PARIS (AP) — Diplomats are drumming up money and other support Monday for Europe’s poorest country, Moldova, which is suffering massive blackouts, heavy refugee flows and potential security threats from the war in neighboring Ukraine.
Monday’s international aid conference in Paris is aimed at “concrete and immediate assistance” for the land-locked former Soviet republic, according to the French Foreign Ministry. Two previous conferences for Moldova this year raised hundreds of millions of euros, but as the war drags on, its needs are growing.
“This international support is all the more important as Moldova is currently facing an unprecedented energy crisis which, with the approach of winter, poses a risk of a humanitarian crisis for the Moldovan population,” the ministry said.
Broad blackouts temporarily hit more than a half-dozen Moldovan cities last week as the Russian military pounded infrastructure targets across Ukraine. Moldova’s Soviet-era energy systems remain interconnected Ukraine, which is why the Russian missile barrage triggered the automatic shutdown of a supply line.
Nicu Popescu, Moldova’s foreign minister and minister for European integration, said at the Paris conference Monday that “the objective of today is to continue moving forward with ensuring peace, stability in our part of Europe.”
“Ukraine is facing this brutal Russian aggression but this aggression is posing a problem for everyone in Europe and that of course applies (to) Moldova,” he said. "Moldova is severely affected by this war economically, when it comes to the security of energy supplies."
Earlier this month, the European Union pledged 250 million euros (nearly $260 million) to help Moldova after Russia halved its natural gas supply. Moldova's energy crisis worsened when Transnistria — a Moscow-backed separatist region of Moldova with a key power plant — also cut electricity to other parts of the country.
Sharply rising energy costs and skyrocketing inflation are set to put a huge strain on consumers in the country of about 2.6 million people as the cold season begins to grip.
Moldova relied heavily on Russian energy before the war, and has increasingly been looking to forge closer ties with the West. It became a candidate for EU membership in June, along with Ukraine. However, its joining the 27-nation bloc is contingent on a series of key reforms such as cleaning up corruption and the rule of law and full membership will take many years.
“We’ve had rockets, Russian missiles crossing our airspace,” Moldova's Popescu said. “We face multiple challenges so we are here to work with our European partners to alleviate the impact of this war on Moldova, to maintain peace and stability.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moldova has been rocked by a series of worrisome events — with many fearing that the war could spill across its border. In July and August, scores of false bomb threats were reported in the country; missile debris landed last month in a Moldovan border village; in April, tensions in Transnistria soared after a series of explosions hit the breakaway region.
Moldova’s pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, is meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.
Stephen McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania.
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