Romania promises aid to poor Moldova if it reforms its system

Moldova's Prime Minister Pavel Filip (L) shakes hands with his Romanian counterpart Dacian Ciolos at the government headquarters Victoria Palace in Bucharest, Romania, January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s prime minister pledged on Tuesday to send emergency aid to Moldova and work to bring its ex-Soviet neighbor closer to the European Union as long as it makes greater efforts to reform its system and end corruption.

Moldova, Europe’s poorest country which shares a border with EU member Romania and has close language and cultural links, has been in the grip of a scandal in which $1 billion was syphoned off into foreign accounts, shaking shaken public confidence in its pro-EU leaders.

Speaking at a news conference in Bucharest with Moldova’s new prime minister Pavel Filip, Romania’s Dacian Ciolos urged Chisinau to adopt concrete reform steps in exchange for aid.

“To the extent to which the Moldovan government commits to some reforms, the Romanian government is considering, in a first phase, emergency aid to help those needy Moldovan citizens to cope with the winter period, a difficult period,” he said.

Alluding to public protests in Chisinau against the leadership, Ciolos said: “Political stability in Moldova is important for security in the region and for Romania. We want stability ... and to see a government embarked on reforms.”

He added that Bucharest wanted to see evidence from the Chisinau government that it intended to implement reform before delivering an initial 60 million euro tranche of aid from an overall 150 million euro assistance package.

Repeated protests in Chisinau threaten to derail Filip’s chances of running a stable government at a time when Moldova sees its economy sinking and is trying to negotiate new funding from international lenders.

Filip said implementing obligations under a political association agreement with the EU which it signed last year were a priority for the Moldovan government. “We’ll act in such way that pro-European ways return,” Filip told reporters.

Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Richard Balmforth