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EU Signals Readiness To Resume Full Ties With Moldova

  • Ahto Lobjakas

Prime Minister Vlad Filat's government won parliamentary support on September 25.

Prime Minister Vlad Filat's government won parliamentary support on September 25.

BRUSSELS -- The European Union has signaled it's ready to resume full cooperation with Moldova following the appointment of a new, liberal-led government and Chisinau's recent decision to normalize relations with neighboring Romania.

Diplomats in Brussels say they believe Moldova is ready for a new cooperation treaty that could lead to visa-free travel and free trade.

EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana has invited the country's new prime minister, Vlad Filat, to visit Brussels next week together with his top ministers.

EU-Moldovan relations have been on hold since parliamentary elections in April precipitated riots and a political crisis that led to a repeat poll on July 29. Mostly young protesters accused the ruling Communist Party of fixing the April elections following eight years of corrupt rule.

Moldova is a member of the EU's Neighborhood Policy and Eastern Partnership, but has seen no benefit from either project in the past months.

The EU's current Swedish presidency on September 25 welcomed the new government's appointment in a statement, saying it was an "essential first step" toward enabling Moldova to tackle "critical challenges."

The statement said the EU hopes a climate of "responsible cooperation will prevail" in Moldova's politics.

EU sources say Moldova's recent decision to reverse a visa requirement for Romanian citizens in the wake of April's unrest -- which then-President Vladimir Voronin blamed on Bucharest -- did much to clear the air.

Romania was the only EU member whose citizens needed visas to enter Moldova. Romania had retaliated by informally blocking most EU-Moldova contacts.

An EU delegation is now set to travel to Moldova in early October to explore kick-starting negotiations over Moldova's pro-Moscow breakaway region of Transdniester.

Later in the month, a ministerial-level EU meeting in Brussels is expected launch talks over a new treaty with Moldova.

Officials in Brussels say there's broad sympathy within the EU for Moldova's urgent pleas for visa-free travel. Most member states, together with the executive European Commission, agree talks on the issue would provide a useful "political gesture" in support of Filat's fledgling government.

EU officials have warned that Moldova's political stability remains precarious, especially because of country's dire economic situation.

A $500 million budget shortfall threatens to bankrupt the country. The EU officials say they're prepared to prop up Chisinau's budget in the short term until an International Monetary Fund can negotiate a bridging loan.
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