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Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu says his country's prosperity and security can only be guaranteed through its eventual membership in the European Union and through "intensified, accelerated cooperation with NATO," amid discussion on whether the current policy of neutrality is insufficient.
Moldova, wedged between Ukraine and EU and NATO member Romania, is one of Europe's poorest countries and has acutely felt the impact of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova, where Moscow has continuously held considerable sway, has remained neutral.
But after U.S.-educated President Maia Sandu came to power in November 2020 following the defeat of Moscow-backed incumbent Igor Dodon, Moldova took a firm pro-Western stand and has backed Ukraine since the start of the war, gaining EU candidate status in June 2022 alongside Ukraine.
Sandu said in May that Moldova's neutrality, although enshrined in its constitution, has become an increasingly talked-about topic for the Moldovan public and that she was ready to revisit the issue if the Moldovan people would want that.
Popescu told RFE/RL in an interview on July 11 while attending the ongoing NATO summit in Vilnius that the government in Chisinau has concluded that neutrality is not sufficient to ensure the security of the country, but that the governing Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) does not have enough votes in parliament to change the constitution.
“In the Republic of Moldova, we have a political debate, and a debate in our society regarding the usefulness of the neutrality. At this stage, we have the same constitution that we adopted in 1994," Popescu said.
However, Popescu said that joining the EU and seeking closer ties with NATO are the best options for Moldova.
"The Republic of Moldova can ensure its security, peace, prosperity, freedom, and development through a firm anchoring within the family of European countries, by joining the European Union, and through intensified and accelerated cooperation with NATO," Popescu said.
The small country of 2.6 million has received thousands of Ukrainian refugees and initially voiced fears of a potential Russian invasion aided by more than 1,000 Russian troops stationed in its breakaway Transdniester region.
But Popescu said that thanks to Ukraine's stubborn resistance, Moldova has been able to enjoy peace. He said Kyiv getting ever closer to NATO will benefit Moldova's own security and stability.
“The reality is that, due to Ukraine's resilience, the Republic of Moldova is currently in a state of peace. It is precisely Ukraine's ability to withstand brutal Russian aggression that maintains peace in the Republic of Moldova," Popescu said.
"Clearly, any measures that help Ukraine resist, that assist Ukraine in reclaiming its own territories, also contribute to fortifying the security of the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, Ukraine's movement towards NATO is a factor that will continue to aid in keeping the Republic of Moldova stable,” he added.
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