The European Union and Armenia have made major progress in their negotiations on an association agreement meant to deepen their political, economic and other links, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reiterated on Wednesday.
“We have registered quite a lot of progress in this direction,” Nalbandian said after talks in Yerevan with Philippe Lefort, the EU’s new special representative for the South Caucasus.
The association agreement stems from the EU’s Eastern Partnership program covering six ex-Soviet states, including neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan. Armenian and EU officials formally opened negotiations on the accord last July. They have held several rounds of negotiations since then.
A joint declaration issued by Nalbandian and EU’s Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele in April noted “good progress” in those talks. It also reaffirmed the Armenian government’s stated commitment to implementing wide-ranging reforms required by the 27-nation bloc.
The Eastern Partnership also entitles Armenia to a permanent free trade agreement and a simplified visa regime with EU countries, a fact emphasized by Nalbandian. Armenian and EU officials are to hold separate talks on these matters.
Nalbandian expressed hope that the EU will give Yerevan a formal “mandate” to start visa facilitation talks with its executive European Commission before an Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw slated for the end of this month. “I am confident that we will very quickly reach an agreement,” he told a joint news conference with Lefort.
President Serzh Sarkisian, who is expected to attend the summit, met with Lefort separately later in the day. Sarkisian’s office said he discussed with the envoy EU assistance to reforms carried out by his government and stressed the importance of Armenia’s closer ties with the bloc.