The European Union is seeking an official clarification from Yerevan to ascertain the implications of Armenia’s plans to join the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan for its European integration, officials in Brussels said on Wednesday.
“We take note of yesterday’s news from Moscow about Armenia’s apparent wish to join the customs union,” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele.
“Now we look forward to understanding better from Armenia what their intentions are. Once this consultation has been completed we will draw our conclusions on the way forward,” Stano told RFE/RL.
The EU’s foreign and security policy chief, Catherine Ashton, made a similar statement through a spokeswoman. "We are seeking further clarification from the Armenian side. Then we will be able to assess the implications," the official, Maja Kocijancic said, according to “The Wall Street Journal.”
The foreign ministers of two EU member states, Lithuania and Sweden, indicated late on Tuesday that Yerevan’s surprise decision will thwart the initialing of an Association Agreement between the EU and Armenia that was expected in November. The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, has not yet officially reacted to the development, however.
The commission made clear previously that Armenian membership in the Russian-led union would run counter to a key element of the Association Agreement: the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU. A top aide to President Serzh Sarkisian said on Wednesday that Yerevan hopes that a watered-down version of the agreement excluding the DCFTA will be finalized during an EU summit in Vilnius.
The officials in Brussels apparently spoke before that statement. Asked about the possibility of an Armenia-EU deal without provisions on the DCFTA, Stano said, “At this stage it’s all speculations.”
Stano also said that Fuele will visit Yerevan next week to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of ex-Soviet republics eligible for association accords with the EU.
Fuele’s previous trip to the Armenian capital took place in early July. Two weeks later he issued a joint statement with Ashton announcing the “substantive completion” of talks with Armenia on the DCFTA and other key terms of the Association Agreement.