THERE are “common ambitions” between Scotland and Moldova in how the countries see their independence being strengthened by the European Union, a former MP has said.

Stephen Gethins recently got the opportunity to travel to the Eastern European nation to meet foreign minister and deputy prime minister Nicu Popescu where they discussed Scotland and EU accession. 

Moldova – whose government collapsed at the weekend amid major political and economic turbulence – has EU candidate status and it is hoped joining the bloc can help the country keep its young people, an ever-present challenge given it is Europe’s poorest nation. 

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Gethins said not only was Popescu “well aware” of what was going on in Scotland and its desire to rejoin the EU, the former North East Fife MP found there were many similarities in the reasons why both countries see it as so vital for bolstering their sovereignty.

The international relations expert said there were clear lessons to be learnt in how Scotland and Moldova are very different countries at opposite ends of the continent, but still have similar interests they wish to protect.

He told The National: “Moldova is one of these countries that’s increasingly working towards getting into the EU and looking at different things it has to do.

The National: Stephen Gethins found there were common reasons why Moldova and Scotland wish to join the EUStephen Gethins found there were common reasons why Moldova and Scotland wish to join the EU (Image: NQ)

“So you see that there’s Scotland at one end, Moldova at the other, and there’s very different kinds of journeys they are on, but both countries are struggling to keep their young people. That’s the biggest Moldovan problem, bluntly because it’s one of the poorest countries in Europe.

“Even though Scotland and Moldova come from entirely different angles, and we’re very different, you see some of the common ambitions and you see commonality in terms of some of the challenges we face and in why we want EU membership.

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“We want it to create opportunities for our young people, the very thing Brexit took away from us.

“It leaves you asking, if leaving the EU is so good, why is it so many countries see their future as being part of it?

“So the lessons are that we are very different but what’s interesting is how much we have got to learn from each other and that solidarity that goes across continents, and that’s why Brexit is the wrong path.”

Moldova – which shares a border with Ukraine - has been struggling with “multiple crises”, outgoing PM Natalia Gavrilita said on Friday as she stepped down.

Soaring inflation, high energy prices, a refugee influx and Russian aggression have all affected its citizens amid the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

The country was awarded EU candidate status last year at the same time as Ukraine.

In the earlier days of the war, there were fears the conflict would spill over into Moldova, or that Russia might invade it too.

While that concern has dissipated for now, pressure has increased from Russia given Moldova’s attempts to join the EU.

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Gethins said Moldovans see joining the bloc as vital for stability and security going forward.

He added it was becoming obvious it is only the UK Government that seems to think you need to exist outside the EU to be independent.

“Their [Moldova’s] single biggest challenge, and this is where we’ve got some sympathy, is the demographic one in keeping their young people and talent in the country,” added Gethins.

“The best way to do that is through the EU. If you join the EU, yes you give them opportunities through freedom of movement but you also improve their quality of life.

“Also from a security perspective, they are a country of about 2.5 million, and they have an existential threat from Russia. So it’s also about that stability and security that EU membership would give them.

“Like Finland or Denmark or Sweden or Scotland, Moldova sees defending its independence and strengthening that by joining the EU.

“There is only one government in Europe that thinks you have to leave the EU to be independent. These are countries that see it as strengthening their sovereignty and I think that’s a key lesson.

“Even Ukraine, which is spilling blood for its independence at the moment, sees its future as a member state of the EU.”

In March last year, a public opinion survey confirmed the majority of Moldovans support EU membership, with approval numbers increasing to 61% from 52% following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.