Opinion polls show that 65 per cent of the population of the Republic of Moldova favor European integration. In the Pouchkine park in the heart of the capital, Chisinau, many strollers told us they will be like children in front of a candy store, when their neighbor Romania joins the European club next year.
“I think that it’s a good thing for Romania, but for us, Romania’s EU membership will make things more difficult, because we will need a visa to go there, we will be more isolated.”
“I would have liked Moldova to join the EU but it’s impossible, given the government we have today, it’s a communist government, they’re old fashioned.”
“It will affect me because it will be harder for me to travel to Romania, but deep down I am happy that Romania is joining the union and I hope that one day we will follow the steps of Romania and join the European block ourselves.”
From January the first, Romania’s 600 Kilometer long border with Moldova will become one of the union’s new external frontiers. This means tightened security measures and the introduction of visas. These will be free, but it’s nonetheless tough on Moldova as the country has a majority population, of ethnic Romanians.
Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have applied for Romanian citizenship. And hundreds of thousands have left and are still leaving the country, setting up shop in Western Europe, mainly Spain and Italy. Moldova is the poorest nation in Europe.
There is no Italian consulate in Chisinau, so every day, hordes of people hop-on minivans, for a twelve hour drive to the Romania capital, Bucharest, to queue patiently in front of the Italian Consulate. That’s where we met Valentina, a fifty year old university teacher. She tells us why she is returning to Italy, to work as a maid.
Moldova’s EU membership is a long way off, in fact it may never happen. The sensitive issue of the enclave of Transnistria is partly why Brussels is not considering the case seriously. The country would also be required to crack down on corruption and organized crime.
Dumitru Bragish is former Prime Minister, and Chairman of the opposition “Party of Social Democracy”. Bragish says that in any case, the ruling Communist Party has never sent Brussels a clear signal, that it wanted to join. He adds that in the meantime, Moscow has been an unreliable trade partner.
“Unfortunately Moldova has big problems with its trade regime European countries, we also have big problems with Russia. We have to face an increase in prices of our imports from Russia, such as gas. Unfortunately, on this issue, we didn’t receive any support from Europe we didn’t receive support from the United States either. Now I think that Moldova has now become a Cuba of Europe, and this is because of the irresponsible policies of the Moldovan government.”
In 2001, Moldova was the first former member of the eastern block to have elected a communist president after the block was dismantled. Dorin Chirtoaca is deputy Chairman of another opposition party, the “Liberal Party”. He is accusing Moldova’s President Vladmir Voronine, of acting like old guard authoritarian leaders. Inspired by Russia’s Vladmir Putin, Voronine has instructed Prosecutor generals to tighten the grip on non governmental organizations.
The next national elections in Moldova are due in 2009.
Back in Bucharest, Petre Roman, who became Romania’s first post World War two democratic Prime Minister in 1991, says it’s a shame that Romania and Moldova are not joining as one country.
“We missed that opportunity. As Prime Minister in 1991, I tried to prepare the ground for a union. Unfortunately, the attitude of too many politicians in Romania was patronizing with Moldova, instead of discussing with them on an equal footing, and that was a big mistake. Moldova is in a difficult situation now, there are a lot of problems with the residuals of the soviet time. Remember also that Moldova was never a state, and I still have doubt over the viability of the institutions of that state now.”
Lilliana Vidzu works for the Chisinau branch of the Eurasia NGO. She is more optimistic. She hopes that Moldova will reap the benefits of it’s neighbor’s new EU status.
“People will know what Europe is about, all they will have to do is cross the frontier, which only takes two hours, to experience Europe by themselves. I hope that people who are skeptical about Europe or people who are not EU driven, will realize the importance of being in the club and not outside of the club. I also hope that they will exert pressure on the government to undertake the necessary reforms to move closer to the EU.”
In the meantime this week the EU’s external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero Waldner, called on EU member states to boost their level of cooperation with countries such as Georgia and Moldova. She said that the relations between Brussels and its new neighbors should go beyond free trade agreements.Listen to the report:
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