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The European Union and Moldova officially launched negotiations on a new Association Agreement

The negotiations reflect the positive evolution of political and economic relations between the EU and Moldova, and the opportunity to widen and deepen cooperation under the Eastern Partnership.

Future Agreement will deepen the political association and economic integration of Moldova and the EU. Its principal objective will be to draw Moldova closer to the EU through commitments across a range of areas, based on a strong degree of approximation to EU laws and standards.

These areas will include enhancing political cooperation, reinforcing joint measures in migration, asylum, border management, drugs and crime, expanding economic relations, and increasing co-operation in critical sectors such as energy, environment, transport and public health, with a direct impact on citizens' daily lives and on the business environment.

These negotiations take place against the background of increasing bilateral trade over the past years (trade with the EU accounts for over half of total Moldovan trade) and increase of EU assistance to Moldova.

The EU reaffirmed its objective to negotiate and establish a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), when the relevant conditions are met, and underlined the importance for Moldova to carry out the necessary reforms.

The negotiating teams were led by Gunnar Wiegand, Director of the European Commission, External Relations Directorate General for the EU, and Natalia Gherman, Deputy Foreign Minister, for Moldova.

Talks were structured to cover the general objectives and principles of EU-Moldova Relations in plenary sessions, and working groups had been set up on Political Dialogue and Co-operation on Foreign and Security Policy, Justice, Freedom and Security issues, Economic Co-operation, and People-to-People contacts (including areas such as education and research).

Gunnar Wiegand told a news conference that the first round of talks on the Association Agreement proved a considerable coincidence of the sides' positions, which he said is inspiring optimism concerning the completion of the document drafting.

In February, he said, the European Commission will delegate a mission of experts to Chisinau to analyze the situation on visa regime and to determine the degree of Moldova's preparedness for regime liberalization. Then the European Parliament will decide on the size of financial assistance for Moldova, but this will largely depend on Moldova's relations with the International Monetary Fund.

Gunnar Wiegand said that the most complicated question that may slow down the negotiations is the question of creating a free trade zone, for this necessitates harmonization of legislation and of quality standards.

He assured that possible parliamentary elections in Moldova will not tell in any way on the negotiations that have already commenced.

Moldovan Deputy Premier, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Iurie Leanca stressed the Moldovan Government fully realizes the complexity and importance of the negotiations, has fully assumed responsibility for the process, and "shall go to the very end".

The next round of the RM-EU negotiations will take place in Brussels in March. However, a greater part of them will be held at the level of experts.

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