Moldova is “different from the Western world”, the country's president, Igor Dodon, told the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 2.
Dodon’s presence on the main panel beside Russian President Vladimir Putin highlights how Moscow hopes Moldova is now swinging back into the Russian sphere of influence, following the election of its new pro-Russian president.
Dodon himself mentioned the importance of the message sent out by his inclusion in the forum at the beginning of his speech. He talked of the signal sent to the Moldovan people, but being given a significant position in Russia's main economic forum goes further, particularly when seen in the context of the current diplomatic row between Moldova and Russia, which has also seen Dodon at loggerheads with the pro-EU government over the expulsion of Russian diplomats.
Dodon was invited to take part in a panel discussion beside Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern.
“We are different from the Western world. We have got different cultures, we have got different values, we have different customs,” Dodon said, speaking of Moldova as sharing its history with Russia rather than Europe.
He claimed the Association Agreement and the foreign trade agreement signed in 2014 with the European Union were in favour of the EU with asymmetric conditions to the benefit of the European producers.
He also complained that three years after the signing of the agreement, the Moldovan market is flooded with European products while two-thirds of its exports to Russia have been lost. Foreign direct investment has plummeted severalfold and corruption has flourished, he also stressed.
“We used to have an anti-Russian foreign policy, but after the presidential elections we decided to rectify this situation,” he commented on the relationship between his country and Russia.
After winning the presidential elections last winter with a thin margin, Dodon positioned himself against the pro-EU government and pledged to change the country’s orientation toward “preferential ties with Russia”. he criticised the Association Agreement signed by a previous pro-EU government and blamed the free trade agreement for the economic problems faced by the country.
He mentioned Moldova and Russia having resumed dialogue, as well as economic cooperation. In Q1 this year Moldovan exports to Russia increased by 42% and issues related to Moldovan migrant workers in Russia have started to be addressed, he mentioned.
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