On September 1, the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with Moldova’s President Igor Dodon. The magazine called Moldova’s President Igor Dodon a “man of contradictions”: an admirer of Putin who still maintains the E.U. Association Agreement, adding that since taking office he is apolitical, but in fact, he is the leader of the Socialist Party.
–Mr. President, in your country, the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc ruled for years without holding any state office. In early June, his regime collapsed surprisingly. How did that happen?
-Plahotniuc had taken Moldova hostage, it was a captive state. There was a national consensus that this regime must end.
-The change of power took place quickly, silently and above all peacefully, Plahotniuc fled abroad. How was the change possible?
-After the February Parliamentary elections, the left and right-wing opposition, the Socialist Party and the ACUM Bloc, united against Plahotniuc and his Democratic Party and formed a coalition government on 8 June. This was a first in the modern history of the Republic of Moldova. Never before have parties with different ideological visions formed a common coalition.
–Where is your country heading now?
-Our society is very divided. One half wants our country to become an E.U. member, the other half thinks we should be closer to Russia. However, all had in common the desire for de-oligarchization. Important for the change of power was also the international consensus. Russia, the European Union, and the United States had a common position.
–This is the first time since the Crimea annexation that Russia, the European Union, and the United States have agreed internationally. Can we talk about geopolitical cooperation?
-I think there is a consensus and common interest among the international players that are present in Moldova, that there should be some stability and some balance in the country. Recently, I phoned Germany’s Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. I had the impression that he, too, sees it that way. The current coalition represents this balance.
–How did the Federal President express that to you?
-In the conversation, I felt his support for this coalition and this government majority.
–In general, the Moldovan media speaks of an “unnatural coalition” because your party of the socialists advocates a close connection to Russia, while the ACUM Bloc strives for E.U. integration. How long will the coalition hold?
-That’s very difficult to say. In the first stage, we have united against something: against Plahotniuc’s regime. Now we have to decide what we stand for. If we can agree on that, the coalition can even last four years.
–Prime Minister Maia Sandu of the ACUM Bloc strongly advocates the E.U. integration path. On the other hand, you once demanded the termination of the 2014 E.U. Association Agreement.
-It is true that earlier the Socialist Party, of which I was the chairman, advocated the termination of this agreement. However, two years ago, when I was elected President, I advocated a balanced foreign policy for Moldova. And the party joined. This means that we will comply with all international treaties, including the Association Agreement. At the same time, we are also seeking to restore our good relations with Russia.
–How realistic is it that Moldova actually becomes an E.U. member?
-I do not think we can join the European Union in the current situation. Let’s be honest, the E.U. is not prepared for new members. The Western Balkans have been waiting for years to become E.U. members and have no clear prospect. We are even further away. We should consider the Association Agreement as an opportunity to help us improve the quality of life in our country, nothing more.
-You are criticized in Moldovan media for traveling to Russia often and often meeting with Putin. What do you think?
-I have also made many visits to the West. In September I will travel to Brussels. I also plan to visit the U.S.A.
–What do you think about the Crimea annexation? So far, you have not made a clear statement.
-The position of the Moldovan Presidency and the governance since independence in 1991 has always been the same: the Republic of Moldova recognizes Ukraine within internationally recognized borders. Point.
–Does your party receive money from Russia?
-There are such speculations in the media, but such funding is prohibited by law in our country. A party that accepts payments from abroad is outside the law.
–After the independence of your country from the Soviet Union on August 1991, the narrow strip of land of Transnistria split off, where Russian soldiers and weapons are still stationed. How can the Transnistria conflict be resolved and how should Transnistria be reintegrated into the Republic of Moldova?
-We are currently pursuing a policy of small steps and solutions to the obstacles in the daily lives of citizens. We have not yet begun negotiations on a political solution to the conflict. However, I would risk saying that we could move very fast because the current international consensus on the Republic of Moldova is favorable. We could be a success story of how a frozen conflict in the post-Soviet space could be solved for the first time.
–The federalization of Moldova, as Russia aspires to it, is very controversial in the country itself. In what form could Transnistria be reintegrated into the Republic of Moldova?
-I would imagine that Transnistria within the Moldovan state gets a special statute in the form of a very strong autonomy. Our Presidency has worked out a concept that we will present to our coalition partners.
–As the president of an internationally recognized state, you will soon meet for the sixth time with Vadim Krasnoselski, the leader of Transnistria, which is not even recognized by Russia. Is this appreciation necessary?
-How else should we move forward? To achieve something, we need a dialogue. For me, the results count, not an alleged increase or decrease.
–What are the results of these meetings?
-You can now call each other better. A new bridge over the Dniester was opened. Diplomas from educational institutions in Transnistria are recognized by us [educational institutions on the right bank of the Nistru River]. The entry for citizens from the right bank of the Nistru River to Transnistria has become easier. We are negotiating a new railway connection, the solution to the banking problem and a complete abolition of the border posts. Under my presidency, we achieved more than two and a half decades.
–Mr President, we have had this conversation in the official language of the Republic of Moldova. In the constitution, it is called “Moldovan”. It is identical to Romanian. In 2013 a Constitutional Court ruling obliges the Parliament to amend the constitution accordingly. That has not happened yet. In which language do you think we have had this conversation?
-The Constitutional Court has already made many controversial judgments. The official language in our country is Moldovan.
[Der Spiegel, President Igor Dodon from Chișinău