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BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Moldova is not seeking shortcuts in its bid to join the European Union, President Maia Sandu said on Friday, in the wake of Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the east and Romania to the west, has pressed ahead with efforts to join the EU amid fears that it could be drawn into the conflict.
"Just granting candidate status doesn't mean accepting us into the EU," she told the GLOBSEC 2022 Bratislava Forum. "We are not looking for a shortcut, we realise we have a long way to go."
Ukraine has also sought EU membership, along with Georgia.
Last week, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said Moldova had a "historic" opportunity to join the EU and any projects to bring the country closer to the bloc must not replace the route to full membership.
Moldova's fears about being drawn into the conflict in Ukraine come after pro-Russian separatists in Moldova's Transdniestria region blamed Kyiv for what they said were shootings, explosions and cross-border drone incursions.
Sandu told the conference on Friday that work was under way to reform Moldova's justice system and fight corruption and that EU membership could help safeguard democracy there.
"Remaining in this buffer zone, in this grey area, is very bad news for us," she said. "That is why we are trying to get a positive sign from the EU."
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Nick Macfie)