The European Union launched negotiations on visa-free travel for citizens of Moldova on Tuesday in a push for democratic reforms in the former Soviet republic, EU officials said.
Any talks on lifting visa requirements could take years and would require that Moldova strengthens its border controls, improves efforts to combat organised crime and corruption, among other possible requirements.
"A visa-free regime can add a very tangible element to Moldova's closer relations with the EU," EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told a news conference.
The EU uses visa policies as a tool to bolster stability among its eastern neighbours. It lifted visa requirements for three former Yugoslav republics last year and is reviewing a similar move for citizens of Bosnia and Albania.
Moldova, which hopes one day to join the EU, is mired in a year-long political deadlock after parliament failed to elect a new head of state, paralysing much-needed reforms in one of Europe's poorest nations.
The pro-Western government and Communist opposition have locked horns in parliament over who should head the country of about four million people wedged between EU member Romania and Ukraine on the Black Sea.
A report by the U.S. State Department released on Monday said Moldova was a source of trafficked women and girls and has shown "uneven progress" in fighting trafficking.
ReutersLast Mod: 15 Haziran 2010, 20:58