According to Wikipedia, the European Parliament supports the Republic of Moldova's integration in European Union:

The European Parliament passed a resolution in 2014 stating that "in accordance with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as any other European country, have a European perspective and can apply for EU membership (..)

However, becoming an EU member seems impossible, at least in the short term:

The integration process, however, has been hampered by many internal issues. The unresolved issue of the breakaway republic of Transnistria is a major barrier to any progress. Also, Moldova's autonomous region of Gagauzia held two referendums on February 2, 2014 where an overwhelming majority of voters rejected integration with the EU and opted for closer ties with Russia

Some propose that uniting with Romania might overcome these issues, but this answer from History.SE explains why the union was/is so hard to achieve.

This article suggests that Moldova is part of those countries which fall in the middle of geopolitical struggle between NATO and Russia:

These countries, which uncomfortably straddle the great ideological and physical divide that separates Russia from Europe and the West, are key states in what the Kremlin sees as its most important geopolitical struggle: Russia vs. NATO.

Question: Why does the EU invest in the adherence of countries with very low chances of becoming EU members?

  • 2
    "The EU" invests what? Feb 4, 2018 at 23:16
  • 1
    @MartinSchröder - besides the political effort, it also seems to allocate some money: In line with the multiannual programming framework, the Commission has adopted in November 2017 the first annual action programme for 2017. A total of €79 million is allocated among projects that aim to deliver benefits to the Moldovan citizens.
    – Alexei
    Feb 5, 2018 at 5:56
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    As you said, becoming a member of the EU seems impossible on short term. Some people think beyond short terms. Would anyone think that the Baltic States or Croatia could become EU members 25 years ago?
    – Thern
    Feb 5, 2018 at 16:41
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    "Good neighbours are better than far friends". Why would success be measured only in terms of succession?
    – MSalters
    Feb 5, 2018 at 16:49
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    They need to invest precisely because Moldova isn't ready to join. Otherwise they might never become eligible. Apr 29, 2019 at 7:03

1 Answer 1


One obvious reason would be to keep them from slipping further into Moscow's (renewed) sphere of influence. Of course you won't find that spelled out so obviously in official EU documents...

But consider that they even included Belarus in the Eastern Partnership:

The inclusion of Belarus prompts the question whether values or geopolitics are paramount in the initiative. EU diplomats agree that the country's authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has done little to merit involvement in the policy at this stage. But the EU fears Russia will strengthen its grip on Minsk if it is left out. It is, however, assumed that in the long-term, Lukashenko will become less important with time.


Russia has expressed strong concerns over the Eastern Partnership, seeing it as an attempt to expand the European Union's “sphere of influence”. [...] Sweden, the co-author of the Eastern Partnership project together with Poland, rejected Mr Lavrov's position as "completely unacceptable".

Also, the EU countries aren't really united on their vision further east:

Germany, France, and others were not happy with the possibility that the Eastern Partnership could be seen as a stepping stone to membership (especially for Ukraine), while Poland and other Eastern states have explicitly welcomed this effect.

Among these Eastern Partnership countries Moldova (and Ukraine) have an Association Agreement, which is an even closer form of cooperation with the EU. For the former

The agreement commits Moldova to economic, judicial and financial reforms to converge its policies and legislation to those of the European Union.

On 1 July 2016, the Association Agreement (AA) between the European Union and the Republic of Moldova fully came into force, following ratification by all 31 signatories.

(31 because EURATOM is a separate signatory.)

And of course mirroring to some extent developments in Ukraine:

Igor Dodon, who was elected President of Moldova in November 2016, campaigned on holding a referendum on cancelling the agreement in favour of joining the [Russia-led] Eurasian Economic Union.

This Agreement includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which might benefit EU (producers) as well. E.g.

Most recently, the EU has concluded association agreements that incorporate ‘Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements’ (DCFTAs) with three of the six ‘Eastern partners’ of the EU – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Ukraine’s was the first and is the most advanced, offering an “unprecedented level of integration”, according to the European Commission. These countries are not members of the single market or customs union, but are still granted deep and comprehensive market access and customs co-operation – though only in return for aligning their domestic laws to EU law. Ukraine, for example, will have to implement 80 to 90 per cent of the acquis communautaire (the body of EU law and regulations). The agreements provide an incentive structure for domestic reforms within a binding legal framework. They form a key part of the EU’s neighbourhood policy, enabling it to spread its values and regulatory influence. [...]

The association agreements have also attracted interest because of their ambitious services provisions. [...] The Ukraine deal goes beyond the Moldova and Georgia agreements, in theory offering “internal market treatment” on important services like finance, transport, and postal and electronic communications, once regulation is aligned in these areas. [...]

The association countries can participate in numerous EU agencies in a range of policy areas, sometimes on equal terms to member-states. All three Eastern Partnership countries have full access to Horizon 2020, a major EU research programme, and Euratom, the EU’s nuclear regulator. Again, participation is contingent upon alignment with EU law in these areas.

Of course, all the privileges come at a high price for sovereignty. The three countries only have improved access to those sectors where their laws are aligned (‘approximated’) to European ones. If a dispute arises relating to regulatory approximation or to an interpretation of EU law, the arbitration panel that oversees the agreement must request a ruling from the European Court of Justice, whose verdicts are legally binding (known as a ‘preliminary reference’). Other than on such issues, the arbitrators oversee the agreement without any ECJ involvement. [...]

The three association countries are of strategic importance for the EU, located along the fault line of east and west. The EU views the Ukraine association agreement as a tool for encouraging the country to respect Western liberal values, and to lure it away from corruption and Russian autocracy. It is also a way for the EU to take accession off the table by offering association in place of membership.

Although I haven't seen explicit comparisons, the proposed Institutional Framework Agreement with Switzerland seems fairly similar, e.g. it has a similar provision on ECJ's role in disputes. So clearly these measures (towards Eastern countries) are more than just PR, they serve some EU market interests as well.

The EU in general has been reluctant to be seen as permanently closing the door to further (full membership) accessions, even if it currently agrees that future accessions are unlikely in the near term. See their decades long talks with Turkey.

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