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Moldova PM rules out reunification with Romania

Moldova’s government has ruled out reunification with Romania despite a surge in demands for the two countries to unite | Martin Schulz

Moldova’s government has ruled out reunification with Romania despite a surge in demands for the two countries to unite.

The prime minister, Pavel Filip, said Moldova’s place was as a sovereign state, independent of Romania. “Too much has been said about reunification, identity, language and I want to look at the concrete development of the country,” he told the Guardian.

“All those problems that are sentiment related should be left for better times.”

A pro-unification rally in Moldova’s capital, Chișinău, last month attended by 10,000 people, including the former Romanian president Traian Băsescu.

Romania’s parliament two days later cast a symbolic vote for reunification and MPs said they would welcome any such move by Moldova. The events were timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Moldova joining the then kingdom of Greater Romania.

A former head of a tobacco company, Filip aspires to bring Moldova into the European Union. The former Soviet territory, the poorest country in Europe, lags far its behind neighbours – including Romania, which joined the EU in 2007. Nevertheless he predicted: “We will be together with Romania in the EU.”

His opposition to reunification is shared by a majority of Moldovans, although 32% support joining Romania, according to a recent poll.

The country that is now Moldova has been buffeted by powerful neighbours for centuries, whether Ottoman sultans or Russian tsars. Once known as Bessarabia, the territory became part of Greater Romania in 1918, but came under Soviet control in 1940.

It emerged as an independent country in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then it has been grappling with poverty, corruption and the frozen conflict in the eastern Russian-speaking enclave of Transnistria.

The prime minister said relations with Romania were at a “historic high”, but warned outside players from interfering. “We have countries pumping up this [nationalist] feeling and fostering this division,” he said, specifying Russia and Romania. “And we don’t want to be caught up in this game.”

Moldova is still torn between those seeking closer ties with Russia, such as its president, Igor Dodon, and Filip, who believes pro-European parties will prevail in parliamentary elections this autumn. “At the end of my mandate we will see that this EU road is not debatable but irreversible,” he said.

A recent Imas poll showed that 60% of Moldovans would vote to join the EU. Meanwhile, the two largest pro-EU parties, one centre-right and one social democrat, were five points clear of Dodon’s Russia-leaning Socialist party. However, previous pro-EU coalitions have been undone by corruption scandals.

The prime minister was speaking on a visit to Brussels to discuss the association agreement Moldova signed with the EU in 2014. EU officials expressed concern about Moldova’s slow progress in bringing to justice criminals who embezzled $1bn (£740m) from the country’s banks, known locally as “the theft of the century”.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said it was “difficult for us to understand” the delays in the investigating the crime. “It is about the credibility of the anti-corruption reforms in Moldova,” she said.

The scandal brought down two former prime ministers in Filip’s party, propelling him to office in January 2016.

EU officials also voiced regret that Moldova ignored warnings from Council of Europe experts that a new electoral law risked allowing wealthy businesspeople undue influence over elections. Moldova’s decision to press ahead with the law contributed to the EU freezing €100m in funds.

The prime minister said the topic was closed and that he expected Moldova to meet conditions allowing it access the EU loans and grants.

Source: The Guardian