A senior European Union official stressed on Wednesday the importance of a new accord planned by the EU and Armenia, confirming that it will contain many provisions of the Association Agreement which they nearly signed two years ago.
“It will be an important agreement because it will have a very wide scope and good depth,” Gunnar Wiegand told reporters in Yerevan. “I don’t see any significant changes [compared with the Association Agreement] in terms of foreign policy, domestic policy, home and justice or even economic and sectorial cooperation.”
“But there will be a different approach on trade and investments because it is not a preferential agreement and because we are adapting to the policy choice which was made by Armenia to join the Eurasian Economic Union,” Wiegand said during a regular session of the EU-Armenia Cooperation Committee co-chaired by him and Economy Minister Karen Chshmaritian.
Wiegand referred to the most important segment of the Association Agreement that would have given Armenia permanent tariff-free access to the EU markets in return for its compliance with the EU’s complex commercial rules and regulations. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) ran counter to Armenia’s unexpected decision to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
President Serzh Sarkisian announced that decision in September 2013, less than two months after his government completed association talks with the EU. The U-turn, widely attributed to Russian pressure, precluded the signing of the Association Agreement.
The new EU-Armenia deal is meant to serve as a less far-reaching alternative to that agreement. Yerevan and Brussels are expected to open official negotiations on the deal before the end of this year.
Wiegand, who represented the EU’s executive European Commission in the association talks, would not be drawn on possible dates for its signing. “It took us three and a half years to negotiate the previous agreement and after that we didn’t sign,” he said. “This time we want to negotiate and sign.”
A senior Russian diplomat made clear late last month that Russia does not object to the new legal framework for Armenia’s closer ties with the EU. He said Yerevan is “well aware” that it must not contradict membership in the EEU.
Wiegand was confident that Moscow will not seek to block the planned deal. “I don’t anticipate this because we know that Armenia is consulting with its partners in the Eurasian Economic Union as much as Kazakhstan does, with whom we have negotiated an agreement,” he said.
“We are not in a situation of ‘either or,’” added the EU negotiator.