The European Union may not sign even a non-binding joint declaration with Armenia at its upcoming summit in Vilnius because of Yerevan’s unexpected decision to join a Russian-led customs union, a senior Czech diplomat said on Wednesday.
The Armenian government seems keen to clinch such a face-saving document after the EU rejected its proposal to significantly water down a draft Association Agreement that was due to be initialed in the Lithuanian capital until the foreign policy U-turn announced by President Serzh Sarkisian on September 3. Lithuanian officials made clear last week that the wide-ranging agreement will not be on the agenda of the summit slated for November 28-29.
“I think that some document, even a political declaration, will be signed in Vilnius,” said Naira Zohrabian, the chairwoman of an Armenian parliament committee on European integration. “Even if that document only says ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,’ Armenia needs to sign something to justify its policy.”
However, Petr Mares, a special envoy of the Czech Foreign Ministry, was skeptical on that score as he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on the sidelines of a conference in Yerevan on the EU’s Eastern Partnership program. “Will there be some document [on Armenia?] I’m not sure. We need to work on it. We need time,” Mares said.
“I expect that some document is more likely to be put on the table after the Vilnius summit,” he added. “As you can understand, the situation is quite complicated. It is the first time that we are trying to figure out what to do when a country decides to join the customs union while being ready to sign the Association Agreement.”
Mares at the same time described as “very important” Sarkisian’s plans to attend the summit devoted to the Eastern Partnership. He also praised the Sarkisian administration’s stated commitment to deepening ties with the EU even after Armenia’s accession to the customs union.
Representatives of Armenian civic groups attending the conference dismissed official Yerevan’s assurances. They said Sarkisian’s decision to join the Russian-dominated bloc dealt a huge blow to Armenia’s European integration.