Europe’s security is at stake in Moldova – POLITICO | Popgen Tech
Maia Sandu is the President of the Republic of Moldova.
Three decades ago, Moldovans chose freedom and democracy over authoritarianism. And today we are moving decisively towards the European Union.
But with Russia’s brazen aggression against our neighbor Ukraine, our country now faces dramatic costs and heightened risks that threaten to derail our chosen path, weakening Europe’s security.
Moldova is a dynamic democracy in what has become a dangerous neighborhood.
Over the past year, we have built stronger institutions, fought corruption and supported the post-pandemic recovery. As a result, our economy grew by 14 percent in 2021; we jumped 49 ranks on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index; and our anti-money laundering rating has been upgraded by the Council of Europe.
In recognition of our implementation of difficult reforms in a challenging geopolitical context, the EU granted Moldova candidate status for membership in June. But instead of enjoying the benefits of deeper European integration, Moldovans are now struggling to cope with an acute energy crisis, a severe economic downturn and massive security threats.
Many, if not all, European nations are currently facing serious energy pressures, of course – but ours is existential. The legacy of almost total dependence on Russia for gas and electricity, and the failure by successive governments to diversify supplies, now threatens our economic survival.
As of November, Russia’s bombing of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, along with Gazprom cutting natural gas exports in half, has eliminated power from our previous sources of imported electricity.
In response, the government adopted energy conservation measures and switched some industries to alternative fuels. Long-term energy security measures, including an electricity connection with Romania, will yield results, but only in a few years.
Friends and partners also offer support to the best of their ability.
Romania, our good neighbor and strong supporter, has stepped in, with electricity exports now accounting for around 80 percent of Moldova’s current consumption. Meanwhile, on a recent visit to Chișinău, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced new aid to help ease Moldova’s crisis, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development threw a bailout to finance emergency gas supplies.
Today, French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a meeting of the Moldovan Support Platform – an initiative led by France, Germany and Romania.
The forum aims to mobilize much-needed support ahead of what is likely to be an uncertain winter. Moldova wants to finance its gas and electricity purchases from new sources and support social schemes for the most vulnerable, which will help dampen price rises. In the past 12 months, the price of gas in our country has grown sevenfold, while the price of electricity has risen fourfold. This winter, Moldovans are likely to spend up to 65 percent of their income on energy bills.
If we can light and heat homes in our country and make sure that schools and hospitals can still function and the wheels of the economy keep turning, it will mean that Moldovans – along with Ukrainians – will not have to take shelter elsewhere in Europe in this coming cold season not looking
Even before winter fully sets in, the energy crisis and the economic consequences of the war next door are already having a significant impact on people’s lives, the country’s economy and our future growth. Inflation nears 35 percent; prices soared; trade routes are disrupted; and investor sentiment weakened. As a result, the economy is likely to contract.
Meanwhile, Russia’s proxies and criminal groups have joined forces to exploit the energy crisis and fuel discontent. They hope to incite political unrest. Using the full spectrum of hybrid threats – including false bomb alerts, cyber attacks, disinformation, calls for social unrest and undisguised bribery – they are working to destabilize the government, erode our democracy and jeopardize Moldova’s contribution to Europe’s greater security set.
Our vulnerabilities could weaken Ukraine’s resilience, as well as stability on the rest of the continent.
While we are Ukraine’s most vulnerable neighbor, we also secure its second longest border – after the one it has with Russia. Along these 1,222 kilometers, Moldova is a frontline state in the fight against arms, drugs and human trafficking.
Since the start of the war, we have worked hard to maintain stability in the breakaway Transnistria region, which shares a border of more than 450 kilometers with Ukraine and where 1,600 Russian troops are illegally stationed. We managed to keep the situation calm.
We also provide essential supply routes to and from Ukraine — a significant part of Ukrainian trade, including grain, passes through Moldova.
In addition, our country has sheltered more than 650,000 refugees since the first days of the Russian invasion. So far, more than 80,000 of them have chosen to stay, and we are preparing to house more in the winter, should they have to flee a military escalation or a lack of heat, electricity and water.
Europe and Ukraine need a strong Moldova. Strong enough to support Ukraine during the war. Strong enough to maintain peace and stability in our region. Strong enough to shelter refugees. And strong enough to become a natural center for the reconstruction of southern Ukraine after the war.
Just as Russia should not be allowed to win in Ukraine, its hybrid techniques should not be allowed to succeed in Moldova. We will do our part to defend European values despite the hardships imposed on us. The price is heavy, and we are willing to bear the burden.
But we can’t do it alone.