Moldova’s new PM starts term by questioning country’s neutral status

Moldova’s new PM starts term by questioning country’s neutral status
Doris Recean's government was endorsed by the Moldovan parliament on February 16. /
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest February 17, 2023

After being confirmed by lawmakers in Chisinau on February 16, Moldova’s new Prime Minister Dorin Recean immediately questioned the country’s neutrality enshrined in the constitution in his first statements as head of the government.

Recean, President Maia Sandu’s former national security adviser, was brought in to tackle security issues amid growing fears of possible Russian provocations. 

The idea of abandoning Moldova’s military neutrality was floated by Sandu recently, after the pro-EU ruling majority in Chisinau has constantly argued for the need to consolidate Moldova’s defence capabilities since it took office in June 2021, and particularly after February 24 last year when Russia invaded Ukraine, Moldova’s eastern neighbour.

On February 16, the parliament in Chisinau endorsed the new government with the votes of 62 pro-EU deputies of a total of 101 MPs. The new government was endorsed with a mandate to protect the country from the challenges posed by Russia — Ukrainian intelligence recently warned of an alleged Russian plot to destabilise Moldova — and to initiate accession negotiations with the European Union.

"The decisions we take now will influence our future and our children. We have the opportunity and the obligation to make the leap into the civilised world, to become part of the European family — a union of peace and prosperity," the government’s ruling strategy reads.

Commenting on Moldova’s neutral status after the vote, Recean said: "We must not confuse defence with neutrality. Neutrality does not insure us in case of aggression.” He added that there might come a time when neutrality “will no longer work”. 

The new prime minister went on to argue that for the past 30 years or more, “some politicians” have circulated the narrative that "if we are neutral, then we are automatically defended”, which he said is false. 

Sandu recently said that the country is still analysing whether a constitutional change will be necessary in order to join “a larger alliance”, when asked about her country’s potential Nato accession in an interview given to Politico.

Nato has long been a delicate topic in Moldova, but with war raging in neighbouring Ukraine, the pro-EU authorities have increasingly talked of the country’s need to build credible defence capabilities. However, even such cautious statements prompt negative rhetoric from pro-Russian or nationalist politicians seeking to capture voters’ support. They also sparked an angry response from Moscow.