Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered fears among ex-Soviet countries that they may be next.
Moldova has officially applied for membership of the European Union, a week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
The announcement came after the European Parliament expressed backing for a similar move by Kyiv.
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said in a statement on Thursday that the country had signed “a request to join the European Union”.
“We want to live in peace, prosperity, be part of the free world,” she said. “While some decisions take time, others must be made quickly and decisively, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come with a changing world.”
Sandu, the prime minister and parliamentary speaker all signed the document during a briefing in the capital, Chisinau, where pro-Russian and pro-EU politicians have vied for control since Moldova won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The application will be sent to Brussels in the coming days, the president said.
Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu hailed the announcement as “a day future generations will proudly relate to, it is the moment our country has irreversibly anchored itself in the European space”.
Moldova, one of the continent’s poorest countries, signed an association agreement with the EU in 2014, aimed at aligning it with the union’s political and economic standards. However, it has not received a guarantee of membership.
Fellow ex-Soviet republic Georgia also formally applied for membership of the bloc on Thursday.
“History has deemed the European choice of the Georgian people as its strategic aim,” Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said after signing the application letter.
Georgia last year had announced its intention to apply for EU membership in 2024.
Efforts from ex-Soviet countries to build closer ties with the West have long angered Russia. Moscow is fiercely opposed to the eastwards expansion of the EU and NATO, which it sees as a direct threat to Russia’s security.
The West has expressed concerns that Moldova and Georgia risk becoming possible targets for the Kremlin after Ukraine.
“We stand with Moldova and Georgia to defend their sovereignty and security,” French President Emmanuel Macron said last week, while his Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was “worried” about a possible Russian military offensive against the ex-Soviet nations .
The process of accession to the EU is expected to be long and involve large-scale reforms, provided the countries win candidate status.
In addition, all existing members have a veto on new additions.