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.