Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu announced his resignation, citing the need for a break after a challenging period for the country.Popescu, in office since Aug. 2021, will step down on Jan. 29, relinquishing his role as both foreign minister and deputy prime minister.He reflected on the country’s achievements, including progress made toward European Union membership.Moldova’s foreign minister Nicu Popescu announced on Wednesday that he’s resigning from his post, saying that he “needs a break” after what he described as a difficult period for the country but also one of “remarkable achievements” punctuated by progress toward one day joining the European Union.Popescu, who has led the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration since August 2021, will step down on Jan. 29. He will also leave his position as deputy prime minister on the same date.”The road traveled so far has been extremely complex, and I think we have successfully achieved the foreign policy goals set together with the President at the beginning of our journey and at this stage I need a break,” he wrote in a post on Facebook on Wednesday.MOLDOVA EXPELS 45 RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS FOR ‘UNFRIENDLY ACTIONS,’ ‘ATTEMPTS TO DESTABILIZE’ COUNTRYThroughout his mandate, Popescu helped steer Moldova through a series of crises including the coronavirus pandemic, the war in neighboring Ukraine, and what Moldovan officials have routinely said were Russian attempts to destabilize Moldova, a country of about 2.5 million people. Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu is seen at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11, 2023. Popescu announced on Jan. 24, 2024, that he’s resigning from his post after what he described as a difficult period for Moldova but also one of “remarkable achievements for our country” punctuated by its progress toward one day joining the European Union. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File)But in June 2022, Moldova was granted official candidate status for EU membership. It was further buoyed in December last year when Brussels said it would open accession negotiations to the 27-nation bloc, alongside Ukraine.”We had a clear goal: to get the Republic of Moldova out of isolation, to overcome the effects of the pandemic and to bring the country back on the European path — goals we have successfully promoted,” Popescu said.Since Russia fully invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Moldova, has faced a long string of problems. These include a severe energy crisis after Moscow dramatically reduced gas supplies, skyrocketing inflation, and several incidents of missile debris found on its territory from the war next door.EXPLOSIONS ROCK MOLDOVA AFTER RUSSIA SUGGESTS IT COULD BE ITS NEXT TARGET IN EUROPE”The year 2022 brought us dramatic challenges: Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has drastically changed the context and forced a refocus of our efforts towards ensuring peace and security,” Popescu said.Nationwide local elections held last November were also overshadowed by what authorities said were attempts by Moscow to undermine the ballot. That followed an announcement in February last year by Moldovan President Maia Sandu when she outlined an alleged plot by Moscow to overthrow Moldova’s government with the aim of putting the nation “at the disposal of Russia,” and to derail it from aspirations of joining the EU. Russia denied the accusations.When he assumed his mandate, Popescu said Moldova was “practically lacking international respect and support, still marked by the shadow of corrupt and oligarchic governments.”Moldovans will go to the polls in late 2024 for presidential elections.