On April 3, the Euro­pean Union announced that, starting April 28, it will grant visa-​​free travel within the Schengen zone for all Moldovans holding a bio­metric pass­port. In other words, with the right travel doc­u­ments, 3.5 mil­lion Moldovans can now make short-​​term visits any­where in Europe. The move was the latest salvo in a raging battle for Moldova, a second front in a struggle between the EU and Russia for the lands in between them.

It is easy to write off tiny Moldova, as the West effec­tively did after 1990, when the country won inde­pen­dence as the Soviet Union dis­solved. Moldova, which is land­locked and tucked between south­western Ukraine and north­eastern Romania, is the poorest country in Europe. Its major exports are wine (which Russia recently blocked), veg­eta­bles and fruits, and people. An esti­mated 770,000 Moldovans — over half of the eco­nom­i­cally active pop­u­la­tion — live out­side of their country. Each year, they send home remit­tances equiv­a­lent to over 30 per­cent of Moldova’s GDP.

Read the article at Foreign Affairs →