Tens of thousands turn out for pro-EU protests in Moldova
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, on 21 May to support closer ties with the European Union (EU), as the country’s pro-European government continues to fight political flows from Russia.
Police estimate that around 75,000 people have gathered, reports Radio Free Europe in English.
The gathering, which was also addressed by the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, was organised a few days before the meeting of the European political community.
The meeting will take place on 1 June and it is expected that the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, will receive a promise that her country will soon start membership negotiations with the EU.
The summit will be the first meeting of the 44-member group, which aims to improve cooperation between the EU and non-EU countries, including candidate countries in the Western Balkans and the Caucasus region.
Moldova was invited, together with Ukraine, to start accession negotiations with the EU last June, a few months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
As one of the poorest countries in Europe, it has taken in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, while concerns about the potential spread of war have increased.
Sandu, a former World Bank official who was educated in the United States, came to power in November 2020 on a pro-reformist list.
She replaced Igor Dodon, a Moscow-backed socialist president whose tenure was rocked by an economic crisis and corruption scandals.
Sandu’s push for closer ties with the EU has upset Moscow, which continues to openly support some Moldovan political figures.
At various times in its history, Moldova was part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, as well as “Greater Romania”. In March, the national parliament declared Romanian the official language, although Russian is still widely used.
The Great People’s Assembly in the square of the same name in the capital Chisinau was attended by many people, including on the occasion of the declaration of independence from Soviet rule in 1991.
Like Ukraine, Moldova has formally applied for membership of the European Union, a process that usually takes years. However, its constitution establishes a policy of neutrality which excludes NATO membership.
The country remains burdened by the presence of the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria, 30 years after a brief war in which it opposed the Moldovan army.