EU doubts about enlargement; what do Moldovan Christians think?
For Moldovan Christians, joining the European Union means freedom. "We bring new, conservative voices."
Valeriu Ghilețchi has high expectations from the EU. The former Moldovan MP hopes that European government leaders will decide on Thursday and Friday to start negotiations with his country to join the Union. "Europe is at a geopolitical crossroads, and we are bringing new conservative voices," he said.
On Thursday and Friday, the EU leaders speak about the accession of Moldova and Ukraine to the European Union. The countries have a long way to go before becoming EU members, but most countries want to start negotiations.
Whether there will be the necessary unanimity is as yet unclear. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán calls Ukraine "one of the most corrupt countries" and says he does not support EU enlargement.
Corruption is also a problem in Moldova, acknowledges Ghilețchi, who is also a pastor and president of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), a party in the European Parliament (EP). "We need time to resolve this, but we are all fallen people; corruption is everywhere," he said, referring to ongoing investigations into corruption in the EP. Qatar allegedly paid parliamentarians in exchange for political influence.
Roman Catholic MEP Ladislav Ilčić, a Croat, also points to Qatargate when it comes to corruption in aspiring member states. "I don't know any country that doesn't have corruption," he argues. Int 2013, Croatia was the last country to join the EU, after spending a long time fighting corruption. "It took years, but we became members. And we want that for other countries as well."
Ilčić thinks EU enlargement is especially important from a geopolitical point of view: "Europe's population is shrinking, and our global influence is declining. If we don't offer potential member states anything, they will turn to Russia or China."
While critics argue that EU membership need not be the solution to this, Ilčić thinks that accession to these countries can be important for Christians in particular. "Accession brings fresh blood, and generally, these countries are more conservative than the European average."
The Croatian does not share the concern that conservative values in these countries are at risk in a liberal EU. "Historically, the European Union is a Christian project," he argues. "Many left-wing politicians draw on the Enlightenment and cite freedom as an important core value. But freedom comes pre-eminently from the Christian tradition, not from Islam or Hinduism." Ilčić acknowledges that Christians in the EU are increasingly under pressure, "but so was Jesus. We are not the first."
Despite his words of praise, Ilčić is not unapologetically enthusiastic about the EU. He sees an increasing drive for influence from Brussels. "Take issues around sexuality: some countries don't want this. Our geopolitical influence decreases when the EU focuses on stupid approaches like this." According to the Croatian MEP, Christian values made Europe great, and those values can only be regained by Christians speaking out. "We cannot create a Christian culture without the Christian faith," he said.
According to Ghilețchi, most Christian Moldovans are enthusiastic about joining. Yet there are also sceptics. "For Russian-speaking believers (in Moldova, LN), Putin's rhetoric about traditional values appeals, although this has diminished since the invasion of Ukraine." This appreciation of Russia, according to Ghilețchi, stems partly from nostalgia for the Soviet era, or the "Egypt syndrome" as he calls it: "It took God one night to take Israel out of Egypt, but 40 years to take Egypt out of the people of Israel. You see the same thing in older generations in Moldova."
According to Ghilețchi, EU membership would mainly help his compatriots economically. "Many Moldovans leave for the EU in search of work. I believe membership gives more stability." For Ghilețchi personally, freedom is what appeals to him most about the EU. "You have not only freedom of religion but also the freedom to fight for it. As long as I have those freedoms as a Christian, I am satisfied."
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