Armenia and the European Union began on Monday the first round of official negotiations that should lead to the easing of visa requirements for Armenian citizens planning to visit EU countries.
Officials from the Armenian government and the EU’s executive European Commission launched the negotiating process on two relevant agreements after more than a year of preparations. One of them would enable Armenian nationals to receive visas for the Schengen zone encompassing much of the Europe with fewer documents and at a lower cost.
Yerevan will also have to sign a separate “readmission agreement” with Brussels that will commit it to helping EU immigration authorities expedite the repatriation of Armenian illegal immigrants.
Deputy Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian, the chief Armenian negotiator, said the two agreements stemming from the EU’s Eastern Partnership program will make Armenia’s relationship with the 27-nation union “truly comprehensive.” He also emphasized their “political significance.”
“We are part of the same value system. Our state and society is committed to building a democratic state and elections are one of the pillars of that system,” Mnatsakanian told a joint news conference with EU officials held after the opening session of the talks.
None of the officials participating in the talks would say when the visa deal is likely to be concluded. “Both sides are committed to engage in a speediest process,” said Traian Hristea, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan.
Hristea also declined to speculate on whether the Armenian authorities’ handling of the upcoming parliamentary elections could affect the process. “That’s a very speculative connection,” he said.
Armenia and the EU are also expected to open talks next month on the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), another key element of the Eastern Partnership. “The opening of free trade negotiations marks a turning point in our trade relations with Armenia,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said last week.