Moldova communists stage anti-EU rallies
Moldova’s opposition Communist Party leader and former president, Vladimir Voronin, has said the country should join Russia's Customs Union instead of sealing an EU pact.
The 72-year old delivered his anti-EU tirade in Chisinau on Monday (25 November).
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“Moldova can become a European country only by joining the Customs Union, which will give its people many opportunities for full-fledged development of their homeland,” he said, according to the Russian-state backed daily, The Voice of Russia.
He also called on the country’s pro-EU coalition to step down due to corruption.
Voronin spoke amid an outbreak of anti-EU protests over the weekend.
Some 15,000 people reportedly demonstrated against the EU pact in the Moldovan capital on Saturday. Voronin said they intend to also picket EU member states' embassies and a European Commission office.
The protests come about two weeks after a pro-EU rally is said to have gathered 50,000 people or more.
The coalition is aiming to initial a political association and free trade agreement with the EU at a summit in Vilnius on Thursday.
They are also hoping to get EU countries and MEPs' support for EU visa-free travel.
Meanwhile, Voronin's statement contradicts what he told EUobserver in Chisinau earlier this month.
“I am declaring that we will never turn our back to the European Union,” he told this website in his office, which is adorned with Soviet-era memorabilia.
He noted that he and Russian leader Vladimir Putin had in recent years exchanged letters in which Putin backed Moldova's EU integration.
But he added that Moldova "won't join" the EU for "20 or 30 years" and that it needs "to deal with modernisation today."
Voronin's statement on Monday comes a few days after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said No to EU integration, citing Russian pressure.
It also comes a few weeks after Russia strong-armed Armenia into ditching its EU pact.
The Ukrainian decision has the potential to cost Moldova dearly.
The two countries share a long border, but if they join opposing trade blocs in the coming years, day-to-day trade will be put at risk.