President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday confirmed his participation in this week’s European Union summit in Latvia’s capital Riga which could shed more light on the future of the EU’s relations with Armenia.
In a statement, Sarkisian’s office said he will also hold bilateral meetings with unnamed European leaders on the sidelines of the gathering scheduled for May 21-22.
The main focus of the summit will be on the EU’s Eastern Partnership program offering six ex-Soviet states, including Armenia, privileged partnership in return for political and economic reforms. Three of them -- Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine -- have already signed far-reaching “association agreements” with the 28-nation union in line with that program.
Armenia was on course to sign a similar agreement until Sarkisian unexpectedly decided in 2013 to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The Armenian government now hopes to negotiate a less ambitious deal with the EU that would not run counter to its membership in the Russian-led bloc.
The EU’s executive European Commission on Tuesday formally asked EU member states for a “mandate” open official negotiations with Yerevan on such a deal. European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has expressed hope that the EU leaders will give the green light to those talks at Riga.
In a speech delivered in March, Sarkisian insisted that Armenia can “combine” membership in the EEU with closer ties with Europe. He described his country as an integral part of “European civilization” when he visited Rome in April.
“We could become a bridge connecting European countries to the 170 million-strong EEU market,” the Armenian president declared.