Emma Nicholson: These are the voices of despair, deprived of the right to vote

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What is happening in Moldova is an outpouring of young people's misery. I have just spent four days as an election observer there and from this experience, as well as from many previous visits, I know that young Moldovans simply despair at their curtailed futures.

It is significant that when protesters stormed the presidential buildings on Tuesday they were shouting: "We are Romanian, we are Europeans." That is because they have no jobs, no futures and they don't want their country to revert to Russian influence.

They feel that successive Communist governments have not fulfilled the promises they made. And they are right.

They also blame the international observers, with some justification, for declaring the weekend elections fair. As one of those 280 observers, I went to the Transdniestrian border and found a tragic situation with grown men and women crying and weeping. They had tried to come into Moldova by bus to vote, which was their right. But they were prevented from getting on their bus. Some who persisted and tried to get through by different routes were video-taped, their papers taken from them and they were warned that they might lose their jobs.

One parliamentary candidate told me she must have lost 1,000 votes from this one incident. Some of the other things I saw at the count worried me. Of course I have no evidence of fraud but the concerns I expressed did not get into the OSCE findings and conclusions. The reason is that the OSCE also has Russia as a member.

This is tragic for Moldovans who live in an exceedingly poor European state. Nearly 80 per cent of the population lives at or below subsistence level. They survive on a couple of hundred euros a month.

Moldova is one of our neighbours, on the European Union's eastern border, and the key to its future lies in the EU taking responsibility. For our own security as well as for the good of the Moldovan people we should be helping them to get decent livelihoods. Our objective is democracy and the rule of law as a proven path to prosperity and security, but we in the EU should also be helping companies to invest in the region. We should sign Moldova into a very strong association agreement with the EU and move slowly towards integrating the country into the union.

The only alternative is for them to sink back on the dependency of Russia and that would be a deeply unhappy prospect.



Baroness Nicholson MEP was a member of the delegation from the European Parliament to the International Election Observation Mission to the Republic of Moldova

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