CHISINAU (Reuters) – President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday said Romania would donate 200,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Moldova, offered as a gesture of solidarity following the election of the pro-Western President Maia Sandu.
A former World Bank economist, Sandu defeated the pro-Moscow incumbent Igor Dodon in last month’s presidential election, promising to fight endemic corruption and putting Moldova’s relations with the European Union back on track.
The eastern European country of 3.5 million, where the West and Russia vie for influence, has been rocked in recent years by instability and corruption scandals, including the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system.
Though Moldova rolled out a political and trade agreement with the EU in 2014, the EU has become increasingly critical over Moldova’s track record on reforms and fighting corruption. Iohannis never visited Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, during Dodon’s tenure.
Romania has access to 10 million doses as part of the EU’s agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech, and began vaccinating frontline healthcare workers on Sunday.
“The victory of Maia Sandu in the presidential elections is a victory of historic importance. My visit is taking place against the backdrop of a massive vote by Moldovan citizens for European values,” Iohannis told a televised briefing.
Romania will also donate 6,000 tonnes of diesel fuel to Moldovan farmers hit by drought.
“These days, a new stage begins in Moldova, both in terms of domestic and foreign policy. The stage of getting out of international isolation,” Sandu said, speaking alongside Iohannis, with both leaders wearing surgical masks.
Moldova’s government, which was politically aligned with President Igor Dodon, resigned last week following Sandu’s election. Sandu is pushing to dissolve parliament to pave the way for a snap general election.
(Additional reporting by Radu-Sorin Marinas in Bucharest; writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Bernadette Baum)