"Moldova is Europe's poorest country, according to the World Bank. Living standards are low for many Moldovans, particularly in rural areas. Remittances from Moldovans working abroad amounted to 31% of the country's Gross Domestic Product [GDP] in 2008. The global financial crisis has had a negative impact on Moldova. The leu has weakened and remains under pressure. Remittances have dropped, as Moldovan emigrants have lost jobs in other hard-hit countries. Moldova's GDP dropped by 7.3% in 2009, on a year-on-year basis. As a self-declared neutral country, Moldova does not seek NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] membership, but participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) program. Moldova is currently negotiating an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), which provides for cooperation in a wide variety of spheres and holds out the possibility of an eventual free trade agreement. Moldova hopes to become a candidate for EU membership, although the EU is unlikely to accept Moldova as a candidate in the foreseeable future, due to Moldova's poverty and the EU's own internal challenges. The United States and Moldova have enjoyed good relations since the country's independence in 1991. The United States has supported democracy and free market reform in Moldova. The United States reacted cautiously to the outcome of the April 2009 Moldovan election, saying its view of the vote was 'generally positive,' but noting some problems. After the July 2009 election, a State Department spokesman noted that international observers reached a similar conclusion. The United States has tried to support the country's fragile sovereignty and territorial integrity by advocating the withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova and the negotiation of a settlement of the Transnistria issue consistent with Moldova's territorial integrity."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21981