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Moldova has to take further steps in aligning itself with the European Union's punitive measures and sanctions against Russia, the bloc's executive body recommended in its annual progress report that advocates the conditional opening of membership negotiations with Chisinau.
Moldova and Ukraine obtained candidate status for EU membership in June last year, and the European Commission's report published on November 8 commends the small southeastern European country for fulfilling six out of nine criteria needed to open membership negotiations.
The report highlights Chisinau's firm backing of Kyiv since the start of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and commends it for taking in large numbers of refugees, noting that Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, hosts the largest per capita number of Ukrainian refugees.
But the report urges Chisinau to make more sustained efforts in aligning itself with the sanctions and restrictive measures the EU slapped on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Last year, the document states, Moldova had a 54 percent rate of alignment with the 27-member bloc's restrictive measures.
This year, "Moldova started its gradual alignment with some of the 115 EU restrictive measures related to Russia/Russian activities abroad," the report said, adding that the rate of alignment has reached 78 percent as of August, when Chisinau also expelled 22 de Russian diplomats and 23 support staff from Moscow's embassy -- a two-thirds reduction of its staff.
Furthermore, Moldova this year imposed sanctions against 13 Russian nationals, including Wagner mercenaries, troops accused of rape in Ukraine, and policemen that tortured Moscow protesters, the report said.
However, "more work is needed to align with EU restrictive measures and enhance the robustness of their implementation including by strengthening the national authorities in charge of this action," the report said.
Moldova's pro-Western President Maia Sandu, whose shock defeat of Moscow-backed incumbent Igor Dodon in November 2020 marked a U-turn in the country's previous Moscow-oriented position, has welcomed the findings and the recommendations of the report, vowing to redouble reform efforts to join the EU by the end of the decade.
"We've got a lot of work to do as the path we've chosen is full of challenges. Work does not scare us and our goal is for Moldova to be ready to join the EU by 2030," Sandu wrote on Facebook.
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