NARRATIVE: The Republic of Moldova (and Ukraine) have no chance of joining the EU, since European leaders themselves say the community bloc is not ready to take in new members.
BACKGROUND: The Republic of Moldova and Ukraine obtained the EU candidate status in June 2022, within a record-short amount of time since they filed their applications in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Talks about the European aspirations of the Republic of Moldova were launched in early 2000 by the then communist authorities in Chișinău, and the process has since undergone a number of phases, with ups and downs determined by successive governments and the political crises they had to manage. After the communists were ousted in 2009, the process picked up speed, and in 2014 Chișinău signed the EU Association Agreement, which also comprised the Free Trade Agreement, enabling a partial liberalization of trade. Also that year, Moldovan citizens were included in a liberalized visa regime.
Shortly afterwards, EU rapprochement slowed down due to political crises and delays in reforming the judiciary. Chișinău-Brussels relations were given a fresh impetus in 2020, when the pro-European Maia Sandu and her party, Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) won the presidential and legislative elections. The Russian invasion of Ukraine further strengthened these relations, and Chișinău and Brussels officials both admit the European Union might greenlight EU accession talks by the end of the year.
On June 1, the Republic of Moldova played host to the second Summit of the European Political Community, considered a major success for the Moldovan diplomacy and a boost to Moldova’s reputation at EU level. At the time, Brussels for the first time admitted at official level, through the voice of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, the possibility that the Republic of Moldova could join the EU without the separatist region of Transnistria, currently controlled by a pro-Russian regime, seen as one of the main obstacles to Moldova’s EU accession.
Nevertheless, Moldovan society remains divided over EU accession. Supporters of EU integration account for some 60% of the total population, while there is a large number of people who support Moldova’s eastward orientation, clustered in areas with a predominantly Russian-speaking population. After the pro-Europeans’ landslide victories in 2020 and 2021, their popularity dropped due to the economic crisis generated by the pandemic, and particularly the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, their promised reforms, especially in the justice field, are making slow progress.
PURPOSE: To promote the idea that European Union accession is an unattainable goal, thus reducing popular support for this objective.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The conclusion drawn by the Russian publication is mostly based on the recent statements made by European Council president, Charles Michel, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, both of which are however quoted out of context.
In fact, Charles Michel mentioned the need to provide clear-cut accession prospects to EU candidates. “To be stronger and safer, the EU needs to reinforce our bonds and become more powerful. That’s why it is now time to tackle the challenge of enlargement. Both for us in the EU and for our future member states. Yes, I believe this is how we should now call the countries with confirmed EU perspective, future member states.
[…] in June last year, we granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. And the same status awaits Georgia when they complete the necessary steps. So now enlargement is no longer a dream. It is time to move forward.
[…] The window of opportunity is open. We need to act on it. That is why EU leaders will discuss enlargement at our next European Council meetings. We will take a stand on the opening of negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. And I also expect Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia to be back on the table”, Charles Michel said.
In this context, the European Council president suggested the next deadline for EU enlargement should be 2030.
In turn, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, did not rule out the possibility of EU enlargement. On the contrary, according to Politico, the French president said that the EU accession of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and the Western Balkans is taken under advisement, insisting that an internal reform of the EU should be carried out first.
The issue of EU enlargement has been put on hold for several years, but was brought back in the limelight by EU leaders due to the war in Ukraine, according to an analysis carried out by Euronews, which highlights the increasingly important role the European Parliament plays in the process of EU enlargement. The president of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAllister, in fact said that both the European Council and the European Commission, as well as the European Parliament have argued in favor of the EU accession of other states, as long as they comply with a set of regulations. “Any country ready to join the EU will be welcomed in our family”, McAllister said.
Politico also writes that Putin’s war in Ukraine has prompted some European leaders to make plans of their own to expand, with as many as eight new members being considered for enlargement. “Despite the painful complexities of any enlargement process, Russia’s aggression has convinced some EU governments they can’t afford to wait”, Politico writes.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: The EU never mentioned immediate plans for enlargement. Both Brussels and Chișinău referred to the need to carry out necessary reforms first. Maia Sandu has made EU accession a national priority, to be achieved by 2030, the same year also invoked by European Council president Charles Michel.