The European Union and Armenia are expected to stress the importance of “reviewing and updating the existing basis of their relations” in a declaration to be signed by participants of an ongoing Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday.
In the final draft of the declaration acquired by RFE/RL today the parties also reconfirm their commitment “to further develop and strengthen their cooperation in all areas of mutual interest within the Eastern Partnership framework”.
The text of the declaration apparently reflects Armenia’s recent U-turn on the initialing of an Association Agreement with the EU that would also provide for the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the 28-nation bloc.
After nearly four years of negotiations with the EU, in September Armenia unexpectedly decided to join the Customs Union currently embracing Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and further participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union, a post-Soviet integration project advocated by Moscow.
The decision was announced by President Serzh Sarkisian after talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow, which triggered speculation about Russian pressure on Armenia in the matter of European integration. The Armenian government denied any pressure from Moscow or any volte-face in its policies, insisting that the issue of membership in the Russian-led trade bloc had been on its agenda along with the European integration policy.
While Armenia appeared keen to combine its membership in the Customs Union with the process of signing the Association Agreement, officials in Brussels made it clear that it was legally impossible.
The declaration to be signed in Vilnius on Friday further says that “the Summit participants reaffirm the sovereign right of each partner freely to choose the level of ambition and the goals to which it aspires in its relations with the European Union” in the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership.
Eduard Sharmazanov, deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament and senior member of President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party, earlier also spoke about the possibility of signing a joint statement with the EU on continued political dialogue and reforms, which he said stemmed from Armenia’s interests.