Visiting Yerevan on Thursday, Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon said Armenia’s membership in a Russian-led bloc and simultaneous pursuit of closer ties with the European Union should serve as an example to his country.
“I am convinced that our small countries are doomed to have good relations with both the West and the East,” he said after talks with President Serzh Sarkisian. “In this sense, Armenia is an example for Moldova. For us, Armenia’s experience as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is very interesting.”
Dodon argued that EEU membership has not prevented Armenia from negotiating a new deal on “comprehensive and enhanced partnership” with the EU, which is expected to be signed later this month.
“Most citizens of Moldova want to cooperate with the Eurasian Economic Union,” he claimed at a joint news briefing with Sarkisian. He thanked the Armenian leader for supporting his efforts to gain an observer status for Moldova in the trade bloc currently comprising Russia and four other ex-Soviet states.
“We welcome and support the Republic of Moldova’s pursuit of closer cooperation with integration blocs,” Sarkisian said for his part.
Dodon has been at odds with Moldova's pro-Western government ever since taking office last December. Political leaders from the country’s ruling coalition recently threatened to suspend him for trying to block Moldova’s military cooperation with NATO.
The Moldovan constitution gives the president of the republic largely ceremonial powers. Still, Dodon's position has been strengthened by the fact that he was elected in a direct popular vote, the first president to win office through such an election since 1997.
Moldova and the EU signed an Association Agreement in June 2014. Three months earlier, the EU agreed to lift its visa requirements for Moldovan nationals travelling to Europe.
Armenia was also on course to sign such an agreement with the EU. President Sarkisian precluded its signing with his unexpected decision in September 2013 to seek Armenia’s membership in the EEU. The move was widely attributed to Russian pressure.
The Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which is due to be signed on November 24, is a less far-reaching alternative to the Association Agreement. It does not contain any free trade-related provisions despite calling for an “approximation” of Armenian economic laws and regulations with EU legislation.
Dodon described the CEPA as “very interesting.” “We followed a different path,” he complained. “We first signed the Association Agreement with the EU and are only now starting to build bridges with the EEU. That was fraught for Moldova.”