Negotiations for Moldova's accession to the EU could commence this year

The original version of this post was published by NewsMaker. The following edited version has been translated and published on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

The second summit of the European Political Community was held in Moldova on June 1 — marking an event of unprecedented scale and political significance in the history of the Moldovan Republic.  The summit was held at the Mimi winery castle in Bulboaca, located 20 kilometers away from conflict-ridden Ukraine and 10 kilometers from the unrecognized region of Transnistria.

The summit commenced with the arrival of 48 European leaders, along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, and European Council President Charles Michel. Notably, the leaders of Turkey and San Marino did not attend the summit.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu warmly welcomed all the summit participants, expressing pride in bringing together representatives from across the continent. The agenda touched on numerous topics, with a primary focus on Ukraine and the restoration of peace amidst Russian aggression. Discussions also revolved around security, energy, and economic development for the benefit of citizens.

Sandu emphasized Moldova's goal of preparing the country for EU accession by the end of the decade. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who arrived secretly for security reasons, expressed gratitude to the Moldovan people for their hospitality and highlighted discussions on infrastructure, important projects, and their shared future within the EU.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, made an impactful statement before the summit, suggesting that Moldova could potentially become an EU member despite the unresolved Transnistrian conflict. Borrell referred to the case of Cyprus, which joined the EU despite territorial issues, indicating that Moldova could follow a similar path.

One significant topic of discussion during the summit was the establishment of a coalition for acquiring and delivering Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. President Zelensky emphasized the urgency of obtaining fighter jets for the protection of Ukrainian airspace, highlighting the role of the United States in providing the F-16s.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, expressed Europe's continued support for Ukraine in countering Russian aggression. He drew parallels between the situation in Ukraine and the occupation of parts of Moldova by Russia, stating that the presence of leaders from around 40 countries at the summit demonstrated their solidarity. The provision of assistance to Ukraine, including F-16 fighter jets and the expansion of the Patriot coalition, was among the key topics on the agenda.

The Transnistrian settlement [Transnistria is a region within the republic of Moldova where civil war had erupted over its status in March 1992. Concluded with a ceasefire agreement in July the same year.As part of the ceasefire agreement, a three-party (Russia, Moldova, Transnistria) Joint Control Commission supervises the security arrangements in the demilitarised zone. Although the ceasefire has held, the territory's political status remains unresolved: Transnistria is an unrecognised but de facto independent presidential republic] also featured prominently during the summit. President Sandu emphasized that Moldova was actively engaged in both European integration and the reintegration of Transnistria. The security issues discussed included protecting Europe from war and hybrid threats, fostering strategic cooperation, and enhancing the security and resilience of critical infrastructure and power grids.

Regarding Moldova's gains from the summit, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, pledged to triple macro-financial assistance to Moldova from EUR 600 million to EUR 1.6 billion. Furthermore, telephone roaming charges between Moldova and EU countries will be eliminated beginning in 2024. Additional financial support of EUR 50 million for railway infrastructure repair and EUR 100 million for energy efficiency programs benefiting vulnerable segments of the population were also allocated. Norway pledged an extra EUR 50 million for Moldova, emphasizing that President Sandu must manage the funds responsibly.

Roberta Metsola, the head of the European Parliament, announced that negotiations for Moldova's accession to the EU could commence this year, expressing admiration for Moldova's swift response to European Commission recommendations. Finally, French President Emmanuel Macron, the initiator of the European Political Community, expressed pride in Moldova's candidacy for EU membership and commended President Sandu's leadership in the fight against corruption and the pursuit of freedom. Macron firmly believed that Moldova's future lay within the EU.

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