CHISINAU -- The leader of one of the four parties in Moldova's ruling alliance says the European Union is "too distant" a goal and that Chisinau should focus on building better relations with Russia, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
Marian Lupu told journalists in Chisinau on September 17 that Moldova should not waste its time waiting to be integrated into the European Union and should instead focus on building "good, pragmatic" relations with its traditional partner, Russia.
Lupu was the Alliance for European Integration's candidate for president last year, but failed to get enough votes in parliament.
Lupu's remarks follow his visit to Moscow, where on September 16 he and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed an agreement of cooperation between Lupu's Democrat Party and Putin's United Russia party.
Lupu, a defector from Moldova's Communist Party, is generally regarded as the most pro-Russian of the four leaders in the ruling alliance.
He makes frequent visits to Moscow and has cautioned against warming up too much to EU-member and neighbor Romania. Unlike other ruling alliance leaders, Lupu does not want to call his mother-tongue "Romanian," preferring to use the Soviet-era term "Moldovan." The two languages are identical.
Under the new, Western-oriented government which came to power last year, Moldova has made progress in its efforts toward European integration.
The country's premier Vlad Filat said on September 10 that he hopes the EU will drop visa requirements for Moldovans in 2012.
But the EU has never promised to consider Moldova for full membership, and has placed it in a group of Eastern neighbors that includes Belarus, Ukraine, and Armenia.
Russia is the main market for Moldova's exports and its sole supplier of gas.