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Energy minister: 'Moldova can’t be blackmailed any more'

Dana Alexandra Scherle
March 23, 2024

Russia and Transnistria have lost their instruments of blackmail, Moldovan Energy Minister Victor Parlicov told DW, and his country has grown stronger and more resilient for it.

Moldau Chișinău | Energieminister Victor Parlicov
Image: Simion Ciochina/DW

DW: What role does energy security play in the context of Russian threats towards Chisinau and in upcoming presidential polls being held later this year?

Victor Parlicov: The Republic of Moldova was already in a very difficult energy situation in 2021, even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but has since grown stronger and more resilient. The most significant factor was a decision from Brussels made just three weeks after the beginning of Russia's war on Ukraine: In March 2022, there was a green light to synchronize the electricity and energy systems of Moldova and Ukraine with the European system.

Normally such processes take several years, but in this case it was a political decision. Before we were dependent on critical infrastructure in Transnistria [the pro-Russian separatist region that split off from Moldova in the early 1990s, with support from Russia].

Moldova - A nation in the shadow of war

Of the seven power lines that connect us with Ukraine, only one does not pass through Transnistria. Thanks to the decision from Brussels, the Republic of Moldova was now able to receive energy from EU member state Romania through a connection that was technically available but not functional until then.

This technical aspect has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the conflict over the Transnistria question: As a result of this synchronization, Russia and Transnistria have lost the instruments of blackmail.

DW: But Chisinau is still buying energy for the Republic of Moldova from the separatist region Transnistria.

Parlicov: Yes, we're still buying energy there but there is an important difference. Before we had hardly any other options, now the relationship of dependency has been flipped somewhat. Today, we buy energy from Transnistria primarily to stabilise the social situation there. If we were to stop doing this, it would lose more than 50% of its income and go bankrupt. That could lead to a humanitarian crisis there, and we don't want that. We would like to use this time to integrate Transnistria into the normal economic area of the Republic of Moldova, including in the area of customs duties and taxes. We want peaceful integration, step by step.

DW: So do you believe that Russia currently has no concrete instruments to blackmail Moldova over energy security? Even indirectly, through Transnistria, or the other autonomous pro-Russian separatist region Gagauzia?

Parlicov: When it comes to energy security, Russia doesn't have these instruments anymore. But there is another side of course: propaganda and information wars. The Russian Federation has had success, we must acknowledge it. One of Russia's central narratives is that all of the problems of the citizens of Moldova, including energy security, can be traced back to the country choosing a pro-EU path. [The former Soviet Republic located between Romania and Ukraine was awarded EU accession candidate status in mid-2022.]

 Moldova's President Maia Sandu  and France’s President Emmanuel Macron stand in front of microphones at a press conference
Russia blames all Moldova's problems on pro-EU President Maia Sandu, according to ParlicovImage: Christophe Ena/AP/REUTERS

According to this false narrative, all problems would disappear if Moldovan President Maia Sandu would go to and bow down to him to get a good gas price. In reality, however, in 2023 we did not buy gas from the Russian company Gazprom, but on the European market, and prices were lower than those of Gazprom.

The problem with gas prices was artificially inflated in the public sphere. This was one of the narratives that Russia spread not just in the Republic of Moldova, but also in the European Union. Everyone was panicking about what we would do without Russian gas. As you can see, even Germany didn't economically collapse without Russian gas.

By the by, 60% of Moldovan households heat their homes not with gas, but with wood. All the same, many citizens who didn't even use gas were fearful because of these narratives over gas prices.

Separatists in Moldova seek Russian 'protection'

We need to learn from this and explain very clearly to people that the story of Putin's cheap gas is not true. What would really help us to reduce gas bills would not be negotiations with Putin, but investment in the energy efficiency of our buildings. More than 50% of energy is wasted in our buildings. This is exactly where the EU is supporting us with programs to improve the energy efficiency of public and private buildings in the Republic of Moldova.

This article was adapted from the original Romanian.