Moldovan FM favors European integration without Transdniestria
CHISINAU. Nov 27 (Interfax) - Moldova's integration into Europe must not depend on a settlement of the conflict over Transdniestria, Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu said.
"Moldovan citizens should not be hostages to the geopolitical situation caused by the conflict over Transdniestria," Popescu said in an interview with the One Decision website, when asked how Moldova planned to integrate into the EU with an unsettled conflict on its territory.
"We still have time before joining the EU. We are working hard to bring our laws in line with European standards and to carry out a justice system reform. All of this will take time. But our goal is to be prepared to join by 2030. And we'll also make efforts to settle the conflict over Transdniestria in a peaceful way and to have Russian troops withdrawn from Moldova through negotiations. It's too early to assert anything. We still have several years ahead to move toward the EU, while at the same time seeking the conflict's peaceful settlement," he said.
Asked whether Moldova could agree to join the EU without Transdniestria, Popescu replied, "I can't answer this question. But what is clear is that the absolute majority of our citizens in the territory controlled [by Chisinau] wouldn't wish to be hostages to the geopolitical situation surrounding the Transdniestrian region. The EU's official position is, Moldova shouldn't be a hostage to a settlement or non-settlement of that conflict, of which EU Foreign Policy High Commissioner Josep Borrell said while visiting Chisinau in June."
Moldovan President Maia Sandu has earlier allowed for the possibility of Moldova joining the EU in two stages. "We are working on settling the Transdniestrian conflict. However, this unsolved problem should not become an obstacle to Moldova's integration into the European Union. In the worst case scenario, if we can't solve the Transdniestria problem before joining the EU, we may carry out EU integration in two steps: first the right bank of the Dniester and then the left bank. When our citizens from the left bank see how life is improving, they will also want to join the EU," Sandu said.
On November 8, the European Commission issued a recommendation for the Council of the EU to start negotiations on Ukraine's and Moldova's accession to the EU. Popescu said in commenting on the decision that Moldova's integration into the EU and Transdniestria's reintegration should go in parallel, and if the problem of Transdniestria is not settled, EU standards would have to be implemented first on the right bank of the Dniester and then on its left bank.