I’m going to Moldova. In fact, I’m going to Moldova in 3 days.
Ever since my first year at St. John’s Law, I’d heard about a very special class, “Transactions In Emerging World Markets,” where in addition to regular class meetings, students also participate in a week-long “field trip” abroad. The class is taught almost every year, but only travels every other year. Two years ago the class journeyed to Romania and this year, we’re headed to Moldova.
I’m fairly giddy about this trip, a bit nervous and excited. I’ve never been to Eastern Europe and I certainly never imagined that Moldova would be my first foray into the region. To people I’ve mentioned my trip to, I get mixed reactions. On the one hand, my parents still have no idea where I’m going; to them, I’m just traveling “near Russia.” On the other hand, one of my college roommates lived and worked in Moldova for a year, and a friend-of-a-friend is actually Moldovan and has supplied a list of Moldovan sites and attractions that I simply have to visit.
To me, it seems like these mixed reactions are indicative of Moldova’s precarious position in the world. Snug between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is slightly larger than the US state of Maryland and has a population just over 3.6 million. While Moldova remains one of the poorest countries in Europe, it is making strides towards EU-membership resulting in some economic growth. Nevertheless, as the CIA World Factbook notes, the Moldovan economy “remains vulnerable to political uncertainty, weak administrative capacity, vested bureaucratic interests, higher fuel prices and concerns of foreign investors as well as the presence of an illegal separatist regime in Moldova’s Transnistria region.”
In the face of all these obstacles (you know, just your typical concerns about government functionality, high fuel prices for a (poor) country that imports virtually all of its energy, and oh yeah, a separatist movement), it’s easy to think that there are just too many problems for any one country to overcome. But then, you would be selling Moldova short.
Politically, the current government represents a coalition (albeit currently under some duress) between three out of the four political parties. Current President Nicolae Timofti had an extensive legal career serving as a judge on various Moldovan courts for over a decade and has voiced his dedication to moving Moldova towards a “European future.”
Viniculturally, Moldovan wine is regularly served at Queen Elizabeth’s table and the famous winery, Milestii Mici (a stop on our trip!), has the largest wine cellars in the world extending for about 250 km and holding approximately 2 million bottles of wine.
As it stands now, I haven’t quite made up my mind about what the future holds for Moldova. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the next week. Our itinerary not only includes visits to Moldova’s famous wineries and monasteries, but also meetings with President Timofti, Minister of Education Maya Sandu, and Chief Justice Alexandru Tanase of the Constitutional Court (to name just a few).
If you’re interested in reading more about my travels, I’ll be posting at least two more times, while I’m in Moldova and after I get back.