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Moldova: Tens of thousands gather in pro-EU rally

May 22, 2023

The rally was organized by Moldova's government, which seeks to join the EU by 2030. Moldova has accused Moscow of trying to sabotage its membership bid.

Demonstrators holding EU and Moldovan flags in Chisinau
Pro-EU demonstrators rallied in Chisinau at a government-organized rallyImage: Vladislav Culiomza/REUTERS

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, on Sunday in support of the country's pro-Western government.

Moldova, a former Soviet state that shares a border with Ukraine, is one of Europe's poorest nations. The tiny country was granted European Union candidate status in June, 2022.

President Maia Sandu has accused Moscow of sabotaging Moldova's EU membership bid by fueling anti-government protests.

Police said more than 75,000 demonstrators were present.

Chisinau wants EU membership by 2030

"Moldova does not want to be blackmailed by the Kremlin," Sandu said at the rally.

"We don't want to be on the outskirts of Europe anymore," she said, vowing that Moldova would become an EU member state by 2030.

"We came to say loudly, confidently and proudly that Moldovans are Europeans!" Sandu declared.

"This is the chance for our people to live in peace and prosperity," she said, adding that although fulfilling the necessary criteria for joining the EU was a "road of great efforts," this was "not the only road."

EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola speaking at pro-EU government-organized rally in Chisinau, Moldova as Moldovan President Maia Sandu watches on
EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola said that Moldova is "already ready" for EU accessionImage: Aurel Obreja/AP Photo/picture alliance

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola also spoke at the rally, saying that the EU would welcome Moldova "with open arms and open hearts." She said that the country was "already ready for European integration."

"This is about the both of us: You will bring a piece of Moldova to Europe, and you will make Europe stronger," she said.

Opposition counter-protests

Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Shor Party, exiled pro-Russia businessman Ilan Shor, told his supporters at rival protests in various cities via video link that he would push for a referendum on Moldovan foreign policy.

Shor's supporters have carried out numerous protests in Moldova since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The exiled businessman was handed a 15-year jail sentence in absentia last month. He was convicted of involvement in the 2014 theft of $1 billion (€0.9 billion) from Moldovan banks.

sdi/kb (Reuters, AFP)