Excessively overheated expectations of the EPC Summit in Moldova have played a dirty trick on its facilitators: the very modest results of the event have left the public disappointed
So, the Summit of the European Political Community (EPC), probably the key political event of the year, is over. It was clearly an extraordinary event for such a small post-Soviet country as Moldova. Therefore, our expectations from the event were a bit overstated. Apparently, most of them were not fully justified, therefore, even the most loyal experts had rather bland aftertaste.
The main reason for this effect is the approach of our authorities, which turned an ordinary meeting of leaders into something grandiose and almost fateful for the entire continent and for Moldova in particular. Against this background, the lack of any official decisions clearly marred the public, not to mention the fact that the European leaders did not agree even on a common statement on at least one of the most pressing issues for the country, for example, the start of negotiations on EU accession.
It is funny that it was last week that Moldova could feel as safe as possible over three decades of independence. The Ukrainian Armed Forces covered the event from the east, and the North Atlantic Alliance provided security from the west and the air. At the same time, additional air/antimissile defense equipment and a number of special military units from neighboring Romania were also brought into the country. Thus, for several days Moldova was de facto under the NATO “umbrella”.
At the same time, a mishap on the eve of the summit resulted in electricity shutdown for several hours in some regions of Moldova and Ukraine. By the end of the first day of the summit, a rather high-profile information and psychological operation was carried out against Maia Sandu personally. As a result, not only the president, but also the Ukrainian leader had to deny the widespread fake that she was allegedly ready to provide Moldovan territory (the left bank of the Dniester River) to the AFU.
In any case, Maia Sandu named at the summit the restoration of peace in Ukraine and Moldova’s preparation for EU membership by the end of this decade as the key topics of the event. Admittedly, it was not possible to achieve greater clarity in our European integration aspirations as a result of the forum, and Kyiv, even if unobtrusively, but not without success, used the meeting of the European Political Community in its own interests, “grabbing the biggest piece of the pie”.
So the main result for our country, along with the encouraging and distracting words of the heads of European states, was the financial support. In particular, the EU tripled the amount of assistance: according to the three-year plan, Moldova was to receive from Brussels 600 million euros - now this amount has increased to 1.6 billion euros. In addition, the European Union representatives informed about lift of roaming between Moldova and the EU from 2024, as well as about allocation of 100 million euros for energy efficiency projects for socially vulnerable people and 50 million euros for restoration of railway communication. Separately, Norway will provide us with 50 million euros in grant aid, and Great Britain will allocate 12.2 million euros to help Ukrainian refugees.
In addition, on the eve of the EPC Summit, the European Union Partnership Mission Moldova was opened to contribute to crisis management and hybrid threats, including threats related to cyber security. Poland, for its part, sent to our country six cargo planes with weapons and ammunition to equip the police, and the Moldovan army received the first batch of military equipment supplied through the European Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.
One way or another, most political events of this scale revolve around the most acute international issue, i.e. the war between Ukraine and Russia. This issue is given maximum attention, and sometimes the personal involvement of the Ukrainian leadership almost completely overshadows other, no less important topics for the facilitators. For the Moldovan authorities, the summit was supposed to be a kind of benefit, especially given the fact that Maia Sandu recently disclosed her intention to run for the second administration. Therefore, the president of Ukraine was received in accordance with his current media status, but not without apparent jealousy.
As expected, Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not miss the opportunity to attend such a pan-European event in order to promote his agenda. For example, he suggested that Western allies begin to create a “Patriot coalition”, that is, to unite the states that would collectively work on supplying Ukraine with American SAMs. The Ukrainian leader also reiterated that Kyiv was not about a military operation in Transnistria, unless requested by Chisinau, and he also “buried” the 5+2 Format. The Ukrainian authorities see a complete settlement after Ukraine’s victory over Russia. Everything looked as if we did not own the initiative in the negotiation process or completely handed it over to Kyiv.
As might be expected, it is difficult to conceal even in splendid scenery the existing contradictions between the leaders of European states and lacking common vision for the future of Europe and its security. This also applies to the issue of further EU enlargement, which is so pressing for Moldova. The florid statements of one of the founding fathers of the European Political Community Emmanuel Macron that it would be a mistake to invite Moldova and the Balkans, but do nothing for their integration, were countered by sharp comments of Romanian President Klaus Johannis that no one should have any illusions about the possibility of joining the EU soon. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also added a fly in the ointment, expressing his opinion that it was unacceptable to accelerate accession of Moldova and Ukraine to the European Union.
But despite such contradictions, our authorities still expect that the summit will help launch accession negotiations with the EU. Dorin Recean says he intends to implement all nine recommendations of the European Commission by July. It seems that the government wants ”beg, borrow or steal” from Brussels an individual approach to Moldova, that is, the possibility of European integration under its own program, without reference to Ukraine or the Western Balkans.
The most obvious conclusion from the summit is that it was still heavily over-publicized. Nothing particular was promised to Moldova: all the participants expressed in a very vague way, so as not to reassure Chisinau or Kyiv with a European perspective or additional weapons. As a result, overheated expectations are likely to result in increased social and political apathy and euro-doubt among people.
As experts have predicted, the European Community is still a somewhat “loose” forum with unclear goals and prospects that has all the hallmarks of just another platform for loud and non-binding statements. The fact that European leaders do not set clear objectives for this format and do not discuss its further institutionalization only points to the lack of a formulated mission for this (geo)political project, as well as to the deep disagreements in key EU capitals on the pan-European model of coexistence.