Diplomats from about 50 countries and institutions are drumming up money and other support for Europe’s poorest country, Moldova, which is suffering massive blackouts, heavy refugee flows and potential security threats from the war in neighbouring Ukraine.
Monday’s international aid conference in Paris is aimed at “concrete and immediate assistance” for the land-locked former Soviet republic, according to the French foreign ministry.
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Two previous conferences for Moldova this year raised hundreds of millions of euros (hundreds of millions of dollars), but as the war drags on, its needs are growing.
“This war is endangering the supply of electricity and gas. We are not certain we can find enough … to heat and light our homes, and even if we do, the prices are unaffordable for our people and economy. This could jeopardise our social peace and security,” President Maia Sandu told delegates in a speech.
“I know everyone in Europe pays a very high price for energy but these same prices have a much more ruinous impact on our country and people.”
Harvard-educated Sandu, 50, said Russia was continuing a “hybrid war” against her country that included energy cuts and the funding of anti-government protest groups.
“Such actions are retribution for Moldova’s condemnation of the war, for our standing with Ukraine and our European choice,” she added.
Broad blackouts temporarily hit more than a half-dozen Moldovan cities last week as the Russian military pounded infrastructure across Ukraine.
Moldova’s Soviet-era energy systems remain interconnected with those of Ukraine, which is why the Russian missile barrage triggered the automatic shutdown of a supply line.
Earlier this month, the European Union pledged 250 million euros (nearly $260m) to help Moldova after Russia halved its natural gas supply.
Moldova’s energy crisis worsened when Transnistria – a Moscow-backed separatist region of Moldova with a key power plant – also cut electricity to other parts of the country.
Sharply rising energy costs and skyrocketing inflation are set to put a huge strain on consumers in the country of about 2.6 million people as the cold season begins to set in.
Moldova relied heavily on Russian energy before the war, and has increasingly been looking to forge closer ties with the West.
It became a candidate for EU membership in June, along with Ukraine.
“Moldova has good friends, together with whom we will manage to overcome the dramatic costs of the war on the economy and the energy sector,” Nicu Popescu, Moldova’s foreign minister, wrote online Sunday. “Together, we will bring Moldova into the European Union.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris would provide an additional 100 million euros (nearly $100m) to help Moldova’s immediate needs.
“We must not yield to (war) fatigue or the idea this will end quickly,” Macron said, vowing to help Moldova face its severe problems.
Germany had pledged about 32.5 million euros (nearly $32.5m) for renewable energy, infrastructure and refugee aid, diplomatic sources said.
“We will not leave Moldova alone in cold or darkness, nor in a looming recession,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters.
Romania offered 30 million euros (nearly $30m).
Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu told reporters that his country had supplied “between 80 and 90 percent” of the country’s electricity needs over the last month.
“We will stand by Moldova not only as it goes through this difficult winter, but also as it goes along the path towards being a European Union member,” Aurescu told a news conference on Monday.