PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said more than 100 million euros ($102 million) were raised at a donors conference Monday to help assist Europe’s poorest country, Moldova, which is suffering massive blackouts, an acute energy crisis, heavy refugee flows and potential security threats from the war in neighboring Ukraine.
Monday’s international aid conference in Paris was co-chaired by France, Germany, and Romania in support of Moldova and aimed to achieve “concrete and immediate assistance” for the land-locked former Soviet republic, according to the French Foreign Ministry. Two previous conferences for Moldova this year also raised hundreds of millions of euros, but as the war drags on and winter begins to grip, its needs are growing.
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 with Ukraine, which is why the Russian missile barrage triggered the automatic shutdown of a supply line.
France’s Macron vowed on Monday to continue helping Moldova and said that “fighting for Moldova today is part of the war effort we lead alongside Ukraine.”
Moldova’s pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, said Monday that “the pledges announced here today will help us move forward with our reforms, keep social peace, maintain stability and continue contributing to a more stable continent.”
“Moldova remains Ukraine’s most vulnerable neighbor,” Sandu said. “As Ukraine defends itself from Russian attacks it also defends Moldova and defends the whole of Europe … the international community must do everything to support Ukraine.”
Earlier this month, the European Union pledged 250 million euros (nearly $256 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 where Russia stations about 1,500 troops — 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 as the cold season sets in, a situation that Sandu said could leave many consumers in Moldova “unable to pay their bills this winter if the government doesn’t step in.”
“The war is endangering the supply of electricity and gas. We are not certain we can find enough volumes to heat and light our homes,” Sandu said. “This could jeopardize our social peace and security.”
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.
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.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was among delegates from about 50 countries, said that Germany — which has already provided 90 million euros in aid to Moldova — would give another 30 million in addition to that. “Solidarity is the value that defines us in Europe and in the EU,” she said.
“We will not leave Moldova alone in cold or in darkness, nor in a looming recession,” Baerbock said.
Stephen McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania; Sylvie Corbet from Paris; Kirsten Grieshaber from Berlin, and Cristian Jardan in Chisinau, Moldova.
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