The European Parliament approved the EU-Moldova Association Agreement, which is the first economic and political cooperation agreement including visa-free regime between the EU and a former Soviet republic. Moldova is the first post-Soviet country that enjoys such a deal, while Georgia is still involved in negotiations. Ukraine signed a similar agreement in September, but it will not be applied by the end of next year on Russia’s request. The EU-Moldova agreement will help Moldova “integrate into the EU’s internal market but will benefit the business sector with increased opportunities for small and medium enterprises,” said a Slovenian MEP, Tanja Fajon.
The agreement is also believed to improve trade and create investment opportunities which will contribute to job creation and economic growth in the country. Once the pact enters into force, Moldova will gain tariff-free access to the EU internal market with the exception of a number of agricultural and textile products. The agreement between Brussels and Chisinau will entirely enter into force after the ratification process is over in all EU member states. Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta, and Slovakia have already approved it. Moldova has undergone numerous reforms since the country elected a pro-European government in 2009 hoping that it could join the EU in the future despite the fact that Russia has not given up its influence in the region.
Moscow has responded to Chisinau’s pro-Western ambitions with embargoes on wine, fruits, vegetables, and restrictions to access the Russian labour market. The EU has retaliated and accelerated the process of tightening its relations with Moldova. The mutual pact between Moldova and the EU is widely considered as a setback to the Russian influence in Eastern Europe. Yet, Russia still controls Transnistria, the region situated in the eastern part of Moldova. Transnistria declared independence from Moldova in 1990 and has a strong pro-Russian orientation in exchange for Moscow’s financial support. The new EU deal will apply to the entire country, but Transnistria has rejected it on the grounds that it was not involved in the talks with the EU.