Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on Sunday in Moldova, a small country neighboring Ukraine, to proclaim their European aspirations against Russia.
"We have come to say loud and clear, with confidence and pride that Moldova's place is in the European Union", declared President Maia Sandu, at the initiative of the event which took place in the heart of the capital Chisinau, in front of the government building.
"Europe is much more than a political slogan, it is a way of life, a dream that must become reality, (...) the only way for our children to live in peace", insisted the leader of 50 years, reaffirming the horizon of 2030 to join the Twenty-Seven.
Present at his side, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, gave her "support" to Moldova, which she considered "ready for European integration".
The former Soviet republic of 2.6 million inhabitants sees its entry into the EU as the only guarantee of not being a next target for Russia, after the invasion of its big neighbor Ukraine.
In June 2022, it received the status of official candidate for EU membership, alongside Kyiv.
In the crowd, estimated at more than 75,000 people according to police figures, young and old mingled, waving Moldovan and European flags in a festive atmosphere.
Aurica Baltag, a 35-year-old student, came with her two children to show the "unity" of this fragile nation.
"We are going through difficult times with the war in neighboring Ukraine," she told AFP. “We hope not to be left in the shadows and that the EU will help us to overcome this period”.
Worried like "everyone else about Russian threats", Liuba Bonta, a 63-year-old retiree, wants to "get out of the doldrums" in which this poor country, victim of a massive exodus since independence in 1991, is plunged.
Regularly shaken by pro-Russian demonstrations - some were still organized in the provinces this Sunday - Moldova must also deal with the presence of Russian soldiers on its soil, the pro-Russian separatist region of Transdniestria.
In February, Ms. Sandu had accused Russia of fomenting a coup to overthrow the power in place in Chisinau and denounced the "hybrid war" led by Moscow.
In an interview with AFP this week, the president said she wanted to enter the EU "as soon as possible", hoping for a decision "in the coming months" on the opening of negotiations.
"Russia will continue to be a great source of instability in the years to come and we must protect ourselves," she said.
05/21/2023 15:13:25 - Chisinau (AFP) - © 2023 AFP