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Staying neutral: Moldova's PM Natalia Gavrilița says yes to joining the EU but no to NATO

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By Sandor Zsiros
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Staying neutral: Moldova's PM Natalia Gavrilița says yes to joining the EU but no to NATO
Copyright  euronews

Moldova is in the midst of an urgent humanitarian crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tens of thousands of refugees from Ukraine continue to flee and cross its border.

The outbreak of war recently prompted Chisinau to request EU membership, but that has also raised questions about Transnistria, a Russia-backed breakaway region, that Moldova views as an integral part of its territory.

To discuss the fallout, Euronews' Sándor Zsíros spoke to Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița.

The offering of candidate status would be a very important signal to the people of the countries that submitted the request to join the European Union that they are welcomed in the free world.
Natalia Gavrilița
Prime minister of Moldova

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"How do you see the security situation of your country with the war in Ukraine? Is Moldova under direct military threat by Russia?"

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"It is very unfortunate what is happening in Ukraine. We condemn the war and we strongly support Ukrainian independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. We are living in a complex region with security issues for Moldova as well, especially regarding the Transnistrian and separatist region. But we are currently seeing no danger or risks of spill-over into the Transnistria region. We are continuing with our negotiating formats. Moldova is a neutral country. Its neutrality is enshrined in the constitution and we expect everyone to act in accordance with this principle."

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"What's your plan if the Russian troops fail to stop at your borders?"

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"This is a hypothetical scenario. We are currently very much concentrated on the management of the large refugee flows. We have more than two hundred and fifty thousand people who have crossed the border from Ukraine. We have one hundred and twenty thousand that are estimated to have remained in Moldova, which is the largest number in Europe as a proportion of [the] population. We are at our current capacity and we need a lot of help and international assistance to deal with this massive humanitarian crisis. So we are concentrating on the challenges that we are facing now rather than discussing a hypothetical scenario."

...the burden on Moldovan resources has been great.

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"How are you coping with the massive influx of refugees compared to the relatively small size of your country? Do you need more international assistance on this issue?

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"We certainly do, as I mentioned, we have the largest influx of refugees ever seen by Moldova, but also probably ever seen by Europe, the speed, I think, and the size of the refugee flow is more than estimations by the UNHCR showed before the military action began. Moldova is, of course, also the country with the most limited resources, and we definitely need financial assistance and we need humanitarian assistance in order to be able to support this flow of refugees. And as long as the military actions are going on, we expect this to continue. So we are urgently requiring green corridors to other countries, but also financial assistance to maintain the spending that we are currently incurring and have incurred by ourselves in the last ten days. We are just now starting to receive some humanitarian assistance. So the burden on Moldovan resources has been great."

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"You have a breakaway region of Transnistria with a Russian military base in it. Do you see any extraordinary military activities there and do you think those soldiers might join the conflict?"

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"Indeed, we do have the separatist region of Transnistria. We have Russian troops stationed there. We have called for the withdrawal of troops consistently for the last 30 years. We currently do not see any risks or plans for engagement. But of course, the situation is uncertain and depends on evolution in Ukraine. But as I said, we are a neutral country and we expect all international partners to act in line with a principle of neutrality. For now, we are discussing within the current negotiating formats and we do not see any signs or any plans for engagement."

...we are ready to do the homework that is necessary to achieve the standards to join the European Union.

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"Moldova submitted membership application for the European Union last week. Normally, this accession process takes decades. Do you see the chance for a fast-track process in the current situation?"

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"We are aware that the European integration process is a long process of transformation. At the same time, with the security of this region, the offering of candidate status would be a very important signal to the people of the countries that submitted the request to join the European Union that they are welcomed in the free world. They are welcomed in the Union, where, you know, democratic values and the rule of law and the respect of human rights and the respect of international law are fundamental principles. And of course, we are ready to do the homework that is necessary to achieve the standards to join the European Union."

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"Some Romanian political parties say there should be a referendum so Moldova can unite with Romania and get into the EU and NATO this way. Is this scenario on the table?"

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"Currently, we are not discussing this option."

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"How would Western integration function in the case of Moldova with a pro-Russian breakaway region in it? And obviously, Vladimir Putin, who is trying to restore the former Soviet Union, will try to block this. How do you see this issue?"

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"Again, I think that this is a hypothetical question. We are currently working within the negotiating formats agreed and we will work with all international partners, depending on the evolution and the changes in the circumstances to design the best way and the best-negotiating formats to continue discussions on integration."

neutrality principle is enshrined in the constitution...

**Sándor Zsíros, Euronews: **

"You mentioned earlier the neutrality of your country. This means that any accession to NATO is excluded, right?"

Natalia Gavrilița, Prime minister of Moldova

"Indeed, this neutrality principle is enshrined in the constitution, and we will be pursuing EU integration, but we will not be pursuing membership in the NATO alliance."