CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paid an official visit to Moldova Thursday, where she announced a 250 million-euro (-dollar) support package to help the small nation overcome an acute winter energy crisis amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The EU chief said that Moldova, which neighbors Ukraine, will receive 100 million euros in grants and the same amount again in loans from the 27-nation bloc to help it meet its gas needs this winter, starting Jan. 1. An additional 50 million euros will help the country’s most vulnerable citizens, she said.
“European solidarity with the Republic of Moldova is unshakable,” von der Leyen said at a news conference in the capital, Chisinau, after meeting with pro-Western President Maia Sandu. “We assure you that we will do our best to help you through this crisis.”
Moldova, which has a population of about 2.6 million, is entirely dependent on Russia for its natural gas. But Russia has used that dependence to pressure the country over its alignment with the West and in recent weeks halved its gas supplies, triggering an unprecedented energy crisis as winter begins to grip.
Sandu has said that Moscow’s decision to reduce supplies amounts to “political blackmail” in the country where household energy tariffs have increased six-fold in the past year amid skyrocketing inflation.
“We are facing the worst energy crisis in three decades,” Sandu said Thursday. “A crisis in which energy resources are being used as weapons against democracy.”
“Only together, in solidarity, will we be able to survive the coming winter and preserve our freedom and a peaceful and democratic future,” Sandu added.
In June, Moldova was granted EU candidate status, but the country likely won’t obtain full membership for years, since it is conditional on a series of reforms in areas such as tackling corruption, organized crime and strengthening human rights and the rule of law.
“We want to bring Moldova into the safe and prosperous space of the European Union,” Sandu said, “where human life and freedom are supreme values … and states are not attacked for the development path they choose.”
Von der Leyen also said Thursday that a donors’ meeting will be held in Paris later this month, to help Moldova purchase energy resources. “Moldova is part of our European family. And family must stick together when the times are getting tough and difficult,” she said.
On Friday, the European Parliament President Roberta Metsola will also pay an official visit to Moldova.
McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine