As ever, there are two competing visions for the country. The first is that held by the ruling Communist Party. This vision recognises Moldova's recent past as part of the Soviet Union and seeks economic and cultural reintegration with Russia. The benefits of such an approach would be a lessening of Russian pressure on the republic (e.g. in the form of lower gas prices), and potentially the reintegration (in some form) of Transnistria.
The other vision is held by the major liberal parties - Urecheanu's Moldova Noastra, Ghimpu's Liberal Party and Filat's Liberal Democrat Party. These parties are oriented towards the other former motherland, Romania, and see Moldova's future as part of Europe. The benefits of entering the EU would include both the economic (e.g. subsidies, free trade) and the democratic (e.g. the EU's independent legal system and its protection of human and civil rights)
I'm with the liberals. Why? Because the costs of moving into Russia's orbit are too high:
- Use of the Moldovan language would collapse as Moldova would be overwhelmed by Russian cultural influences. We are already seeing this happen as Moldovan-language media outlets are gradually eliminated and repleced by those operating in Russian.
- Moldova would import Russia's autocratic, undemocratic political system. The little pluralism and freedom that we have today would cease to exist
- The economic benefits would be uncertain, and could easily be withdrawn at Russia's whim.
- The likely form of Transnistrian integration would result in a further deterioration of human and civil rights as Tiraspol gained greater influence over the remainder of the republic.
Pushing towards the EU will also have costs. Gas prices are likely to be higher. Russia will rattle its sabres, and Transnistria is unlikely to reintegrate in the near term. But at least Moldova gets to keep its soul. More than that, it will get a chance to restore its culture, build its economy and place its democratic institutions on firm foundations. Best of all, Moldovans will be free to pursue whatever course they want in life, having access to more and better opportunities.
While the Communist Party pays lip-service to EU accession, it is clear that nothing serious is likely to happen while they are in power. By contrast, following a liberal victory next spring, events could move surprisingly quickly. Eurocrats from Brussels would be far more amenable to admitting the Republic, and Moldova could finally take up Romania's offer to help in the integration process.
The choice is clear; let's hope the electorate has the sense to make it.