Over the last few years the Republic of Moldova has been steering an increasingly pro-European course, seeking rapprochement to Euro-Atlantic structures.
An important step in the relations between the EU and Moldova in the past years was the entering into force of the visa facilitation agreement and the readmission agreement on 1 January 2008. Other important steps were the granting of autonomous trade preferences by the European Union as of 1 March 2008 and – on an Austrian-Hungarian initiative – the opening of a joint visa application office in Chisinau in April 2007, which is currently being used also by a few other Member States. This is an important contribution to the people-to-people contacts at the local level.
In January 2010 the EU and the Republic of Moldova started negotiations on an Association Agreement. The Association Agreement will form the basis for an intensified cooperation in a number of fields (for example economy, research and education). The creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) is also going to be part of the Association Agreement. The negotiations on the DCFTA started in February 2012. Another important part of the cooperation project is the implementation of the visa action plan that sets out the necessary measures for a step-by-step visa liberalisation.
The Parliamentary elections of July 2009 led to a change in the majority that existed since 2001: The Communist Party lost her absolute majority; four centre-right parties (Alliance for European Integration – AEI) formed the basis for a pro-European government. But due to the existing majorities in the Parliament, the AEI was not in a position to elect a new President; therefore in November 2009 new Parliamentary elections had to take place. The new majority in Parliament was in favour of the AEI but there were still two voices missing for the necessary majority of 3/5th to elect a new President. Two more tentatives to elect a new President failed. In March 2012 the coalition Parties could finally agree and elected Nicolae Timofti as a new President.
The situation in the Republic of Moldova is still dominated by the ongoing conflict with the separatist region of Transnistria. The European Union is increasingly involved in efforts aimed at resolving the conflict. The participation of the European Union as observer in the so-called 5+2 negotiation process is an expression of the Union’s enhanced commitment (5+2 refers to the format: Moldova and Transnistria as conflict parties, Russia, Ukraine and OSCE as Mediators, EU and US as observers). In response to a request made by Ukraine and Moldova, the EU launched a Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) on 1 December 2005 with the aim of improving surveillance of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, especially its Transnistrian section. In the meantime EUBAM was prolonged until November 2015. One of the main elements of this mission is the training of the local border authorities. Furthermore, the European Union supports confidence building measures between the two parts of the country separated by the Dnjestr River.
The Republic of Moldova is a focal country of the Austrian aid to the Eastern European Countries. To that end a co-operation agreement was signed in autumn 2008. The main focus is in the field of water supplies and sanitation as well as in the field of vocational training. The humanitarian commitment of private organisations (i.e. non-governmental organisations) is also considerable.