Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Whither Moldova?

Sandwiched unpromisingly between Romania and the Ukraine, Moldova is by some measures the poorest country in Europe (its rival for this dubious honor is Albania). Personally I often confuse it with Malta. The country of four million somewhat inadvertently stormed global pop culture with the boy band O-Zone's "Dragostea Din Tei" and the subsequent viral Internet permutations of that track.

Moldova is split between its EU aspirations and a dependence on rogue Russia. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russian soldiers are still installed in the separatist region of Transnistria. The Kremlin, of course, holds the ace card of petroleum: Gazprom can pull the supplies and bring the country to its knees, as it has done in Georgia and the Ukraine.

Which is what makes the Moldovan Communist Party a curiosity. A final, pyrrhic victory for President Voronin makes his the only Communist government left in Europe, although he has pledged to work towards a "European Moldova," with friendly ties to East and West. Unpersuaded protesters rocked the capital city of Chisinau upon his re-election, and now a new coalition government may or may not take shape.

Moldova will remain backward no matter how this political spat works out, a long way from joining the global community.