Opposition lawmakers demanded on Monday an urgent parliamentary debate on government plans to make Armenia part of a Eurasian Economic Union of former Soviet republics dominated by Russia.
They said President Serzh Sarkisian should tell the National Assembly, directly or through his top aides, why he opted for this dramatic policy change, which was announced after his September 3 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sarkisian reportedly briefed his National Security Council and the governing body of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on those talks last week. But he has not addressed the nation so far.
“Understandably, there are opinions that Armenia has stepped onto a path leading to the loss of its sovereignty,” Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken opposition deputy, said at the opening autumn session of the Armenian parliament. “Serzh Sarkisian’s statements in Moscow and [Foreign Minister] Edward Nalbandian’s hasty trips to Europe … are raising very important and urgent questions,” he said, adding that both men should give relevant explanations.
“This is not an ordinary agreement between agriculture ministries,” said Alexander Arzumanian, another opposition lawmaker. “This has to do with our future. Since this [decision made by Sarkisian] limits Armenia’s sovereignty there might be a need to hold a referendum to find out the views of our voters.”
Also demanding parliamentary hearings on the matter was Naira Zohrabian, a senior member of the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) who chairs a parliament committee on European integration. Zohrabian said the committee has asked speaker Hovik Abrahamian to invite senior Foreign Ministry officials to such a discussion.
Abrahamian initially dismissed the opposition calls, saying that Sarkisian discussed the issue with parliament majority leaders before meeting Putin. “I disagree with the view that we are losing our sovereignty,” he said.
But pressed by members of the parliament’s opposition minority, Abrahamian promised to discuss with Nalbandian ways of debating Armenian membership in the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. “Nothing will be done secretly,” he assured lawmakers.
Of all opposition parties represented in the parliament, only the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party of Raffi Hovannisian has officially spoken out against joining the Russian-led union so far.