Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman told German newspaper BILD that Moldova will more than likely apply for European Union membership in five years. The small country will sign an EU Association Agreement on June 27, but may face retaliation from Russia.
The BILD reported:
BILD: Do you want to be full a EU member?
Yes, this is the next level. We understand very well that it is too early to talk about the application. Previously, much remains to be done.
BILD: When do you think you are ready?
I think the implementation will be three or five years. During this time we will deal very intensively with the pro-European reforms in our country. Only after an application will follow. It is then to decide on the European countries, whether we have done enough. We very much hope that the EU enlargement process continues.
Russian President Vladimir Putin does not like when ex-Soviet states reach out to the EU instead of Russia. For example, Ukraine was in this position in November 2013 when Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych decided to choose a $15 billion bailout from Russia instead of an EU Association Agreement. Pro-Westerners in Ukraine descended upon Independence Square in Kiev and demanded Yanukovych’s resignation. On February 21, he left Kiev, and parliament officially ousted him on February 22. Without his ally in office, Russia and Putin took steps to punish Ukraine, such as annexing Crimea and threatening to cut off the gas supply. Russia is issuing threats towards Moldova if they choose the same path.
If the agreement is signed, “I will insist on revising economic relations with Moldova,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who’s been sanctioned by the U.S. and the EU after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, told Kommersant in an interview published May 12 after his visit to Transnistria.
Natalya Timakova, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, declined to comment on Russia’s possible response against Moldova. Moldova’s government is open to discussing “economic issues” with Russia and sees no threat of European goods flooding its market, Liliana Vitu, a spokeswoman for Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, said by phone.
“Moldova is a part of the rivalry story between Russia and Europe,” Alexei Makarkin, a deputy director at the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies, said today by phone. “It’s the same as with Ukraine.” In Moldova’s case, however, “it will be limited to economic issues and some ostentatious events, like Rogozin’s visit to Tiraspol” in Transnistria.
Transnistria is a breakaway region on Ukraine’s border and is not internationally recognized, even by Russia. Rogozin visited the area on May 12 and returned with a petition that asks to join the Russian Federation. Transnistria is home to mainly Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and wants closer ties to the West. On April 27, the EU extended visa-free travel to all Moldovan citizens, including those in Transnistria.