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11/12/2016

Moldova’s pro-Russian president-elect says EU ties will remain

Europe's East

Moldova’s pro-Russian president-elect says EU ties will remain

Moscow-friendly candidate Igor Dodon.

[Crime Moldova]

The pro-Russian winner of Moldova’s presidential election said today (15 November) the country would not cut ties with the European Union, appearing to row back on campaign comments that it should move closer to Moscow.

Igor Dodon won Sunday’s election (13 November) with just over 50% of the vote after calling in the campaign for a referendum on its 2014 political and trade pact with the European bloc and focus on improving relations with Russia.

Pro-Russian candidate triumphs in Moldova presidential election

A pro-Russian candidate for president of Moldova has won the race, preliminary results showed yesterday (13 November), following a campaign in which he vowed to slam the brakes on seven years of closer integration with the European Union.

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His stance put him in direct conflict with the ex-Soviet republic’s pro-EU government, but his latest comments suggest he is seeking to find a middle ground.

“All ties with the EU remain in effect, all decisions with the external partners of Moldova will be carried out in the future,” Dodon told a news conference. “The president should be neither pro-European nor pro-Russian, but only pro-Moldovan.”

In contrast to this conciliatory tone, Dodon told a Russian news channel on Monday he would push for early parliamentary elections next year to force out the government.

This would spell yet more instability for the ex-Soviet nation, where a $1 billion graft scandal in 2014 damaged trust in pro-EU leaders and resulted in the prime minister being jailed. The impoverished country has had four premiers since.

Moldova banking scandal fuels biggest protest ever

Tens of thousands of Moldovans rallied yesterday (6 September) in the heart of the capital Chisinau in the biggest street protests in memory, demanding the resignation of the president and early elections over a $1 billion bank fraud that has hit living standards.

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Dodon said he had been congratulated on his victory by EU leaders as well as by Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that he planned to visit Moscow before the end of 2016.

Russia imposed trade bans on key Moldovan farming exports in response to the EU agreement. Dodon’s promise to boost relations with Moscow has found favour with the many Moldovans suffering financially from the bans and a broader economic downturn.

Russia imposes ‘temporary ban’ on Moldovan fruits

Russia imposed a temporary ban on Moldovan fruit imports on Friday (18 July), adding to an already existing ban on wine imports, the measures being seen as a punishment for Moldova’s signature and ratification of an Association Agreement with the EU.

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The economy of Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, shrank 0.5% in 2015 after two years of growth. It is expected to return to modest growth this year, but exports have yet to recover to pre-crisis levels, falling 4.3% in the first quarter of 2016.