Moldova's Sandu says hopes for EU entry this decade

Third ministerial conference of the Moldova Support Platform in Paris
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By Alexander Tanas

CHISINAU (Reuters) - President Maia Sandu, elected in 2020 on a pro-European and anti-corruption platform, expressed hopes on Thursday that crisis-hit Moldova would join the European Union before 2030.

"My wishes are very ambitious," Sandu said in remarks carried on the Moldova-1 public television channel. "I think we must become a member of the European Union by the end of this decade."

The EU accepted Moldova as a membership candidate in June, when it extended the same status to neighboring Ukraine. It was a diplomatic triumph for Sandu, whose country is one of Europe's poorest and facing numerous economic struggles.

EU entry involves a lengthy and complex process to bring local laws into alignment. But Dumitru Alaiba, Moldova's new economy minister, told Reuters this month he was mapping out long-term reforms and would slash bureaucracy to lay foundations of a business-friendly economy and accelerate EU entry.

He said his priorities would include deregulation of the economy and overhauling a "cumbersome" tax system that has deterred investors, allowed corruption to thrive and curtailed revenue.

Moldova has been striving to wean itself off Russian gas as it deals with power cuts partly caused by Moscow's attacks on neighboring Ukraine's power infrastructure. It also faces protests over soaring inflation.

In a sign of progress Wednesday, Moldovan state utilities firm Energocom announced a deal for Romania's Nuclearelectrica to supply enough electricity to make up 80% of anticipated shortfalls in January 2023.

Romanian power producers have been granted permission to sell electricity to Moldova at 450 lei per megawatt hour, under a special cap due to the war in Ukraine.

(Writing by Elaine Monaghan; Editing by Richard Chang)