Hustle and bustle in the Foreign Ministry building in Paris: ministers or envoys from the 27 member states of the EU, as well as representatives from countries such as the USA, Japan and Great Britain and envoys from 15 international organizations such as the World Bank came together.

Nothing out of the ordinary for the EU – just last Monday the 27 foreign ministers met in Brussels to decide on new sanctions against Iran. But this time it was about a small country that has only been high on the agenda since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – Moldova.

“We are severely affected by the effects of the war,” said Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu. “Missiles have fallen on our territory and there is an energy crisis – peace and stability in Moldova is not only in our interests, but also in the interests of the rest of Europe.”

The international community wants to give the ex-Soviet republic with around two and a half million inhabitants more financial support. On the one hand, because the Republic of Moldova showed a particularly great deal of humanity in the conflict, but also because this is in the interest of the European Union.

It was the third such donor conference: At the first two in Berlin and Bucharest, donors had already promised aid measures and loans totaling more than one billion euros. “Standing up for Moldova means taking part in the war effort,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at the closing press conference. “Helping the country is a moral duty and just plain fair.”

At the new conference, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock pledged additional German aid of a good 32.3 million euros. Macron promised further aid of 100 million euros.

French diplomatic circles have previously said that this third conference is particularly important. “Russia has developed a new strategy and is now systematically bombing Ukrainian energy infrastructure, destabilizing the country and the entire continent,” a diplomat said at the conference. “In addition, Russia is openly blackmailing Moldova in terms of energy and has simply cut off 50 percent of the gas supply.”

Millions of Ukrainians are currently without electricity, and the attacks have also led to power outages in the Republic of Moldova, Foreign Minister Popescu wrote on Twitter. Electricity and gas prices have multiplied.

The small country is also important for the stability of the eastern EU. At the beginning of the war in Ukraine in particular, there was concern that Russia could advance through southern Ukraine to the Republic of Moldova and even get support from there.

Because the Republic of Moldova also has a breakaway region: Transnistria. The pro-Russian separatists from this region separated from the Republic of Moldova in 1992 after a short war – with Russian support. Around 2,000 Russian soldiers are still stationed there today.

But the former Soviet republic is not only affected by the war in neighboring Ukraine in terms of energy and security. Moldova has taken in around half a million refugees since the Russian invasion began, of whom 80,000 remain in the country.

“We are also expecting a new wave of refugees in the coming weeks – because of the war, but also because people are afraid of a nuclear reactor accident and could seek refuge with us if there is no electricity and a cold winter,” said a high-ranking representative of the Moldovan government in Paris.

Felix Hett, representative of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation in the Ukraine and Republic of Moldova, believes that the international community should not abandon the structurally weak Moldova against this background. “The country has shown a lot of solidarity and simply deserves our help,” he told DW. “In addition, the government under pro-European President Maia Sandu is making every effort to reform the country.”

Among other things, Sandu has initiated reforms in the judiciary and the civil service. This also includes the fight against corruption. “Our government labeled Moldova as a ‘hijacked country’ in June 2019 and we are investigating illegal party funding as Moldovans chose democracy over autocracy and justice over corruption in the 2020 presidential elections,” Veronica said Dragalin, head of the anti-corruption office of the Moldovan prosecutor’s office, in Paris.

The EU’s support campaign has political reasons, added Céline Bayou from the Paris Center for Research on Eastern Europe CREE. Moldova is in the group of so-called Eastern Partnership – six countries that also include Ukraine and Georgia. The EU applies a special neighborhood policy there in order to bind these countries politically and economically to the bloc of states.

“The country, like Ukraine, has been an official candidate for EU membership since June. This is a giant step that the EU must also show in deeds, i.e. supporting actions – even if the accession process may still take some time,” said Bayou. “In this way we are showing Russia that it cannot do what it wants in our immediate vicinity.”

Despite the pro-European government, it might not be easy to keep Moldova in the EU team, emphasizes Florent Parmentier, Secretary General of the Paris think tank Cevipof and Moldova specialist.

“According to the latest polls, only around 30 percent of the population still believe that it is right to move closer to the EU – in June 2021 it was still 52 percent and this number has fallen since the start of the Ukraine invasion,” he told DW. Conversation.

“It also shows distrust of the government and could mean that most people think the country should turn to Russia. The EU must fight that.”

For weeks people have been demonstrating in the capital Chisinau against the pro-European government – but according to investigative journalists they are being paid by pro-Russian politicians.

Corruption fighter Dragalin is aware of the delicate situation. “We have a short window of opportunity – with inflation at 35 percent, economic instability and the energy crisis, social unrest is possible,” she said. “If we don’t show that the rule of law and EU membership lead to a better future, we will miss this unique opportunity.”

In her final statement, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tried to encourage the Moldovan partners: “Solidarity is the value that defines us in Europe and the EU – Moldova has a partner in the EU that you can rely on. Together we are stronger than this war.”

Felix Hett is also optimistic: “Given the small size of the country, it should be possible to stabilize the Moldova. It could become a model for Ukraine and other future EU accession candidates.”

Author: Lisa Louis (Paris)

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The original of this article “Moldova could become a model state” comes from Deutsche Welle.