Armenia has caused severe damage to its relationship with the European Union with its unexpected decision to join Russia’s customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, according to senior members of the European Parliament.
“Europe has not lost Armenia. Armenia has lost the European perspective,” Elmar Brok, the chairman of the Brussels-based parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Broke said that the dramatic foreign policy U-turn announced by President Serzh Sarkisian on September 3 was the result of “incredible” pressure from Russia. He accused Moscow of exploiting its close security ties with Yerevan to force the latter into the customs union and thereby thwart the signing of an Armenia-EU Association Agreement.
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, an influential member of Brok’s committee dealing with former Soviet republics, said Sarkisian’s decision means that the more than three-year intensive negotiations on the agreement held by Armenian and EU officials were a waste of time. “It’s a sovereign decision and we respect it,” he said. “But we regret that so much time and effort has been spent in vain by both sides.”
EU officials have repeatedly warned Yerevan over the past year that the dominant component of the agreement envisaging the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) is “not compatible” with Armenian membership in the Russian-led union. Armenian officials did not object to this during the association talks completed in July.
Sarkisian offered to sign a significantly watered-down version of the Association Agreement excluding the DCFTA immediately after his September 3 volte-face. The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, and some EU member states rejected this idea.
Brok predicted that no agreements will be initialed or signed with Armenia at an EU summit in Vilnius, Lithuania scheduled for November. “We will keep our relations but will not sign the Association Agreement with a customs union member state,” he said.
Saryusz-Wolski, for his part, said that Armenia has lost a chance to have a “privileged relationship” with the EU. “We will maintain our good relations but they will be just like the ones we have with many other countries,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).