EU Expansion: Moldova's Journey to Prosperity with Vlad Botoș

In the current term of the European Parliament, the Republic of Moldova has been accepted as a candidate state in a record time of three months, which is a historic decision.

I hope that by the end of the 2029 mandate, it will become a member of the European Union, and the flag of the Republic of Moldova will be seen in the hemicycle of Strasbourg, states Romanian MEP Vlad Botoș. In an interview given to Moldova 1, the MEP specified that the European Union brings prosperity, well-being, freedom, and peace, while the East, Russia, and Putin bring poverty, war, and division.

Moldova 1: It's been 20 years since the largest wave of European Union (EU) expansion, dubbed the Big Bang enlargement. The European Parliament marked this turning point in history with a solemn session. The Union is once again at a crossroads facing a new wave of expansion, of which we are a part. Before May 1, 2004, there were 15 member states, and it expanded to 25. Today, there is discussion of 30-something countries in a new, reformed union, offering an alternative to prosperity against Russia's aggression.

Joining us "IN CONTEXT" is Romanian MEP Vlad Botoș. So, the expansion helped the European Union; 20 years ago there were 15 states, now there are 27. Although the former President of the European Parliament also mentioned the UK, he spoke regretfully about Brexit. But I want to ask you about the new wave, with 30 plus member states, in the context of the uncertainty of war. Is this European reform or expansion still determined in these times?

Vlad Botoș: The expansion of the European Union with the wave of May 1, 2004, the largest expansion since the beginning of this peace and prosperity construction in 1952, when the European Union was founded, brought not only safety and stability to the European Union but also peace, freedom, and prosperity to each member state. And these goals must never be forgotten! Just today, I was talking to my colleagues from the United Right, with my colleague Eugen Tomac, and with the former President of Romania, Traian Băsescu, that we too, Romania, are 17 years into this great national project - a country in the European Union. We will also celebrate 20 years in three years. We did not catch that wave of expansion in 2004; we had to wait another three years.

I am very glad that, in this mandate, in this term 2019-2024, to which I have also contributed, the Republic of Moldova was accepted in a record time, in three months from the moment it submitted the letter requesting to become a candidate country. After three months, it received the status of candidate country and later, in December last year, in 2023, the accession negotiations began. Which is a historic decision. And I really, really want to see the flag of the Republic of Moldova in the hemicycle of Strasbourg at the end of my second term, in 2029, when I will finish my second term as a Member of the European Parliament, of course, if I am elected on June 9.

Moldova 1: You also mentioned the upcoming European Parliament elections. What guarantees are there that these expansion efforts will continue even after the elections, because there are not only expansion efforts, but also reform of the constitutive treaties of the European Union?

Vlad Botoș: In the European Parliament, you had all the MEPs, Romanian and not only - and here I tell you that also many colleagues from other countries and from the political groups that formed this coalition leading Europe at the moment and which gave it to Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission -, you had allies. Of course, the path chosen by the citizens of the Republic of Moldova mattered a lot, all the efforts made, and the tireless work of President Maia Sandu to be present in every European chancellery. There is political will - and all the leaders of the member states have said it -, there is political will in the European Parliament, and I believe that even after the elections in June, there will be this political will for the European Union to expand. The last wave of expansion was in 2013, when Croatia became a member, and the European Union must grow to be more prosperous and safer.

Let's not forget that, in addition to the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, which has also received the status of candidate country, we also have the Western Balkan countries, which have been waiting for many years: North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro, waiting to be admitted, and I believe that the European Union will be stronger and safer. And yes, we may need to change the treaties. We need to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, especially if Ukraine enters, a major agricultural producing country. But the political message is much more important. And I'll give you an example from Romania, from my country. In 2007, when we joined the European Union, the average salary in Romania, gross, was 200 Euros; today, 17 years later, the average gross salary is 1500 Euros. We just need to think about that. Concrete and real numbers.

Moldova 1: That's what I wanted to ask you. What is the transformative power of the European Union? Why do I ask? Because in Chișinău, there are opinions and opinions, for example: both with the East and with the West, we must be friends for economic reasons with Russia. What is ultimately the transformative power of the Union?

Vlad Botoș: I give you numbers and I tell you as a person who visits the Republic of Moldova annually. I was last there at the end of March, for three days in Chișinău. We had a big rally at Chișinău Arena with colleagues from the United Right. And I'll tell you one thing for sure. The East brings poverty, war, and tears. And this has been seen not only since the Soviet Union was founded, but also before the USSR, and in the post-Soviet era.

The West? The EU brings prosperity, it brings development. I just saw your material in which there is a lot of work being done to have more bridges over the Prut. And it is normal that when the Republic of Moldova joins the EU, you may need maybe 20 bridges over the Prut. Circulation will be normal. Products from the Republic of Moldova. And I'll give you an example. When the Russians stopped buying, after the invasion of Ukraine, products from the Republic of Moldova - wine, fruits, vegetables - found their market. What I'm telling everyone, I'm telling French, German, and Austrian colleagues. Moldovan wine has become a quality wine, a wine that sells at very good prices in the European Union, in restaurants in the EU, in restaurants in Romania.

The European Union brings prosperity, brings well-being, brings peace, brings freedom, in addition to the values in which we believe and on which peace has been built. The East, Russia, Putin bring only poverty, war, tears, and division.

Moldova 1: Vlad Botoș, Member of the European Parliament. Thank you very much for this discussion. We look forward to seeing you "IN CONTEXT" again.

Translation by Iurie Tataru

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