How prepared is the Republic of Moldova to start accession negotiations with the European Union, and what must the authorities in Chisinau do to maintain the pace of necessary reforms and garner the support of the population for the European idea? Siegfried Mureșan, Member of the European Parliament, Vice President of the European People’s Party (PPE) group, and President of the Delegation to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee, spoke in an interview with Ziarul de Gardă – a live Q&A session broadcast on Facebook, about the challenges and advantages of the European integration process, as well as the myths and misconceptions related to approaching the EU.
— The Republic of Moldova has had candidate status for EU accession since last year when it submitted its accession request alongside Ukraine after Ukraine was attacked by Russia. There are several stages we want to clarify together. These include the progress evaluation and the decision on whether or not to open negotiations. What expectations can we have from the progress evaluation, considering that an interim report we saw last summer indicated that three out of nine recommendations had been fulfilled in this regard?
— The truth is that the Republic of Moldova and the European Union together have achieved a lot and decisively placed the Republic of Moldova on the path to European integration in the past two years. Processes that took years in other Central and Eastern European states that joined the European Union, we managed to complete in just a few months for Moldova. For example, in March 2022, the Republic of Moldova officially submitted its application for EU accession, and in less than four months, by the end of June, the European Union decided to grant candidate status for accession to the Republic of Moldova. And it did so after a resolution adopted by a very large majority in the European Parliament, with a positive recommendation from the European Commission and the unanimous support of all 27 EU member states.
We have started implementing reforms in the Republic of Moldova, integrating it into more and more European programs and projects. For instance, in March 2022, we launched a common European gas procurement and storage mechanism, which was also opened to the Republic of Moldova. This means that the Republic of Moldova can receive support from the European Union in terms of gas supplies, if needed, during this winter or in the future. We negotiated an agreement for the liberalization of roaming charges, so from the beginning of 2024, citizens of the Republic of Moldova will be able to make phone calls within the Republic of Moldova and the European Union without roaming charges. So, we have already achieved a lot in a short period.
Reforms are being implemented in the Republic of Moldova at a much better pace than ever before. Therefore, before the end of this year, we will have to decide whether to proceed to the next stage, namely, the start of EU accession negotiations. We in the European Parliament have already made our position clear. Two weeks ago (on October 5, 2023), we adopted a resolution in the European Parliament, with over 400 votes in favor, only 45 against, and 43 abstentions, stating that we call for the start of accession negotiations before the end of this year. This resolution was adopted with 80% support in the European Parliament, with only 10% against and 10% abstentions.
So, the European Parliament is calling for the start of accession negotiations. The European Commission, which monitors the progress of reforms, will have to make a recommendation. This recommendation will likely come at the beginning of November, and I think it can be a positive one. Then, in December, the European Council of Heads of State and Government will have to make a unanimous decision. Let’s wait to see that decision, but I believe we can be optimistic. I hope that by the end of this year, the decision to start accession negotiations will materialize, and after that, I hope that at the beginning of next year, these negotiations will be officially opened and started.
— The start of negotiations is the next stage. Can we estimate how long this process might take and what comes next?
— We cannot estimate that. We know that the Republic of Moldova has a European perspective. We know that the Republic of Moldova can become an EU member one day. The day it becomes one mainly depends on the pace of reforms in Chisinau. If in the Republic of Moldova, in the coming years, we continue to have a pro-European government that keeps its promises, modernizes and reforms the country, and does the things people expect, I believe these negotiations can proceed smoothly. But no one can give us an exact date at this moment.
However, what I can tell you is that even before the completion of the European integration process in the Republic of Moldova, which will be finalized by the official EU accession, even before that, the Republic of Moldova will gradually be integrated into more and more European projects. As I mentioned earlier, we have established a mechanism for gas procurement and storage. It is essential for energy security and to provide a secure energy supply for the people. It is a project that works, and the Republic of Moldova has already started using it. In the future, we can think about a similar mechanism for electricity. We can think about various interconnections with the European energy system, as we do with Ukraine. We can think about integration into the European single market. We can also think about the introduction of the euro currency in the Republic of Moldova. So, even before full accession, there will be more steps toward the Republic of Moldova becoming part of the European Union. This is why I believe it is essential to start accession negotiations as soon as possible.
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Siegfried Mureșan, Member of the European Parliament, Vice President of the European People’s Party (PPE) group, and President of the Delegation to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee, discusses the progress and expectations for the Republic of Moldova’s EU accession process, highlighting the rapid progress in recent years and the hope for negotiations to start soon. He also emphasizes the importance of maintaining reforms and the benefits of European integration for Moldova. Finally, he mentions the potential gradual integration into various EU projects even before full accession.