The onus is on Armenia to propose new formats of cooperation with the European Union after its decision to join a Russian-led customs union, a senior EU official said on Tuesday.
Gunnar Wiegand, who was the chief EU negotiator in nearly four-year talks with Armenia on an Association Agreement, also confirmed that the extensive document cannot be renegotiated in time for next month’s EU summit in Vilnius. “After Vilnius we will have to carefully look at what parts of that agreement can serve as a basis for further cooperation,” he told reporters in Yerevan.
“We are committed to close cooperation with Armenia and want to fully maintain ties and support reforms,” Wiegand said.
Asked which concrete chapters of the draft agreement could be salvaged, Wiegand said, “It’s a question which you first and foremost will have to ask your government.” But he also made clear that Yerevan is no longer eligible for a far-reaching free trade deal with the EU, the key component of the association accord.
EU officials repeatedly warned earlier that a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU is not compatible with membership in the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Armenian government offered to sign the Association Agreement without DCFTA-related provisions immediately after President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly announced his decision to join the Russian-dominated trade bloc on September 3. The EU has not accepted this idea so far.
According to Economy Minister Vahram Avanesian, Yerevan still hopes to sign or finalize at the Vilnius summit “a document that will map out our further cooperation.” “It would cover all issues, including economic cooperation,” he said.
Wiegand’s Armenian opposite number, Deputy Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian, similarly told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) late last week that Yerevan is still “aspiring” to association with the EU. But he effectively acknowledged that such an agreement will not be concluded at the EU summit slated for November 28-29.