CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) -- The European Union said Thursday it will finance projects worth 50 million euros ($68 million) in Moldova as the former Soviet republic prepares to sign an association agreement with the 28-nation bloc amid protests from Moscow.
During a visit to Chisinau, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU money will be invested in energy and development of rural areas, as well as in reforming the Moldovan police. He said the bloc had doubled its import quotas for fruit and tomatoes from Moldova, an agricultural country of 4 million.
Barroso also urged Russia not to punish Moldova for signing the trade agreement on June 27.
"I call on Russia to concentrate on new opportunities and not to undertake punitive measures ... which would have no economic or judicial justification," he said.
In the past, Russia has taken punitive trade measures against neighboring Baltic states and Ukraine as those countries sought closer ties with the west. Russia placed a trade ban on Moldovan wine and brandy in September in what was seen as a punishment for the country's plans to sign the agreement with the EU.
After Moldova signs the agreement it will benefit from 150 million euros in grants form European financial institutions and credits of up to one billion euros to modernize small and medium-sized businesses, Barroso said.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.