Former Soviet republic Moldova is on track to sign agreements on association and free trade with the European Union next year, visiting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said today.
"If Moldova goes on with the reforms and achievements it has demonstrated so far in the Eastern Partnership programme, your country may count on signing three important documents with the EU by the end of 2013," Barroso said through an interpreter after meeting Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat in Chisinau.
"(There are agreements) on establishing an EU-Moldova free trade area, on Moldova's association with the EU, on the second phase in the action plan on visa liberalisation."
Moldova, one of the poorest nations in Europe with an average monthly wage of about $280, relies heavily on exports of goods including wine to the EU and remittances from its citizens working abroad, many of whom are in the EU.
A coalition of pro-Western parties came to power in 2009 and has made EU integration its strategic goal, introducing required judiciary, administrative, economic and welfare reforms. "Moldova has made its strategic choice and it is a natural one for us," Prime Minister Filat said today. "Moldova has no options other than EU integration."
Moldova is inhabited mostly by Russian-speakers
Moldova's other key problem, apart from a weak economy, is the breakaway region of Transdniestria which has been de facto independent since a brief war in 1992.
Inhabited mostly by Russian-speakers who feared they would become second-class citizens in the newly-independent Moldova, Transdniestria hosts hundreds of Russian troops who Moscow says are on a peacekeeping mission.