Armenia may still sign an Association Agreement with the European Union despite its decision to join a Russian-led customs union, the Polish ambassador in Yerevan, Zdzislaw Raczynski, said on Friday.
Raczynski cautioned, however, that such an agreement would be less ambitious and far-reaching than the deal that was due to be finalized until the Armenian foreign policy change announced by President Serzh Sarkisian in September.
“The European Union and Armenian are currently working on a new legal basis for their relations,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview. “What exactly that will be is an open question. I don’t exclude that it could be some agreement on association but of a slightly different type.”
Raczynski suggested that it would be similar to association agreements which the EU had signed with some North African states.
The EU offered Armenia -- as well as five other ex-Soviet states -- much deeper integration when it launched association talks with Yerevan in 2010. The talks were essentially completed last July, resulting in a draft accord envisaging the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). The free-trade arrangement would not only remove barriers in bilateral commerce but also require Armenia to harmonize its economic legislation with EU norms.
Sarkisian proposed after his customs union U-turn that Armenia and the EU significantly water down the draft Association Agreement by removing its dominant DCFTA component from the text. The EU’s executive European Commission effectively rejected the idea. In a joint statement released late last month, the commission and the Armenian government pledged to “revisit the basis for our relations.”
Raczynski acknowledged the vital importance for Armenia of having close security ties with Russia. He insisted that Yerevan could combine them with closer partnership with the EU. “True, we don’t have such examples yet. But why can’t Armenia set such an example?” he said.
Moscow has increasingly resented the EU’s efforts to deepen ties with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and the three South Caucasus states, viewing them as a threat to continued Russian influence in much of the former Soviet Union. The association agreements involving DCFTA arrangements seriously hamper Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to cobble together a Eurasian Union of ex-Soviet states.
Some Kremlin critics say accuse Putin of trying to rebuild the USSR. Accordingly, Sarkisian has been accused by some of his opponents of jeopardizing Armenia’s independence by opting for the Russian-led trade bloc.
Raczynski, whose country has a long history of acrimony with Russia, did not share these concerns. “Russia does not have the potential to recreate an empire,” he said.