Assessing the Implications for Moldova in Hosting the European Political Community Summit
On May 21, in Republic of Moldova's capital, Chișinău, will take place the National Assembly "Moldova Europeană." This presidential initiative aims to engage all citizens with pro-European views and foster a sense of unity and commitment towards Moldova's European integration. Following this event, on June 1st 2023, Moldova will be the host country for the Summit of the European Political Community which will bring together 47 heads of states, governments as well as European Union leaders. These events aim to reinforce Moldova's aspirations for EU membership and demonstrate its compatibility with European values.
The creation of the European Political Community in the region was prompted by the Russian Federation's unwarranted aggression in Ukraine. Due to security concerns, organizing a summit in Ukraine was not feasible. Instead, Moldova, as a non-EU country, situated in the Eastern Neighborhood, emerged as the most accessible location to convene the Summit. Moldova's commitment to its European course has been evident ever since the election of President Maia Sandu (a staunch pro-European advocate) in November 2020, as well as the overwhelming pro-European majority in Parliament. Moreover, Moldova swiftly obtained the candidate country status for EU accession, primarily influenced by the war in Ukraine.
The upcoming Summit of the European Political Community, carries an adamant message to the Russian Federation: "Hands off the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and the Western Balkans." This message reflects the collective determination of not just the European Union, but all European states, to safeguard countries aspiring for reforms, values, and freedom against any unwanted interference from Russia.
The participation of 47 heads of states and governments in this summit marks a momentous occasion for the Republic of Moldova, an ex-Soviet republic that has grappled with geopolitical uncertainties since gaining independence more than three decades ago. The country's foreign policy stands out as a significant asset, providing a solid foundation for its resilience amidst the economic challenges resulting from the war in Ukraine.
The visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Chisinau on June 15, 2022, held significant importance in the context of the European Union applications of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. It took place prior to the examination of these applications and played a crucial role due to the close relationship between President Macron and the Moldovan President. It's worth noting that France, along with Romania and Germany, has been a key advocate for Chisinau in advancing the European integration process for the country.
The upcoming Summit of the European Political Community, carries an adamant message to the Russian Federation: "Hands off the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and the Western Balkans.
The collaboration among France, Romania and Germany has been instrumental in championing the interests of the Republic of Moldova and advancing its path towards European integration. President Macron's visit served to reaffirm this alliance and highlight the importance attached to Moldova's European journey.
Specifically, during his visit to Chisinau in June 2022, Emmanuel Macron announced the establishment of a new dialogue platform and provided assurances that this European Political Community is not intended to replace the process of accession to the European Union. The joint initiative of France, Germany and Romania yielded significant success in organizing donor conferences, resulting in a financial support package exceeding 1.43 billion euros. During the conferences held in Berlin, Bucharest, and Paris, Republic of Moldova's budget received funding amounts of 700 million euros, 600 million euros, and 130 million euros, respectively, in the specified order.
The international community's timely assistance to the Republic of Moldova came at a critical moment, when the country was struggling with multiple challenges. These challenges included an economic crisis marked by an inflation rate of over 35%, a security crisis due to remnants of missiles dropped on its territory, a gas energy crisis resulting from exorbitant prices and limited supply of Russian gas, as well as an electricity crisis caused by the termination of the energy supply contract from the MGRES plant located in the area controlled by the self-declared Transnistria.
This financial support made a substantial contribution in addressing the pressing issues faced by Moldova and demonstrated the commitment of the international community in assisting the country in its time of need. It helped addressing the economic, security, and energy-related challenges, fostering stability and resilience in the Republic of Moldova.
The allocation of a budget for the European Community Summit signifies the tangible implementation of this concept as a functioning institution. It is essential to recognize the security concerns surrounding the Summit, particularly considering that Moldova has also experienced missile incidents caused by the Russian aggression. The event is taking place in the village of Bulboaca, a mere 30 km from the so-called capital of the separatist regime, Transnistria, further emphasizing the need for solid security measures.
It is probable that the European leaders will arrive bearing gifts, as they are expected to announce new grants aimed at supporting development efforts and mitigating the impacts of the war. Ukraine, the country that is defending its sovereignty, and the Republic of Moldova, being the second most affected country due to the war in Ukraine, stand to benefit from these initiatives first of all. The provision of financial assistance will not only aid in addressing the immediate consequences of the conflict, but will also contribute to long-term stability and recovery in these regions.
The hosting of this event presents as well an exceptional opportunity for the Republic of Moldova to gain significant international visibility.
The selection of security and energy as the main topics for the European Political Community (ECP) Summit is of utmost importance, given their significance as vulnerable areas for the Republic of Moldova. It is worth mentioning that the EU recently established a civilian mission in April of this year, aimed at enhancing the resilience of Moldova's security sector and countering cyber and hybrid attacks. This mission marks the second EU civilian mission after the war, the first being the civilian mission in Armenia, which strives for peacefully resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. These initiatives reflect EU's efforts to strengthen its influence in security and foreign policies, as outlined in the priorities of the European Commission for the 2019-2024 mandate.
The hosting of this event presents as well an exceptional opportunity for the Republic of Moldova to gain significant international visibility. Despite its limited resources, Moldova has proved to be a true European country to the European community due to its impeccable management of over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. The country's exemplary response to the refugee crisis (receiving the most Ukrainian refugees per capita compared to rest of Europe) including the provision of food, shelter, and medical services by its mobilized civil society, has not only enhanced Moldova's reputation, but has also showcased its unwavering commitment to the European values. It's significant to point out that this support extended to Ukraine was accompanied by the implementation of Western sanctions against Russia and a clear condemnation of the war, emphasizing Moldova's alignment with the international community's position.
Furthermore, for the European Political Community (ECP) to transcend from its current role as a mere dialogue platform, it needs to adopt a more proactive approach. This requires taking concrete steps, particularly with the involvement of Eastern European states that have historically experienced hostility from the Russian Federation. The ECP provides a valuable platform for countries such as Ukraine and Moldova to contribute their perspectives on the thinking of the Russian Federation. This, in turn, enables Western European states to enhance their vigilance and undertake a comprehensive reassessment of their approach in a pragmatic manner that duly recognizes the post-war realities.
Firstly, the European Political Community (ECP) should serve as a catalyst to expedite EU enlargement policies and revitalize the neighborhood policy, which has witnessed significant stagnation in recent years. It is noteworthy that the most recent accession to the European Union was Croatia in 2013, resulting in a ten-year gap during which these policies failed to address the aspirations of countries such as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and those in the Western Balkans. Regrettably, this inaction has created an opportunity for Russia's propaganda to undermine the stability of these states, consequently fostering Eurosceptic sentiments within the region.
Secondly, to become a truly institutionalized entity, the ECP should establish bureaucratic structures, including a dedicated budget and governing bodies. This will ensure a clearer understanding of its functions and differentiate it from institutions such as the European Union, the European Council, and the Council of Europe. Without proper institutionalization, the ECP may appear as nothing more than a dialogue platform, duplicating the efforts that can be undertaken within existing institutions like the Council of Europe, which shares identical member states with the ECP.
Thirdly, given its focus on security and energy, the ECP should initiate a comprehensive work plan aimed at safeguarding the European states involved from the potential risks of dependence on and influence by Russia. Concrete solutions must be devised to counteract the adverse effects of complete reliance on Russian gas, especially for non-EU states that are more vulnerable than EU member states. By adopting such a proactive approach, the region can fortify itself against potential vulnerabilities and effectively mitigate the risks associated with Russia's energy dominance.
In conclusion, it is crucial for the European Political Community to reposition the Republic of Moldova as a "success story" and a compelling case study for aspiring integration into the European Union, emphasizing the challenges encountered on the path to necessary European reforms. The upcoming Summit presents an opportunity to establish a more determined accession perspective, addressing the previous lack of clarity. President Maia Sandu's firm declaration of a strong desire to integrate the Republic of Moldova into the European Union by 2030, along with a concrete action plan, calls for an assessment of the European states' willingness to enlarge the European Union and the need for more focused discussions on specific issues regarding the future of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and the Western Balkans.