By opening wine markets, EU extends a hand to Moldova

21/10/2013

The European Union opens its markets for Moldova wines, supporting the country's EU bid and urging the former Soviet republic to continue its efforts to join the bloc.

By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 21/10/13

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Moldova can export its wine to EU countries. [AFP]

The European Commission took a strong stand after Russia imposed an import ban on Moldova's wine exports to pressure the former Soviet republic from signing an association agreement with the EU in November.

In response to the blockade last month by Russia, Moldova's largest single foreign trade partner, the European Commission proposed to fully open the EU market to wine imports from Moldova.

"We will tell our partners in Moscow it is unacceptable to make pressures on our friends who want to sign the association agreement and the free-trade agreement," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said.

Moldova's pro-European ruling coalition assured it would continue the reforms to get the country closer to the EU membership despite the economic barriers. Moldova was the world's 21st largest wine producer in 2011 at 124,500 tonnes – greater than Bulgaria, Macedonia or Croatia, but behind production in Romania, Greece and Serbia.

"I find more important, in the current conjuncture, the unprecedented openness and the sincere solidarity towards the Republic of Moldova shown by the EU and the member states," Iurie Renita, the Moldova's ambassador in Bucharest, told SETimes.

Lithuania, one of the leading promoters of EU expansion to the east, also encouraged Moldova to move ahead.

"Moldova, as it resolutely moves forward in the European direction, is facing pressure from the outside," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. "It is crucial to resist the pressure and continue rapid implementation of the necessary reforms."

Moldova's government vowed to stay united despite the challenges.

"We will succeed, thanks to our internal unity and consolidation, in facing all these challenges, despite attempts to destabilise the situation," Marian Lupu, head of the Democratic Party, said.

Most of Moldovans support the government's course.

"I associate EU with stability, prosperity and opportunities, which we have lacked so far," Alexandra Lupascu, 34, a Moldovan economist, told SETimes. "This is why people of my age trust the European project and sees it as the only viable choice Moldova has now."

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Moldova started negotiations with the EU in 2010 and became a part of the Eastern Partnership programme, which was launched by EU in May 2009. The programme, initiated by Poland and Sweden, aims to strengthen Brussels' relations with six former Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

"We witness two approaches which are radically different – eastern and western – and this is why the Republic of Moldova sees its future in the large European family," Renita said.

By the end of this month, the EU delegation will evaluate Moldova's progress concerning the country's efforts to have the visas lifted. Based on this progress report, which is due in November, the European Commission will forward the issue to the European Parliament for a final vote.

What do you think are the biggest challenges Moldova faces on its way to EU? Share your thoughts in comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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