Around 80,000 people attended a pro-EU rally in Chisinau on May 21 at the initiative of President Maia Sandu, who set 2030 as the European Union accession target for the country.
The rally comes less than two weeks before the meeting of the European Political Community on June 1, when heads of state and EU bodies are expected in Chisinau. Hosting the meeting reflects the massive support expressed by EU and member states to Moldova in recent years since the pro-EU authorities in Chisinau expressed a firm orientation towards EU accession. The support was and remains essential for helping the country withstand the pressures made by Russia amid the war in neighbouring Ukraine.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola attended the meeting beside Sandu and addressed the people in Romanian.
“Europe saw your courage, [saw] how you chose freedom over autocracy. The world saw your extraordinary generosity with the Ukrainians, you opened your homes and hearts to them. We are ready to support you as needed,” Metsola said.
In her speech, Sandu admitted that the road to EU membership is long and requires building state institutions from scratch but also praised the country’s resilience demonstrated during the three decades since it declared independence.
“Moldovans know how to make the right choice because there is no family that does not have brothers or grandchildren in Europe. We know that peace and prosperity are in Europe. Moldova will join the European Union, and this must happen by 2030,” Sandu stated.
Speaking of the separatist Transnistria region, seen as an obstacle to the country’s EU integration, Sandu argued for a negotiated solution that should go hand in hand with raising the wealth in the region.
Sandu also called for the constitution to be amended to include EU membership as a target for all political parties that would rule until the target is achieved. Notably, the constitution can only be amended with the vote of at least half of the Moldovan electorate.
Polls indicate support for EU membership from over 50% of the population. But securing a smooth process requires winning at least the goodwill of the Russian-speaking population that is still subject to intense Russian propaganda. The recent elections in Gagauzia, where the pro-EU parties did not participate, leaving the two pro-Russian parties to compete for Moscow’s support, showed that much has to be done to turn ethnic diversity into an asset for Moldova.
The size of the rally in Chisinau was a record for the country of 2.7mn people, out of which around 1mn are working abroad. It was replicated in some 30 European cities where Moldovans are working to support their families at home.
In response to the pro-EU rally in Chisinau, the pro-Russian party headed by convicted businessman Ilan Shor organised protests in the cities of Ohei and Balti in the northern part of the country and Comrat in the semi-autonomous Gagauzia region. Shor, who recently was given a 15-year prison sentence but is still in hiding in Israel, addressed the participants and promised to initiate a referendum to establish whether the country’s population really supports EU membership.