France is one of the States with the longest-standing representation in Chișinău. Diplomatic relations were established in 1992. This relationship gained new momentum following Maia Sandu’s election as President. On 4 February 2021, she was received in Paris by the President of the Republic for the first bilateral visit by a Moldovan Head of State since 1997. This visit marked France’s support for Ms Sandu’s programme and established an ambitious bilateral agenda, strengthening the French contribution to the implementation of public policies and sustainable development in Moldova through the intervention of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Expertise France and Proparco, and launching negotiations on avoidance of double taxation and social security conventions. New impetus was generated for French-language bilingual education in Moldova and solidarity in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was strengthened.
On 2 September 2021, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs visited Chișinău, a few days after the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Moldova’s independence. Maia Sandu was again received by the French President on the sidelines of the Paris Peace Forum on 12 November 2021.
In the context of the war in Ukraine, the Minister returned to Moldova on 3 March 2022, accompanied by Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management. Alongside Germany and Romania, France has also chosen to co-chair the Moldova Support Platform, established to help Moldova handle the consequences of the conflict.
France is Moldova’s twelfth-largest customer and ninth-largest supplier. Trade between the two countries remains modest but enjoys positive momentum. After exceeding €100 million in 2018, it reached €119.8 million in 2019. In the first six months of 2020, despite the public health situation, French exports continued to increase compared to the same period the previous year, confirming this trend (16.9% rise). France primarily imports agricultural and textile products from Moldova. It has traditionally held strong market share in the agri-food sector, machinery (including agricultural machinery), automobiles and chemicals. In the first four months of 2020, the French surplus rose sharply, due to a significant increase in agricultural and agri-food exports.
France is the fourth-largest source of foreign investment in Moldova, accounting for more than 4,000 direct jobs, thanks in particular to the presence of 240 French companies (including Orange, Sanofi, Lafarge and Lactalis). Several companies are planning to strengthen their presence, such as Accor or Eco-Delta in partnership with Total Eren (two wind projects worth €115 million). Moldova has applied for a French Treasury loan to support the renovation of the Chișinău-Ungheni railway line, a key link with the EU (€49.5 million), by a consortium including Alstom, Geismar, Systra and L3G).
The AFD’s mandate was extended to Moldova in June 2021. Its activities should cover areas identified as priorities by the Moldovan authorities: forest management, irrigation, drinking water and sanitation, and the modernization of energy and the railway network.
The EU is Moldova’s leading trading partner, foreign investor and aid donor. On 1 September 2014, the EU and Moldova signed an Association Agreement which includes a reform agenda as well as the implementation of a free trade area gradually eliminating trade tariffs between the two sides. Meanwhile, the liberalization of short-stay visas, allowing Moldovans to move freely within the Schengen Area for up to three months, has been effective since April 2014.
These developments are part of the “Eastern Partnership” which frames the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) with regard to the countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Among all ENP partners, Moldova is the leading beneficiary per capita of assistance from Brussels.
The EU’s political priorities in Moldova, supported by all Member States’ diplomatic representations, include institution building, justice reform, the business climate, freedom of expression and human rights, improving health and social conditions, and combating trafficking, organized crime, corruption and money laundering.
Maia Sandu’s visits to Brussels on 18 January 2021 and Paris on 4 February 2021, and Charles Michel’s visit to Chișinău on 28 February 2021 (accompanied by the President of the European Investment Bank) confirmed the progress of the EU-Moldova relationship. The European Commission’s announcement of an economic recovery plan for Moldova on 2 June 2021 is in line with this trend. The plan provides for public and private investment of up to €600 million between 2021 and 2024 (Team Europe approach), around five pillars: (i) improving public financial management and macroeconomic stability; (ii) supporting an innovative economy and SMEs; (iii) investing in infrastructure; (iv) strengthening education and employment; and (v) supporting the rule of law, justice and anti-corruption. Conditionality will remain central (progress expected on justice and anti-corruption reforms). This is expected to be one of the flagship projects of the Eastern Partnership by 2025.
The EU has provided significant support to Moldova during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to redirecting funds of €87 million to help address urgent needs, the European Union is providing €100 million in emergency assistance under the Macro-Financial Assistance Instrument (MFA). Emergency aid of €60 million has also been granted to address the gas crisis. Concerning access to vaccines, Moldova is a beneficiary of the COVAX Facility, a pillar of the ACT-Accelerator initiative launched by France, Germany, the EU and WHO.
The 6th Association Council meeting on 28 October 2021 was an opportunity to launch new cooperation: (i) the EU-Moldova High Level Dialogue on energy; (ii) high-level dialogue on political and security issues, opened on 18 March 2022; (iii) the signing of a Horizon 2020 Association Agreement.
In the context of the war in Ukraine, Moldova applied for EU membership on 3 March 2022, the same day as Georgia and a few days after Ukraine (28 February), and submitted its replies to the Commission’s first questionnaire on 22 April. In April 2022, The EU also granted a new macro-financial assistance operation (MFA) of €150 million to Moldova to address the fiscal and economic consequences of the conflict.
Cultural exchanges and French teaching in Moldova have imbibed generations with French culture in the country. Despite the conflicts, divisions and ruptures that have marked Europe’s history over the centuries, the Moldovan people have maintained a special connection with France, its culture and its language.
The Alliance Française branch in Chișinău was inaugurated in December 1995. Moldova has been a member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie since 1996. On the sidelines of the last Francophonie Summit in Yerevan in October 2018, Moldova signed a linguistic pact aimed at giving a greater role to French in its education system. Today, French is taught as a foreign language in Moldova and continues to be followed by whole classes of pupils and students across the country, at all levels. Around 40% of secondary school pupils learn French. The Alliance Française branch in Chișinău is one of the largest in Europe, with almost 3,500 learners, and is an essential symbol of France’s presence in Moldova.
In terms of decentralized cooperation many projects are in place with villages in Moldova to improve infrastructure, including for waste processing, water quality, the energy transition and the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage.
Updated: May 2022