From Vedomosti, Nov. 22, 2022, https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2022/11/22/951439-moldaviya-prosit-u-evrosoyuza-pomosch. Complete text:
This winter, residents of Moldova will spend over 65% of their income on electricity, gas and heating. The country’s president, Maia Sandu, wrote about this in a Nov. 21 Politico article, published the same day as the opening of a Moldova Support Platform conference in Paris to collect aid from donors.
Sandu blamed the energy crisis on the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis [see Vol. 74, No. 8, pp. 9‑13] and predicted that the country’s economy would contract. She believes that the economic crisis will be the result of several factors: supply chain disruptions, rapid price increases, and inflation pushing 35%. The issue of energy supply is especially pressing for Moldova. Sandu admitted that electricity supply sources were not diversified. After missiles struck the grid infrastructure of Ukrainian power plants, Ukraine halted energy exports. This, combined with Gazprom’s decision to reduce shipments of gas abroad, has had a negative impact on Chisinau, Sandu lamented. The country has introduced electricity austerity measures, moved several industries over to alternative energy sources and strengthened cooperation with Romania in this area. However, Sandu explained, these are long-term measures, whereas fundamental improvements to the country’s energy supply are needed right now.
The electricity problem will also be discussed at the Paris meeting of the Moldova Support Platform. According to Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu, Chisinau can, with the help of its partners, overcome “dramatic moments for the economy and the energy sector.” Moldova expects to receive 695 million euros from Germany, France and Romania in the form of loans, grants and direct contributions to the state budget. On Nov. 21, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that 100 million euros would be given to Moldova. Romanian officials also requested grant aid to Moldova. Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu stressed that Bucharest is supplying its neighbor with electricity at its own citizens’ expense. “Romania has stepped up its efforts, and we are currently providing almost 90% of Moldova’s electricity needs. We will continue to provide support, but grant aid is needed,” he concluded.
The crisis in Moldova cannot be fixed just by pouring money into it, comments Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky, senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economics and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Moldova is a poor country facing problems that are hard to bear even for more prosperous states. “Chisinau needs electricity, and Romania’s assistance is no panacea,” the expert said, noting that Bucharest almost fully satisfies its own electricity needs, but its resources are not enough to provide for Moldova as well. For Moldovan citizens, this threatens not just higher electricity bills, but also falling incomes. The shortage and high cost of energy will lead to negative effects on industry, which will deal a blow to the country’s economy. However, Ofitserov-Belsky commented, such a crisis would not be fatal for the economy or for Sandu’s government. Despite the protests and popular discontent, the president has a strong hold on power and will not leave office until the end [of her term], the expert said.
The Moldovan crisis is a direct result of Sandu’s shortsighted policy of reorienting Moldova toward the West, says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of CIS Countries: “Gas is one of Moldova’s main problems, and here Sandu’s refusal to cooperate with Russia looks particularly strange.” Her government, Zharikhin points out, is trying to solve this problem through the European Union, which is itself dependent on importing energy: “Thus, the country’s economic troubles are only worsening, which creates an additional political threat to Sandu.”