Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Marinuta says joining NATO is crucial to gaining European Union membership, and belonging to the Atlantic alliance is no longer a taboo subject in his country, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
Marinuta told RFE/RL in an interview on February 23 that NATO is a security organization that is able to take part in conflict resolution and "peace enforcement" operations. He said the alliance is "no longer something to be afraid of."
At the same time, Marinuta points out that Moldova's neutral status is enshrined in the constitution and precludes joining a military bloc. For that reason, he explained, for the past decade neutrality and NATO have been taboo subjects in Moldova, with an estimated 60 percent of the population supporting European integration, but only 25 percent in favor of joining NATO.
Marinuta said the people of Moldova should decide whether or not to "preserve our neutral status."
As a rule, Marinuta said, countries join NATO first and then the European Union. He suggested that "perhaps the EU will adopt a different aproach with regard to Moldova, although I do not think it will."
"For the man on the street, Euro-Atlantic cooperation...means signing up to those democratic principles and values that determine the evolution of the political, social, and economic life of a country," Marinuta told RFE/RL.
"These values are different from those that exist in the post-Soviet space. For that reason, the process of Euro-Atlantic integration should be understood as signing up to a series of essential values, and not as a bogeyman as it was during the Soviet era."