Date: 14 May 2024

Across the narrow Three Seas? The future of Moldova accession

Moldova has become an associate partner of the Three Seas Initiative at the Bucharest Summit on 6-7 September 2023. With this enlargement, it has taken another step towards European integration. However, the question arises as to what the chances are of joining Three Seas Initiative as a member.


https://uawire.org/estonia-voices-support-for-ukraine-joining-eu-and-nato

 

The first fruits of collaboration

 

Moldova concluded a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the European Union on 1 July 2016, following a long negotiation process. This agreement has become a part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, which aims to develop closer economic and political ties with Eastern European countries.

An important element of the agreement is the gradual reduction or elimination of tariffs to facilitate trade. This has allowed Moldovan products and services to access the European market easier. The agreement has encouraged Moldova to further implement reforms, in particular the alignment of national and EU legislation. Although this motivation could also be specifically linked to the development of the steps taken in the area of governance, it has nevertheless laid the foundations for EU and Three Seas Initiative enlargement.

 

No quiet on the Eastern Front

 

Following the conclusion of the DCFTA in 2016, Moldova has expressed on several occasions its wish to be a part of the integration process in Europe and willingness to closer cooperation. The country articulated its preparedness to join the Three Seas Initiative in 2020 and applied for EU membership on 3 March 2022. The European Council meeting, held on 23 and 24 June 2022, concluded that Moldova and its citizens belong to the EU and granted the country candidate status together with Ukraine. It also recognised Moldovan application for membership. At the same time, it stipulated that the Commission would authorise further steps in the accession process subject to the fulfilment of the conditions set in its opinions on the respective membership applications. Therefore, until all the conditions are met, there will be no progress towards accession. As a result of the negotiations, the European Council granted Moldova EU candidate country status on 23 June 2022. During the Bucharest summit on 6-7 September 2023, the country became an associate partner of the Three Seas Initiative.

 

Moldova’s prospects with the cooperation

 

Although Moldova has made and is making promising steps towards EU and Three Seas Initiative membership, the country’s prospects of joining the format in the foreseeable future are doubtful. The results are varied, but so are the roots of the problems. To this end, it is worth looking at Moldova’s fight against corruption as an example.

Corruption has been a serious problem since the country’s independence in 1991. Since then, Moldova has increased the annual budget of its anti-corruption institutions, set up an anti-corruption policy between 2017 and 2023 and became a member of many international anti-corruption conventions such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). According to Transparency International measurements, the country’s corruption index has improved significantly: in 2020, when applied to join the Three Seas Initiative, Moldova was ranked 115th out of 180 countries, and by 2023 had moved up to 76th place. During the previous years, the ranking moved up relatively little. It is clear that there has been a steady and significant improvement since the intention to join, but the ranking is still not favourable.

Overall, it can be concluded that Moldova’s accession to the EU and Three Seas Initiative is not only a desire for closer ties, but also a desire to become an integral part of the European Communities. Thus, it is worth assuming that once the country becomes a member of the European Union, it will likely enter the Three Seas Initiative.

Sources:

Corruption Perceptions Index, https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2020

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