Can a small power such as Moldova benefit from EU membership?

A direct contact among the University students from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Moldova inspired students to thought-sharing. Short essay bellow shows what the students have to say on the topic of European Integration and Reform Experience of the Visegrad countries and how it relates to Moldova’s European path.

Czech Republic
Title: Can a small power such as Moldova benefit from EU membership?
Author: Lenka Fořtová
University: University, Faculty, Year: Charles University in Prague, Faculty of law, 5th year


In the international community the majority of countries can be classified as small powers. The same could be said about Europe. The European continent is made up of 46 countries of which only a few represent the category of a large country and in the language of international relations a great power. In most cases individual countries that ruled large portions of the World have now shrunk into countries of mid-size importance. And this fact is also one of the key motives for the development of the European integration. Apart from this argument, a more important one was at the eve of the European integration process. It was the need to tame what used to be great powers particularly in the field of military power and the desire for peaceful development in Europe.

All of this was achieved by the European community and one can view it as one of the sources of its attractiveness. Small powers create the majority of the Union nowadays. The Union serves them in two ways. Firstly, they can make use of their processual power. This type of power, unlike the structural one, is true to the small powers. It is the ability to influence the doing of other states through the processes inside formally-set regimes, such as international organizations. This formally set of rules gives them the right of speech particularly through the principle of equality of actors within. Secondly, Union serves as a means to receive economic and other gains from the membership. Small states have the same access to the internal market as other members of the community. This gives them the chance to attract new investment and technology flows and as well as a source for imports and exports. For consumers, in the economic sphere, it is the guarantee of lower prices and a larger choice of goods. Apart from the lure of the single market, the affiliation to such a large bloc of developed countries in the sense of a political value, can raise the status of its members, as well as it can work as a security safeguard. Although the EU is not an alliance in the military sense, the Union applies the solidarity principle inbuilt in Article 47 para 2 of the Treaty on European Union. This safeguard clause ensures mutual defence in case of need among Member States.

Nevertheless one can ask, despite the list of mentioned pros of the integration, if a small Member State does have real and effective influence on the development of EU policy. This influence can be performed in the Council of European Union, one of the co-legislators and the peaks of the institutional triangle made up of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. The decision-making within the Council is based on a combination of the principle of effective functioning of the EU and the principles of equality and democratization. So in order to find the right mix the Council decides in general through the qualified majority voting. Each member state has assigned a fixed number of votes ranging from 29 to 3 and to pass a vote one needs 260 out of 352 votes. The blocking majority is then 93 votes. From November 2014 this voting according to the Lisbon Treaty ought to be changed to double majority of 55 % of States (at least 15) and 65 % of EU population.

In order to demonstrate what could be Moldova’s role in the EU, let us keep counting in the original voting system through the sum of country votes. One of the means to influence the EU policy is to join in coalitions. Such a typical coalition is the group of Visegrad coutries – Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. In total they have at their disposal 58 votes (CZ, HU – 12, SR – 7, PL – 27). If they cooperate with some other countries (mostly Baltic countries or Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia or Sweden) they easily can block or just threaten to block a decision in the Council. Moldova would through the original system probably be assigned with 7 votes (according to its population it is comparable with Lithuania or Ireland who have both 7 votes). Alone it is not enough to change anything, but as a part of a coalition and through bargaining it can reach its goals. Plus as a member of the EU it has the right to preside the Council meetings for a half of year. During this time, it is the one who sets the agenda, lets the arguments be heard and prepares compromise wording of legislation.

To sum up, small powers can increase their power within formally set groups of international actors such as the EU. Small countries thanks to the equality principle can engage in the arena and in cooperation with others make the most of their position. Apart from the opportunity to speak, integration increases the importance and gains, but also the level of the country’s security. The V4 since their accession try to make most of all these benefits EU offers, even though each country with varying success. The same awaits for Moldova.