CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — The EU president has promised Moldova closer cooperation with the European Union, while urging it to reform its justice system and banking sector and fight corruption.
Donald Tusk called Moldova, which neighbors Ukraine and Romania, "a key ... partner of the European Union."
He later said it was the most promising of the EU's eastern partnership countries which also include former Soviet republics Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine.
Moldova signed an association agreement with the EU in June. Russia responded by placing an embargo on fruit and some vegetables.
"Right now Moldova is facing hardship both for domestic reasons and for reasons of regional instability and uncertainty," Tusk said Tuesday in Chisinau.
Moldova, a country of 4 million, hopes to join the EU in 2019. Tusk said these EU aspirations would have "a happy end."
Moldovan officials have recently investigated the disappearance of $1.5 billion from state-owned and private banks before November's elections. Moldova's currency has lost 20 percent value this year.
The current government is backed by communists, who favor a slower approach to reforms.