CHISINAU -- European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has invited Moldova to sign a key political and economic deal with the European Union on June 27 in Brussels.
Van Rompuy extended the invitation during a May 13 meeting with Prime Minister Iurie Leanca in Moldova's capital.
In a subsequent speech at the Palace of the Republic, Van Rompuy reiterated that Moldova belongs in Europe "by history, by geography, by its way of life, by culture."
Van Rompuy also stressed that Moldova's integration into the 28-member bloc does not end with the signing of such an agreement.
"Efforts now have to concentrate on the signing and the implementation of the Association Agreement ensuring that Moldova and all its citizens can benefit of this closer relationship," Van Rompuy said. "The association agreement is not the final goal in our cooperation."
President Nicolae Timofti also highlighted Moldova's hopes of becoming a full EU member in future.
"The citizens of our country have demonstrated that they are reliable and that they deserve being offered the prospect of becoming European citizens in a predictable time frame," Timofti said.
The signing of the association agreement, which Moldova initialed at an Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November, is expected to take place on the sidelines of an EU summer council.
However, Romanian President Traian Basescu said on May 13 that the agreement should be signed on May 27 -- one month earlier than announced by Van Rompuy
-- to give more time to Moldova and to EU member states such as Romania, Poland, or the Baltic countries, to ratify the document before the summer vacation.
Timofti said on May 12 that Moldova will exercise its "sovereign right" and sign the agreement despite external political and economic pressures.
Timofti did not name Russia in his May 12 comments, but Moscow opposes Moldova seeking that deal with the EU, which Chisinau hopes to sign in June.
Timofti on May 12 met with NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow, who offered to help nonmember Moldova improve its security.
Relations between Chisinau and Moscow were strained again after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin attended a Victory Day Parade on May 9 in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region.
On May 25, Ukraine, which shares a border with both Romania and Moldova, holds a critically important presidential election abid a pro-Russian rebellion in its eastern part.
With reporting by Alexandru Eftode and Mircea Ticudean