France's Macron says Moldova's bid to join EU "perfectly legitimate"

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CHISINAU (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that Moldova's bid to join the European Union was "perfectly legitimate", speaking at a joint news conference with Moldova President Maia Sandu.

Moldova, located between Ukraine and EU member Romania, is one of three former Soviet states, along with Georgia and Ukraine itself, that submitted applications to join the EU within days of Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

It has pressed on with its application amid concerns that it could be drawn into the war, because of instability in its Transdniestria region, run by pro-Russian separatists and occupied by Russian peacekeeping troops on the Ukrainian border.

France, which chairs the European Union until the end of the month, will help reach a consensus among EU members on the issue of Moldova's application to join the bloc at a crucial Council meeting next week, Macron said.

He described the war in Ukraine as "a threat for the stability of the whole region", and said Moldova was "already a country anchored within the European family".

Macron said he wanted to reach a consensus on granting official candidate status to the three countries, adding that Moldova's application should not be separated from that of Ukraine.

Sandu said Moldova wanted to become an EU member "as soon as possible. But we are realists and we understand that we still have a lot to do."

The war in Ukraine complicated Moldova's EU integration, but reforms were bringing Moldova closer to EU standards, she said.

(Reporting by Manuel Ausloos, writing Dominique Vidalon, editing by Tassilo Hummel)

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