Armenian officials and representatives of the Customs Union have all but worked out a “roadmap” for Armenia’s membership of the trade bloc comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said on Tuesday.
Sarkisian told journalists that their joint working group will formally adopt the document by the end of this week.
The group was formed last month shortly after a summit of the Russian-led union in Minsk that was also attended by President Serzh Sarkisian. It was tasked with drawing up the “roadmap” in time for the next meeting of the four presidents slated for December 24.
Economy Minister Vahram Avanesian cautioned that the document will have to be discussed and approved by other “experts” representing the four countries before being submitted to the upcoming summit. “I think we will be able to tell you on December 15 or 16 whether or not the roadmap will be adopted on December 24,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Avanesian stressed that the working group has not discussed specific terms of Armenian membership in the bloc which Russia would like to turn into a Eurasian Union of ex-Soviet states.
Some economists believe that Armenia will face major price hikes and loss of state revenue unless it negotiates preferential terms for entering the union. They argue that protectionist policies pursued by oil-rich Russia and Kazakhstan are at odds with resource-poor Armenia’s traditionally liberal trade regime.
“There are no such privileges yet,” explained Avanesian. “The purpose of the roadmap is to set time frames for negotiating that package. We are talking about various kinds of negotiations. The drawing up and launch of the roadmap is not about negotiations but their time frames and themes.”
Speaking during a conference in Russia on November 28, Avanesian admitted that the Armenian government has not “calculated all economic risks connected with accession to the Customs Union.” “These are very difficult calculations,” he said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed the opposite, however, as he visited Armenia on December 2. “I spoke with the Armenian president on our way from the airport and it turned out that Armenian experts have properly calculated the benefits and preferences that Armenia will receive in case of joining the Customs Union,” he said.
Putin also stated that Yerevan is keen to complete the accession talks as early as possible. “We are struggling to keep up with our Armenian partners,” he said.