Rebooting with Chisinau: as agreed by the presidents of Russia and Moldova

The President of Moldova Igor Dodon, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin

Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS

The results of the visit of the new President of Moldova, Igor Dodon to Moscow can be regarded as a foreign policy victory of Russia. Chisinau is ready to abandon the Association with the EU and to develop cooperation with the Eurasian economic Union. Moscow may increase the number of Moldovan imports, and solve the problems of migrants

A new start

“Today is a historic day for the Moldovan-Russian relations. Unfortunately, the last seven years was not the good period” — stated on January 17 at a press conference after talks in the Kremlin Igor Dodon. It was the first bilateral meeting between the presidents of the two countries since 2009.

The crisis in relations began to develop with the formation of the Parliament of Moldova in 2010, the ruling Pro-European coalition, implementing the strategic policy of rapprochement with the European Union and renounced membership in integration associations in the CIS. Moldova, along with Georgia and Ukraine has been at the forefront of rapprochement with the EU in 2014, the country is the only one of the trio obtained a visa-free regime with the EU and with Georgia in June of the same year signed the Association agreement and creating free trade area with the Union. Russia responded by entering the import customs duties in respect of various groups of Moldovan products, as well as referring to different claims to quality of production, restrict imports of fruit and vegetable and wine products.

The President in a crisis for the relationship period (2012 to 2016) was Nicolae Timofti, who accused Russia of using the effect for braking the rapprochement with the EU and support for the separatism in Moldova. The socialist Igor Dodon in the fall of 2016 led the campaign, on the contrary, under the slogans about the necessity of rapprochement with Russia. After winning the Dodon announced that the first foreign visit made in Moscow, not in Brussels, as its predecessor.

Moldovan reversal

Following the talks, Dodon and Putin said about the readiness to change the previously selected line in relations between the two countries. Moldova wants to develop with Russia strategic relations, he stated. Without such partnerships it is impossible to defend the state, the neutrality of Moldova, to ensure reintegration of the country, to settle the Transnistrian conflict and to preserve the Orthodox values, he said.

Both presidents criticized the effectiveness of the agreement on Association of Moldova with the EU. “Moldovan products has almost lost its traditional Russian markets, and new nothing gained. On the contrary, as far as I know from the statistics, the trade turnover with EU countries in Moldova has fallen,” Putin said (according to Eurostat, exports from Moldova to the EU in recent years has increased: from €963 million in 2013 to €1.2 billion in 2015. “This agreement for Moldova there are no pros, not given,” agreed Igor Dodon. He did not rule out that after the next parliamentary election (scheduled for 2018) if a majority in Parliament will get the socialist party, the agreement will be cancelled. “I will support this position”, said Dodon. Putin said that he understands the complexity of the matter and Russia is ready to seek mutually acceptable to all parties solution.

Moldova is ready to develop relations with the Eurasian economic Union. Before the talks with Putin, Dodon met with Chairman of the Eurasian economic Commission Tigran Sargsyan. Moldova wants to obtain observer status at the Union, he stated.

After talks in the Kremlin said he gave a press conference at which he said that if ready to sign with NATO an agreement, only the agreement on the neutral status of Moldova. Promised the Moldovan leader and deal with introduced in 2015 by state Council on TV a ban on broadcast of TV channel “Russia 24”.

Do not match the position of the new President with the Russian only in the issue of recognition of Russian Crimea. “We need to build with Ukraine friendly relations. And to make some official recognition of some things… I think that Moldova is now no one on this risk will not go” — he said (quoted by TASS). Personal position he never changed, said Dodon. “De facto, to be honest, the Crimea belongs to Russia,” he said earlier.

Visit Dodon successful in the emotional part, his positions coincide with the main Russian line and the position of its voters, said Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS countries Vladimir Zharikhin. Will it be possible to achieve a breakthrough in economic relations depends largely not from the President, and the government of Moldova, the expert specifies. According to the Constitution the President’s powers are limited, and the responsibility for the development of economic relations lies with the government, which is formed by the parliamentary majority. Now the government of Moldova created on the basis of the Pro-European coalition.

Now you can hardly talk about what happened rebooting relations, says the leader of the Liberal democratic party of Moldova Viorel Cibotaru. The promises of Dodon’t correspond to the reality in which there is a country, it is necessary to keep in mind that now there is a reboot in the EU, the US, which will affect Russia and Moldova, he says. The promise of Dodona to cancel the Association agreement is theoretically possible to implement, but it would be unprofitable. Dodon initiatives can meet opposition in Parliament and the government, points out analyst.

Fruit-wine perspectives

Following the meeting with the Dodon Vladimir Putin said that the number of Moldovan producers, who supply their products to Russia will grow. “Now many companies of Moldova opened, and their products are sold on the Russian market. We agreed that a number of enterprises will be further checked by the relevant Russian structures, and it is almost certain that the number of companies entitled to supply products to the Russian market will increase,” — said the President. He linked the prospects for economic cooperation between the countries “as Moldova to build its relations with the EU.”

In 2013, Russia imposed an embargo on Moldovan wine exports in 2014, the restrictive measures affected fruits: apples, pear, quince, and stone fruit. Until Moldova provided from 2 to 5% of the total supply of fruit to Russia, said General Director of news Agency Fruitnews Irina Goat (so, in 2013, Republic has delivered 240 thousand tons of fruit). Later, the Russian authorities partially eased the restrictions. Access to the domestic market a wine of one of the regions of Moldova — Gagauzia. As have informed RBC in the press service of the Rosselkhoznadzor, is currently allowed to import fruits from 125 companies operating in five districts of the Republic. According to Irina Koziy, if in 2015, Moldova imported into Russia 82 thousand MT of fruits, for 11 months of 2016 — already 166 thousand tons, including 96 thousand tons of apples. Thus, the country came in 3rd place for the supply of apples to Russia after Serbia and China, and in the future the volume of deliveries will increase, predicts Goat.

Moldovan wine producers can also increase its supply, but is unlikely to repeat the success of 12 years ago, according to Director tsifrra Vadim Drobiz. In 2005, the most successful for local companies, they delivered 200 million liters of bottled wines and 50 million liters of wine materials, which corresponded to about 25% of the Russian market, says Drobiz. Meanwhile, shipments in 2016, was less than 10 million l. In the case of a complete lifting of the embargo the volume of Moldovan imports in the best case will reach 30 million litres, predicts Drobiz. “The market has changed a lot. Russian wine was densely occupied by [lower price] segment and seriously improved their quality. Will be a tough competition and our manufacturers are already able to win it” — sums up the expert. Besides customs duties that Russia has imposed on wine products from Moldova, one is not going to cancel.

Another issue that promised to solve Putin, — the order of entry for migrants from Moldova. In Russia there are officially about 500 thousand citizens of this country; tens of thousands also would like, but prevent the situation tougher Russian laws against migrants. On the first day of the visit he also met with the Chairman of the Board “Gazprom” Alexey Miller. The parties discussed the progress and prospects of cooperation in the gas sphere, in particular it was about the activities of JSC “Moldovagaz”, the supply of Russian gas to Moldova and its transit through the territory of the Republic, said in a statement. Earlier it was reported that the current contract between Moldova and Gazprom was signed in December 2006 and expired in late 2011. Chisinau has achieved a reduction of the purchase price, so long as the parties negotiated, the contract is annually renewed. According to the agreement the gas price was revised on a quarterly basis based on a formula that takes into account the dynamics of fuel prices in the world market. In 2016, Moldova imported gas from Russia at $190 per 1 thousand cubic meters At the end of the year after the election of Dodona, the contract was extended to 2019, and annual purchasing volume will amount to 3 billion cubic meters of gas. The representative of the information Department of “Gazprom” did not answer the question, whether you discussed at the meeting, the issue of gas supplies to Transnistria and non-payment of their debt for gas, which was estimated in December at $5.9 billion.

With the participation of Dmitry Kryukov, and Irina Parfentyeva

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