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Moldovan Foreign Minister Says Coalition United On Economy, But Future Uncertain

Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu spoke in an interview with RFE/RL in Washington. (file photo)
Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu spoke in an interview with RFE/RL in Washington. (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- Moldova's new coalition government is more united by its desire to improve economic growth and battle corruption than it is divided by its foreign policy views, the country's top diplomat says.

However, the recent history of the country's parliamentary majorities doesn't portend well for the coalition's longevity, Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said during an interview with RFE/RL in Washington on June 18.

Moldova’s pro-European ACUM bloc agreed to join forces with the pro-Russia Socialist Party on June 8 to form a new government, pushing out the ruling Democratic Party that sought to hold onto power.

The divergent geopolitical leanings of the two dominant parties have raised doubts about whether they can hold together amid troubled relations between Western nations and Russia.

"What unites [the parties] is a desire to create better conditions for economic development in Moldova and that is more important for the Moldovan population than geopolitical labels applied to this or that party," Popescu said.

The United States and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Russia to punish it for some of its recent foreign actions, including the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

Russia has complained that the West is threatening its security by pushing NATO closer to its border. Moldova is a neutral country bordering NATO allies and Ukraine.

Geopolitical Dissonance

Popescu is holding meetings in Washington this week with officials from the National Security Council and State Department.

The new foreign minister downplayed the geopolitical dissonance of the parties, saying the ACUM doesn’t have an anti-Russia platform while the Socialist Party is not anti-European.

Moldova’s relations with the West and Russia will be largely dictated by its economic ties, he said. About 60 percent of the nation’s trade is with the European Union while only about 10 percent is with Russia.

"Our trade dependency, our geography makes it impossible for us not to be pro-European -- for any political player. Without access to the European market, the Moldovan economy dies the next day," he said.

The foreign minister said integration with Europe has led to the creation of an electric cable industry to supply German car manufacturers. Cables have now surpassed wine as Moldova’s largest export, he said.

Popescu said the former Eastern Bloc nations don't have a history of stable parliamentary majorities and that Moldova is no exception. The country has had six ruling coalitions over the past 10 years and frequent changes will likely remain a prominent feature of the nation's political scene.

"Moldova is not a consolidated democracy. I would not have very high expectations regarding the stability of Moldovan politics for the next 10 years. It won’t be an easy period. It will be difficult," he said.

Nonetheless, that shouldn't stop the country from increasing exports and boosting economic growth, he said.

The minister said he hopes to attract more foreign investment to his country -- Europe's poorest -- but noted his new government must first battle corruption to improve the business climate.

"We have inherited a rather corrupt justice system which prevents investors from feeling comfortable," he said.

Popescu previously worked as a senior fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations and wrote a book on European Union foreign policy with respect to post-Soviet conflicts.

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.

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