Moldova. According to Countryaah.com, Moldova population in 2020 is estimated at 4,033,974. The Ukraine crisis with the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula put security policy pressure on Moldova from Moscow. The Transnistrian breakaway republic, which borders Ukraine in the east, has a large Russian-speaking population and Crimea is only about 20 km from Moldova. The Transnistrian population wants to join the Russian Federation, and Transnistria still has about 1,500 Russian soldiers guarding Soviet weapons stockpiles. This is a conflict between Chișinău and Moscow. During the year, Moldova again called for the withdrawal of soldiers and weapons, but instead the Russian military held combat training.
Moldova tried to stop a referendum in the autonomous region of Gagauzi (in southern Moldova) in February, when a majority said yes to the Russian-led customs union in the region and no to the EU. Many residents of Gagauzi fear that Moldova’s EU adaptation will lead to a merger with Romania, which in turn would mean that Gagauzi wants to become independent.
When the Kremlin decided to annex Crimea in March, Transnistrian politicians visited Moscow and discussed legislation that would allow Transnistria to join the Russian Federation. According to Moscow, Transnistria was exposed to threats from Ukraine and could count on Russian protection. Moldova warned the Russian Federation to try to annex Transnistria. President Nicolae Timofti called on the EU to accelerate Moldova’s path to EU membership to prevent Russian annexation of Transnistria. Russian TV channel Rossija 24 was banned from broadcasting in Moldova citing unilateral reporting on the Ukraine crisis.
In April, Transnistria called on Moscow, the UN and the EU to recognize the republic as an independent state. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the people of Transnistria had the right to decide their own destiny, and he claimed that Transnistria was subject to a blockade that needed to be abolished, reminiscent of foreplay to the crisis in Ukraine. The EU denied that there was any blockade on the part of Moldova.
Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanc˘a visited Washington in the spring and appealed for US support for Russian pressure. The United States pledged financial support for reforms needed for EU alignment, and President Barack Obama later pledged support for strengthening Moldova’s defense.
In Brussels, the EU prepared association agreements for Moldova as well as for Ukraine and Georgia. In April, an important step was taken when Moldovan citizens (with biometric passports) were granted visa-free access to the EU’s Schengen area.
From Moscow threatened with financial sanctions if Moldova signed the agreement with the EU. Moscow wanted Moldova in the Russian-dominated customs union in the region, but at the end of June, Moldova, together with Ukraine and Georgia, could sign their cooperation agreement with the EU in Brussels. It was seen as a historical shift from Soviet escape to future cooperation in Europe. It is hoped that the agreement will lead to EU membership in the future, but the poor country can only look forward to opening up to the EU trade market and financial support, among other things to modernize old-age agriculture. At the same time, Moldova is committed to adapting the judiciary to EU standards, combating severe corruption and reforming the economy.
Transnistria responded by signing a series of trade and economic cooperation agreements with Moscow, and the Kremlin imposed sanctions on Moldova, as a halt to fruit imports, restrictions on meat imports and duties on wine. It was not called for sanctions but was explained, among other things, by breach of contract. Moldova previously had free trade with the Russian Federation, which was the country’s third export market after the EU and Ukraine.
As early as the year before, the Russian Federation had strangled its imports of Moldovan wine when Moldova stuck to plans to sign agreements with the EU. Then the EU opened its market for imports of Moldavian wine. This meant a change in Moldova’s trade and made trade with Romania larger than trade with the Russian Federation.
In August, a new gas pipeline from Romania was inaugurated, a symbolic step for Moldova’s quest to reduce its dependence on Russian gas ahead of winter, as gas fears were triggered by the conflict in Ukraine. The plan is to be connected to the EU’s energy system within two years, so that one can choose to take the gas either from the west or from the east. In November, however, Moldova succeeded in extending the contract with Russian Gazprom on gas supplies in the coming year.
In the parliamentary elections last November, the Prorian Socialist Party was the largest with 25 seats, but the EU-friendly Liberal Democrats, Liberals and the Democratic Party gained a majority of 55 out of 101 seats and could continue to rule in coalition. The Communist Party lost half of its mandate to the Socialist Party and stopped at 21. The newly formed Prorian party Patria was banned by the Election Commission from participating in the election on the grounds that financial contribution came from abroad.