German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Romania on Monday to underscore Western support for a key NATO ally that borders Ukraine and also for neighbouring Moldova, which has looked especially vulnerable since Russia’s invasion last year.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu, who accuses Moscow of fomenting unrest in her tiny former Soviet republic, met Scholz and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest, pressing for support to speed up Moldova’s accession to the European Union.
Russia denies causing trouble in Moldova, which is situated between Romania and Ukraine.
Scholz’s visit to Bucharest comes a day after German armsmaker Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE) announced it was setting up a maintenance and logistics hub in northern Romania on the Ukrainian border to service weapons used in Ukraine.
Scholz praised Romania’s willingness to take in refugees spilling over the border from the war in Ukraine, adding: “Germany stands firmly by Romania’s side.”
Asked why Romania specifically had been chosen to host Rheinmetall’s servicing hub, Scholz said other European countries would also open maintenance centres to repair weapons such as tanks and Howitzers deployed against Russian forces.
He underscored German support for Moldova’s EU accession but would not be drawn on whether such talks could start as early as this year.
“Moldova is part of our European family,” he told reporters after the three leaders held talks. “Moldova does not stand alone but receives massive international support.”
Iohannis, who accompanied Scholz and the leaders of France and Italy on a visit to Kyiv last year, urged NATO to increase its presence in the Black Sea. Russia and Ukraine both share a coastline on the Black Sea, along with NATO members Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as Georgia.
“Moldova is in the first line of the war in its border and of extremely violent attempts to destabilise it by Russia,” Iohannis said.
A breakaway, mainly Russian-speaking region of Moldova, known as Transdniestria, is controlled by pro-Moscow separatists and is also home to a garrison of Russian troops.
Its allegiance to Moscow and location on Ukraine’s western border have been a constant cause of concern since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year that the war could spread to the region.
“Some have wanted Moldova to fall and in so doing to weaken Ukraine and the European Union. Moldova is standing straight,” Sandu said.
“We continue to count on your countries’ guidance and support to obtain the start of EU accession negotiations.”
Scholz on Monday also backed Romania’s efforts to join the EU’s passport-free Schengen Zone this year, saying Bucharest fulfilled all the criteria. Romania and its southern neighbour Bulgaria have been kept out of the Schengen area due to concerns about unauthorized immigration.
Scholz’s trip came as his Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck paid a surprise visit to Ukraine, where he accompanied President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the site where hundreds were held captive in a basement by Russian forces in the early weeks of the war.
Source : Eureporter