Union. Before Charles Michel, Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca visited us, reaffirming unconditional support to Moldova’s path towards the European integration, economic consolidation and maintaining stability in the face of regional threats. Bucharest, as we know, is the main lobbyist and promoter of Moldova in European structures. It can be judged that its efforts in shaping a pan-European consensus around the republic not only does not subside, but is also reaching its apogee. Tellingly, before arriving in Chisinau, the President of the European Council met in Bucharest with the leaders of Romania. Apparently, he was fed with the most subtle nuances of the current alignments within Moldova and the most likely scenarios for the development of the situation. This once again confirms that Romania is assigned the role of “watchdog” for Moldova, and Bucharest is instructed to ensure European integration acceleration through political transmission belts linking the two capitals on both banks of the Prut. At the final press conference, Maia Sandu, as expected, reconfirmed the intention to comply with the recommendations of the European Commission and accelerate implementation of the European legislation. Charles Michel, on the other hand, reassured that the European Council should make a political decision by the end of the year to open negotiations on accession to the EU after studying the report of the European Commission on the implementation of the relevant recommendations. In addition, he announced a new support package to be enabled for our country by the summer after the completion of all procedures. Another surge of attention from Brussels is probably to a large extent aligned with the declining interest of the Moldovans in the idea of European integration, which is seen rather as something metaphysical and very far from the hard realities of life. Against this background, the social and political preferences of Moldova’s population are rapidly moving to the left, which, from an electoral point of view, is an alarming trend for right-wing and pro-European forces. Maybe that is why Charles Michel, along with voicing impressive volume of aid, tried to appeal directly to people, convincing them that the prospect of becoming part of the European Union is a realistic and quite feasible task for Moldova. Along with the financial and political support of the European integration narrative, security issues play an increasingly important role in relations with the European Union. Last week has seen the second stage of the high-level dialogue with the EU on defense and security issues, followed by statement of the head of the Foreign Ministry, Nicu Popescu, that “cooperation in this area is entering a new strategic level.” Therefore, besides the hub for internal security and border management that has been operating in our country since last summer, we can expect even more serious steps from the European Union and the development of an extensive system of presence of various European law enforcement agencies. By the way, we should not forget about the European Political Community Summit, scheduled for June 1, with expected participation of about 50 heads of state and government, as well as EU officials. Huge scale of the event, especially for our country, requires not only additional saturation with institutional resources, but also an enhanced security system. The summit will have an important symbolic meaning in terms of the civilizational delineation, showing that Moldova is part of Europe not only geographically, but also in a (geo)political sense. We must be prepared that Moscow will try to do everything to disrupt the summit and deal a humiliating blow to the image of the Moldovan authorities and the whole country. Brussels and Chisinau have long announced a civil mission of the European Union to our country, which should help Moldova resist external and internal threats. To this end, the concept of crisis management is being developed, and a European mission, including justice, police and customs officials, will arrive in the country in early summer. In addition, the EU will provide experts who will advise the relevant authorities in countering cybercrime and disinformation. It seems that cooperation in sanction application is also growing, which will become one of the new areas of collaboration with Brussels this year. In response to Nicu Popescu’s statements about gradually joining the EU anti-Russian sanctions, as well as the intention to introduce restrictions against Russian nationals in the near future, the European Union expressed its willingness to synchronize with the sanctions of the Moldovan government against several entrepreneurs who are suspected of trying to destabilize the situation in the republic. In general, we can say that relations with the EU are getting more and more “grasping”, and Moldova is becoming more and more deeply incorporated into the common European space. With all the volume of assistance already provided and scheduled, nevertheless, the strategic goal of our leadership remains to obtain a unanimous decision of the EU Member States to start negotiations on accession. The impression is that 2023 is a kind of last chance, and all forces are thrown into lobbying for this particular issue. In addition, it is now even clearer why Maia Sandu, with such anguish, speaking from the parliamentary rostrum tried to mobilize our elites to do everything to demonstrate Moldova’s willingness to open negotiations with the EU and push the collective Brussels to make an appropriate decision at the December summit. We can understand the authorities’ sincere desire to catch the train of European integration that is leaving for history and look for any ways, including backstairs, in order to achieve the cherished goal. Despite the fact that Chisinau has accelerated the solution of its foreign policy tasks at the expense of Kyiv, now we would like to withdraw from the common package with Ukraine, which prospects for the EU entry directly depend on the outcome of the war and peace conditions with Moscow. For Moldova, it is important to be a “separate carriage” and not be part of a geopolitical deal on Ukraine. The neighbors have long caught on that we decided to play our own game, and are already showing their displeasure. Therefore, one way or another, the path to launching negotiations with the EU will definitely not be embraved with flowers.