European talks in Moldova focus on Ukraine

The European Political Community has met for its second summit in Moldova. There was a lot of support expressed for Ukraine, but no concrete decisions were made.

Moldova and European Union flags. (Photo: DW)
Moldova and European Union flags. (Photo: DW)


On this hot and sunny Thursday, nobody had time to make use of the swimming pool at the luxurious Castle Mimi winery in the green hills of Moldova, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border with Ukraine. The 47 European heads of state and government seemed content to chat with cool drinks about topics such as energy and cybersecurity, and, of course, Ukraine.

The informal concept of the European Political Community summit appeared to be working. The idea is that the forum, which was established in 2022, should help EU member states communicate better with each other and European countries that are not part of the bloc.

No major decisions had been expected to emerge from the summit, but the main message was that countries will stand at Ukraine's side for as long as is necessary. Apart from Russia and Belarus, which were not invited for obvious reasons, all European countries were present.

"Russia is not here," said Josep Borrell, the European Union's foreign policy chief, "not because we don't want to invite Russia, but because Putin's Russia has excluded itself from this community by launching this war against Ukraine."

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, a loyal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin's, did attend, even if he appeared rather lonely on the red carpet and kept mostly to himself.

The host of the summit, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, said there was something not right about being in such peaceful surroundings while a war raged just kilometers away. She said it was her goal to reestablish a peaceful atmosphere across Europe as soon as possible.

Despite Russia's deadly strikes on Kyiv the night before, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to the summit by train to ask for more aid and more weapons, and as quickly as possible. He said his country was prepared to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"Ukraine is ready to be in NATO," he said in English. "We are ready for when NATO is ready." Until then, he added, Ukraine would need assistance from countries such as France, Britain and Germany.

"Security guarantees are very important not only for Ukraine," he said. "But also for our neighbors and Moldova because of the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the potential aggression in other parts of Europe."

He spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Though no concrete information was imparted, Scholz hinted that there had been some progress: "We have always said that there must also be guarantees for a postwar peace order, and Germany will contribute to that."

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, who will host a major NATO summit in Vilnius in July, called for the alliance to adopt a clear road map for Ukraine's accession.

There seemed to be some movement on the F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine has requested. Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, said the issue was being discussed.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was preparing a "peace summit" for after the war but did not know when that would be. He said Russia could end its invasion whenever it liked.

Moldova 'very grateful'

President Sandu thanked Zelenskyy for not only defending his country, but hers and the rest of Europe, as well. "Ukraine keeps Moldova safe today, and we're very, very grateful for that," she said. The second-poorest country in Europe, after Ukraine, Moldova does not have a significant army and is bound to military neutrality by its constitution and is thus very vulnerable.

"There is a majority of 50% to 60% which support the European integration process of the country," Mihai Mogildea from the Institute for European Policies and Reforms in Chisinau, told DW. He said that, if the Moldovan diaspora were included, the number would be 70%.

"At the same time, there is still an important segment of the country, around 25%, which supports a deeper and closer partnership with Russia," Mogildea said, "even after Russia's aggression against Ukraine."

There are already Russian soldiers — so-called peacekeepers — stationed in the breakaway Moldovan province of Transnistria, which declared its independence 30 years ago. The authorities in the southern semiautonomous region of Gagauzia are also pro-Russia.

EU membership possible

The European Commission has made financial pledges and proposed infrastructure measures to try to convince skeptics and make Moldova, which applied for EU membership shortly after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, more suitable for accession.

Moldova, alongside Ukraine, was granted candidate status within a few months of applying, and Sandu hopes that formal accession talks will begin before the end of 2023.

Mogildea said Moldova was making quicker progress on corruption and the rule of law than some countries in the Balkans. He said the accession process might thus go much faster for Moldova.

This article was originally written in German.

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