Armenia will finish the implementation of a “roadmap” to join the Russian-led Customs Union as early as next month, Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said over the weekend.
Kocharian told journalists that the Armenian authorities will have taken all steps stemming from the document and be ready to sign an accession treaty with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan “by the middle of April at the latest.”
The 250-page “roadmap” was agreed by the presidents of the union’s three member states as well as Armenia at a summit in Moscow last December. It lists 262 administrative and legislative actions concerning 20 areas of government policy.
At least 150 of those measures are due to be unilaterally taken by the Armenian side. Most of them are amendments that will bring Armenian laws and regulations into conformity with Customs Union legislation. Armenia’s parliament has yet to start debating them.
The accession process also requires an agreement on sweeping trade preferences sought by Yerevan. The latter hopes that as many as 850 types of essential products imported to Armenia will be exempt from the trade bloc’s high customs duties.
Armenian leaders have expressed confidence about their ability to quickly clinch such concessions at trade talks that are due to start this month. Skeptics fear, however, that Yerevan does not intend to drive a hard bargain in the talks and is essentially banking on Moscow’s goodwill.
The very high tempo of the accession process set by President Serzh Sarkisian has prompted concern not only from some of his established political opponents but also his predecessor, Robert Kocharian. “The haste could lead to undesirable consequences,” Kocharian said last week, warning of sharp price hikes and mass bankruptcies of Armenian firms.
Sarkisian, who sought an Association Agreement with the European Union as recently as last summer, has defended his current desire to make Armenia part of the Russian-dominated bloc “as quickly as possible.”
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian discussed the roadmap implementation with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting in Sochi late last month. He said afterwards that Medvedev was very satisfied with corresponding measures already taken by the Armenian side.