European Political Community Summit in Moldova: Highlights and Risks

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Sergiu Ceban
There are many expectations in the country from the big European summit to be held on our territory for the first time. However, tackling all the organizational issues and security risks will be a big test for the entire state system
Less than a month is left till the main political event of the year in Moldova. Already on 1 June we will host the second meeting of the European Political Community, which will bring together about fifty presidents and prime ministers. The occasion is clearly an extraordinary and, in some ways, even grandiose one for Moldova: for the first time in modern history, our country is to host such a large number of dignitaries at a time. In addition to the widespread global interest in the country, the upcoming summit will be a great test for the current authorities and the state system as a whole. Despite the fact that the kick-off is just weeks away, rumors continue to circulate that Kyiv wanted the second EPC meeting to be hosted by Ukraine, and was even a bit jealous of the organizers’ decision to choose Moldova, not so far from Ukrainian territory. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Kyiv authorities will not miss the opportunity to make the most of this assembly of European politicians and charge its content mainly with Ukrainian issues. It cannot be ruled out that it was for this very purpose that foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba paid a visit to Chisinau the other day. He was also received by Maia Sandu, so it is quite possible that the head of the Ukrainian diplomacy brought some kind of message from Volodymyr Zelensky. In any case, preparations in Chisinau are already in full swing: organisational and logistical details are studied, and, of course, security issues, as evidenced by the work of Polish special forces and their helicopter hovering over Chisinau. A large sum from the Moldovan budget was urgently allocated in the run-up to the summit to brush up the capital and repair the road to the Castel Mimi venue. In a certain sense, a prologue to the summit will be the Great National Assembly scheduled for 21 May on the main square in the capital, which is also fraught with many risks. In principle, it will set the tone and the background for the subsequent summit, so any loss of control or organisational failure will inevitably have an impact on Moldova’s political image. One way or another, security will be of crucial importance; therefore, the authorities, in cooperation with foreign partners, will try to do their best not to let anything go wrong. Although the choice of Moldova as a border and frontline state was surely not accidental, and all risks had been taken into account beforehand. As has been said many times before, Moscow will probably try to at least hamper the summit and create an unpleasant aftertaste for foreign high ranking guests from their stay in Moldova. Although the country’s airspace will be partially closed on the day of the delegations’ arrival, it cannot be ruled out that “unidentified flying objects” may appear in it to provoke emergency situations. By the way, in the last few days, senior Russian officials have again raised the need to ‘protect’ the Transdniestrian region, while social networks and media outlets are spreading more scare stories about Ukrainian units, personnel and military equipment being moved to the Odessa region to prepare provocations against Transdniestria. Reportedly, as early as next week, units of the Ukrainian armed forces will move towards Tiraspol to start a diversionary armed provocation, while the main forces will try to seize ammunition depots in the village of Cobasna. Frankly, it is difficult to imagine Kyiv taking such a gamble ahead of the summit and disrupting an important, particularly for its perspectives, pan-European event. Despite all the regional security problems, the European political community decided to meet exactly next door to Ukraine, on the territory of a non-NATO country, and in the vicinity of an unrecognized region that claims independence and support from Russia, and where Russian armed forces are deployed. All this shows the ambition of European leaders to signal to Moscow that Moldova belongs entirely to the European geopolitical realm and Brussels will not allow the status quo in the EU candidate state comfortable for Russia. A few words about the European Political Community. The idea of launching a new pan-European platform, as is known, came from France, and its first meeting was held on 6 October last year in Prague attended by 44 European leaders. Apart from the representatives of the European Union member states, there were also representatives of the candidate states and those who are tied to the EU by economic deals and share democratic values. Moscow and Minsk were naturally not invited. It seems that the EPC leaders are going to meet once or twice a year to discuss a wide range of topics, from economy to security. If we talk about the content and meaning behind the idea of a community, the main point of this Franco-German project is to offer an alternative geopolitical model for Europe and to demonstrate soft forms of expanding influence on the continent against the background of Moscow’s attempts to promote its foreign policy interests through military force. At the same time, the community now looks like a very conventional model for European unity that has yet to shape its vision and mission. Essentially, it is still an informal platform without any governing structure, budget and development strategy, so there should be rational and pragmatic expectations from the upcoming summit. Our leadership, presumably, counts first of all on a consensus among the EU member states about Moldova so that this autumn they take a collegial decision to open EU accession talks with our country. Therefore, in terms of political technology, a big political rendezvous on the territory of Moldova is mainly of PR importance for the authorities, amplifying both the country’s European integration prospects and the purely electoral positions of the PAS. Moreover, the summit is seen by the ruling party as an essential electoral contribution from the EU, which should help to rectify the situation with its rating. The whole bunch of events on the list is likely to be aimed at finally consolidating the pro-European vector of development, and it seems that the parliamentary majority will initiate the procedure of enshrining this provision in the Constitution. Therefore, Chisinau expects maximum support from the EU, as the defeat of the current government in the next elections could well be called a failure of Brussels and European foreign policy on its doorstep.