The European Union hopes to conclude by the end of this year ongoing negotiations on a new agreement to deepen its political and economic relations with Armenia, a senior EU diplomat said on Wednesday.
The talks began in early December more than two years after President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided to seek Armenia’s accession a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states. The move precluded the signing of a far-reaching Association Agreement with the EU.
Yerevan and Brussels subsequently agreed to negotiate a less ambitious accord which would not contradict Armenian membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Officials from both sides have said that it will contain many political and even economic provisions of the cancelled Association Agreement.
Sarkisian and Piotr Switalski, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, reportedly discussed the issue when they met on Wednesday. The Armenian presidential press office said Switalski “expressed hope that the Armenia-EU bilateral relations will acquire a new quality in 2016 and negotiations on the new comprehensive Armenia-EU legal document will have been concluded before the end of the year.”
A statement by the office quoted Sarkisian as saying that closer ties with the EU remain one of Armenia’s foreign policy priorities. He thanked the EU for its economic assistance to Armenia and said he expects such support for new “large-scale reforms” planned by his government.
The EU allocated 30 million euros ($33 million) in fresh aid to Yerevan as recently as on December 16. It said that the money will mainly finance reforms designed to streamline Armenia’s labor market and boost public oversight of its finances.