Romania's prime minister offered Moldova a loan of 60 million euros ($65 million) on Tuesday to prevent economic collapse in the impoverished ex-Soviet republic — if certain conditions are met.
To get the money, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said Moldova will have to reform its justice system, fight corruption, sign a draft agreement for a loan from the International Monetary Fund and appoint a new central bank governor.
The offer comes as Moldova, Europe's poorest nation, is on the verge of economic collapse following the disappearance of more than $1 billion from three Moldovan banks, one eighth of the entire GDP of the nation.
Ciolos made the announcement during a visit to Romania by Pavel Filip, the sixth prime minister to hold office in Moldova in a year of political turmoil and deep social unrest sparked by the bank fraud.
Filip, considered a symbol by many Moldovans of the nation's entrenched corruption because of his ties to an influential businessman, promised to use the money well. Earlier this month, protesters in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, stormed the Parliament to protest his taking office.
"If we don't carry on with reforms that are felt in Chisinau and beyond, this political class has no chance," Filip said at a joint news conference with Ciolos.
Ciolos also offered emergency aid for food and heating, which would not have to be repaid.
IMF officials visited Moldova for negotiations on a loan that the said it needed for salaries and pensions. But the IMF team left after the central bank governor resigned due to protests over the missing money. The governor is still in place, however.
Moldova lies between European Union member Romania and Ukraine, and Moldovans are deeply torn between whether they want deeper integration with the West or Russia.
Pro-European parties won an election in 2014, but squandered their chance to improve the lives of the nation's 3.5 million people as the country grappled with the fallout from the bank scandal and other examples of corruption. A former Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, was arrested last year on suspicion that he took part in the fraud. He is awaiting trial.
The state stepped in to replace the funds that were stolen, leaving it tragically short of funds. Experts say that without outside help, the state could soon find itself unable to make payments including state salaries and pensions.