Igor Dodon made his claim during a visit to Moscow on January 17, his first trip abroad since he was sworn in a month earlier as president, a mostly ceremonial post in Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries.
Dodon had vowed to improve relations with Russia while campaigning ahead of the October vote.
In the Russian capital, Dodon met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said afterward that he wanted “full re-establishment” of economic cooperation with Moscow.
Dodon then slammed the 2014 EU Association Agreement, one of several similar pacts Brussels has inked with former Soviet republics to foster closer economic and political ties.
“This agreement [Association Agreement with EU] did not bring Moldova any advantages. We’ve lost the Russian market while, oddly enough, our exports to the EU also fell. We’ve gained nothing from the signing of this agreement,” Dodon claimed in comments widely reported by Western news agencies.
But is it true? Official data not only from the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, but Moldova’s government itself show the country has benefited from the deal, and not just due to higher exports to EU countries.
According to European Commission data, financial support provided to Moldova before and after the signing of the Association Agreement, has amounted so far to some 700 million euros. A large chunk of this money was to make sure Moldovan exports – mostly agricultural goods -- meet European standards.
Moldovan export figures crunched by the European Commission and Moldova’s own National Bureau of Statistics vary, but both show the country’s exports to the EU have been more robust compared to other markets.
That is clear from the data for 2015, the first full year after the signing of the Association Agreement, but also when Moldova was rocked by the fallout from a huge banking scandal. As a result, economic indicators all dropped that year.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show the value of Moldovan exports decreasing from 2.3 billion in 2014 to 1.9 billion in 2015, a drop of 16 percent.
Despite this drop, statistics from the European Commission and released to RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service show that Moldovan exports to the EU rose by 5 percent in 2015, with agricultural exports up even higher at 9 percent.
According to the European Commission, Moldovan exports to the EU grew by 21 percent between 2013 and 2015.
Economy Minister Octavian Calmic told RFE/RL that trade with Russia has declined because “Moldovan economic actors have found alternatives, primarily in European markets.”
Calmic questioned Dodon’s assertion that Moldova had lost the Russian market since the signing of the EU Association Agreement.
Calmic explained Moldova’s trade ties with Russia began going south in 2006 when Moscow slapped an import ban on wine from Moldova and Georgia.
Many observers criticized that move as political retribution for both countries' pursuit of closer relations with the West.
At the time, Moldova’s economic minister designated closer ties with the EU a top foreign policy objective. His name? Igor Dodon.