President Serzh Sarkisian has reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to deepening ties with the European Union in a way that would not run counter to its recent accession to a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states.
“Armenia is committed to taking steps together with its European partners to form a new legal basis for our relationship,” Sarkisian said at the start of a two-day EU summit in Riga late on Thursday. He stressed that a planned new Armenia-EU accord will be “compatible” with his country’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
There was no such compatibility with an Association Agreement, including a significant free-trade component, which Yerevan and Brussels were close to finalizing in 2013.The EU abandoned the agreement after Armenia unexpectedly decided to join Russia’s trade bloc with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The Armenian government and the European Commission are due to start talks soon on a less ambitious accord stemming from the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.
Sarkisian stated in Riga that Armenia has already benefited from the program. It has given new impetus to political and economic reforms in the country, he said.
“Armenia’s European agenda remains a foreign policy priority,” Sarkisian declared in another speech that was delivered in the Latvian capital earlier in the day. He attended a meeting of the leaders, among them German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the European People’s Party (EPP), a coalition of Europe’s leading center-right parties. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia is also affiliated with the EPP.
Speaking at the EPP gathering, Sarkisian said Yerevan regards the Eastern Partnership as an opportunity to advance domestic “modernization” based on Armenia’s “common values” with Europe, rather than an opportunity to exploit the West’s geopolitical rivalry with Russia. In that context, he warned against “public statements containing one-sided rebukes,” clearly referring to strong Western criticism of Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine. The conflicting parties should seek to “understand each other and respect each other’s issues” instead, he said.
Accordingly, Sarkisian refused to back a draft EPP declaration that accuses Russia, Armenia’s main military ally, of unleashing military aggression against Ukraine. Yerevan also objected to similar language in a joint communique that was due to be adopted by the EU summit on Friday.