Moldova: a historic chance with a few question marks – The Weekly 62

Moldova may potentially have solved a long political crisis by helping a pro-West political force to a landslide victory in the recent snap parliamentary elections. The election result means a historic opportunity for both Moldova and Europe, but the small Eastern European country still has a long way to go. It is Europe’s responsibility to help rather than hinder Moldova in taking the necessary steps.

Often referred to as one of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova, ever since it became independent, has been struggling with many typical Central Eastern European problems, one of which alone is quite enough to significantly complicate the life of a country. Having gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova has seen quite a turbulent history. 

Due to its geographical location, it has always been in the focus of both western and eastern geopolitical efforts, which have had their effect on the country’s life to this day.

The national identity of the vast Romanian-speaking majority has often been the subject of heated debates since the pro-West forces typically consider themselves as part of the Romanian nation and urge for a closer cooperation with Romania, while the pro-Moscow entities, somewhat revisiting Soviet-era narratives, believe Moldovans are a separate nation, despite their close relation with Romanians. Besides the two main camps, Moldova has many smaller groups with highly diverse ideas and political goals that don’t always refrain from extremism. For example, there are Romanian nationalists who urge for an immediate unification with Romania, while some Moldovan nationalist groups even voice territorial claims against Romania based on the legacy of the Medieval Principality of Moldavia.

Apart from the Romanian-speaking community, there are other significant ethnic groups such as the Turkic-speaking but Orthodox Christian Gagauz with their own territorial autonomy, as well as the Russians and Ukrainians who mainly live in the breakaway state officially called Transnistria. The status of Transnistria poses some major questions in terms of Moldova’s future. The breakaway region engaged in a brief war with the newly-independent Moldova back in 1992 and has been functioning as a quasi independent state with some Russian backing ever since. Paradoxically, the region also has a significant influence on Moldovan politics, because its inhabitants reliably vote for pro-Moscow forces (just like the the country’s other minorities).

After a long history of dependence on external power centres, no wonder Moldova’s past thirty years have seen a lot of debate on which block the now independent country should commit to: Europe or the post-Soviet region?

However, while the political pendulum was swinging so intensely for many years, Moldova has been increasingly lagging behind even the other states of the region.

Perhaps the result of last week’s snap elections may make the picture a bit clearer: the pro-West President Maia Sandu’s party achieved a major victory and has a stable majority, which allows her to form a government without a coalition partner and take the helm of the country (or at least the part that is under Chișinău’s control). As a European, I am happy to see the citizens of a long-hesitating country voting so much confidence to the forces that want to lead them on the European way, adopting European values. I am sending my heartfelt best wishes to Moldova and the newly-forming government, so that they could clear the political sphere from corruption and give Moldova a new direction in terms of foreign affairs.

Nevertheless, I unfortunately don’t see any reason to be highly optimistic: Moldova’s problems will not disappear overnight. 

In order for Moldova to implement the desired changes, we must speak openly and frankly with each other. First of all, we must find a solution for the serious problem of Transnistria. Not only is the status of the breakaway region unclear, it still has Russian peacekeepers stationed in its territory to this day. This fact clearly poses a fundamental obstacle in Moldova’s way to EU integration.

The other major question is Moldova’s relation to its own identity and to Romania. In Europe, we often tend to forget that a pro-West stance and aggressive nationalism are not always mutually exclusive ideas in the East.

I think it’s important to note that, with all due respect to the national self-identification of Moldovan people, the closer future connections to the West (with Romania in it) must never give way to rampant Chauvinism or lead to any form of forced Romanianization in the multi-ethnic country.

On the other hand, the European Union cannot expect Moldova to solve all its problems on its own. We must help, too, by offering real prospects and real solution strategies for Chișinău, otherwise the general disillusionment will turn the public sentiment against us in the next elections. Both Moldova and the EU will be tested in the upcoming years. I hope we will be successful in our efforts. - Jobbik MEP Márton Gyöngyösi Moldova: a historic chance with a few question marks – The Weekly 62 - Gyöngyösi Márton (