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Chatham House expert: Moldova is undergoing major changes, the EU must support it more

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We see tectonic changes taking place in Moldova. As in Ukraine, we are dealing with a new generation that thinks anew. What is also remarkable is the recognition that Ukraine is what saves Moldova from Russian tanks, believes Kataryna Wolczuk, an expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House in London.

During the seminar “Counteracting the influence of the Kremlin on Belarus and in Moldova”, which took place on Tuesday at Chatham House, Kataryna Wolczuk pointed out that Russia tries to exert influence in several ways. Firstly, through energy dependence, whereby, as pointed out by prof. Wolczuk, Russia began energy blackmail against Moldova in the fall of 2021, before the invasion of Ukraine.

READ MORE: Zelensky in Chisinau. “When there is no guarantee of security, there is only a guarantee of war”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Moldovan President Maia Sandu in Chisinau PAP/EPA

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The effect of lifting energy prices there was inflation, a food crisis and an economic crisis that came just as Moldova’s new pro-Western government promised to raise living standards. As the expert further pointed out, he also contributed to the destabilization of Moldova migration crisiswhich is the result of the influx of Ukrainian refugees, because although most of them went further, about 80-90 thousand remained, which is a big challenge for a country as small as Moldova.

As further means of pressure, Wolczuk pointed to the use of local politicians and oligarchs who benefit from maintaining the kleptocratic system, such as Vladimir Plahotniuc or Igor Dodon, some of the media that fuel anti-government and anti-Western sentiments, and the two autonomous regions of Transnistria and Gagauzia. She noted, however, that the importance of the former, which is actually a quasi-state, as a means of pressure has decreased since Ukraine prevented the rotation of the Russian contingent there.

Expert: We see tectonic changes taking place in Moldova

– What is extraordinary is the fact that Moldova, being in the shadow of Ukraine, is undergoing a phenomenal transformation. Though (President) Maya Sandu tried to avoid geopolitics during the election campaign, we see tectonic changes taking place in Moldova. As in Ukraine, in Moldova we are dealing with a new generation that thinks anew. But what is also remarkable is the recognition that Ukraine is what saves Moldova from Russian tanks. There is a very strong belief that the future of Moldova is in the hands of the Ukrainian armed forces. There is a significant change, because previously relations were not necessarily very good – said Wolczuk.

She stressed that Sandu strongly opposed the idea of ​​Moldova’s neutrality. “As we know, for Russia, neutrality means that the West is to stay away, and it can do whatever it wants,” Wolczuk said.

She noted that there is no doubt in Moldova that if only Russia had direct access to this country, it would invade this country, and since it does not exist, it must limit itself to the aforementioned indirect forms of pressure. She added that if the authorities in Chisinau took over the pro-Russian forces, Moldova would become a failed state.

President of Moldova Maia Sandu and the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen PAP/EPA/DUMITRU DORU

Support from Brussels as a driving force for change

Wolczuk explained that a manifestation of the new approach of the new Moldovan authorities is the use of EU financial assistance to carry out reforms, and not its actual stealing, as it was before, and an attempt to reduce energy dependence on Russia, which until 2021 was considered impossible to achieve.

Meanwhile, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some things, like connecting Moldova to the European power grid, turned out to be possible in three weeks, and now 70 percent of energy is imported through Romania. According to the expert, a huge challenge remains the reform of the judiciary, which for years has allowed corrupt elites to appropriate the state, which also happened in Ukraine.

Demonstration in Chisinau in support of the government’s pro-European actionsAurel Obreja/Associated Press/East News

Prof. Wolczuk pointed out that many of the reforms now being carried out in Moldova will bring an effect that will be felt by people only in the medium term, so it is important to support the EU so that Moldovan society does not turn back from this path. And that includes a clearer path to membership that she believes doesn’t exist at the moment.

– Although membership of the European Union is considered a panacea, in my opinion it is not guaranteed at all in the case of Moldova, despite the symbolic decision last June. In fact, there is no consensus or clear strategy on how to secure membership for Ukraine and Moldova. They have simply been added to the waiting room where the Western Balkan countries are and are expected to stay there for a longer period of time, the Chatham House expert assessed.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA

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