With war on its doorstep, Moldova applies for EU membership

EU summit in Brussels
Moldovan President Maia Sandu attends a meeting between leaders of EU countries and the governments of the "Eastern Partnership", a group of six neighbouring states which includes Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, during the European Summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, December 15, 2021. Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS

CHISINAU, March 3 (Reuters) - Moldovan President Maia Sandu signed a formal application for her country to join the European Union on Thursday, charting a pro-Western course hastened by Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Sandu's move comes days after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a request for immediate EU membership as it battles invading Russian forces. read more

Moscow is fiercely opposed to the eastern expansion of both the EU and especially of NATO, which it sees as a direct threat to its own national security.

Sandu, the prime minister and the parliamentary speaker all signed the document during a briefing in the capital Chisinau, where pro-Russian and pro-EU politicians have vied for control since Moldova won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

"It took 30 years for Moldova to reach maturity, but today the country is ready to take responsibility for its own future," said Sandu, before holding up the signed document to the television cameras.

"We want to live in peace, prosperity, be part of the free world. While some decisions take time, others must be made quickly and decisively, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come with a changing world," she said.

The application will be sent to Brussels in the coming days, she said.

Negotiations to join the EU - which both Chisinau and Kyiv have not even begun - typically take many years as the candidate country aligns its legislation with that of the 27-nation bloc.

EU leaders may discuss Ukraine's request at an informal summit next month, diplomats said.

Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Toby Chopra and Gareth Jones

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