Can Moldova stay on the road to Europe?

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Last year Russia hit Moldova hard, imposing sanctions on wine exports and fuelling separatist rumblings in Transnistria and Gagauzia. But 2014 will be much worse. Following events in Ukraine, Russia also wants to undermine the one remaining “success story” of the Eastern Partnership. Russia is prepared to commit both financial resources and political will to increase pressure on Moldova. Can the EU help Moldova stay on the road to Europe?

In a new ECFR policy memo Stanislav Secrieru examines the internal and external risks faced by Moldova and argues that the EU needs to prepare a set of measures to help Chisinau to resist the likely Russian pressure in 2014.

What will Russia do?

  • Russia could expel Moldovan workers currently employed in Russia. This would have a real impact on family budgets and could undermine one of the pillars of Moldovan economic growth.
  • Russia may impose further sanctions on Moldovan agricultural produce with a total or partial ban on fresh vegetables and fruit. Moldova’s agricultural sector generates 12 percent of Moldovan GDP. A new Russian embargo could slow down economic growth and fuel popular discontent.
  • Russia is still Moldova’s only source for imported gas and Russia is likely to use Moldova's energy dependence to exert influence.
  • Russia will seek to use the conflicts in Transnistria and Gagauzia to provoke an overreaction from the Moldovan side. It may also try to ensure that a weak coalition emerges after the election in Moldova to slow down Moldova's European ambitions.

What the EU can do

  • The EU needs to deliver on its own promises through lifting visa requirements by summer 2014 for Moldovans who hold biometric passports.
  • The EU should pay close attention to Transnistria and Gagauzia. The EU and Moldova absorb almost 70 percent of Transnitria's exports. It is time to use this advantage to discourage Transnistria from further provocations and nudge it towards participation in the DCFTA.
  • The EU should restrain unhelpful voices within its own camp. Recent Romanian talk of reunification will further destabilise the situation in Moldova.
  • The EU should also make plans to deal with possible Russian trade restrictions, and should consider further liberalisation of the market for Moldovan products before the Association Agreement provisionally enters into force. To neutralise Russia’s energy levers, the EU should support Moldova’s energy cooperation with Romania and Ukraine.

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