Membership in a Russian-led union of former Soviet republics will not jeopardize Armenia’s national independence and sovereignty, President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) insisted on Thursday.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman, drew parallels between the European Union and Russia’s trade alliance with Belarus and Kazakhstan which Moscow wants to enlarge and turn into a Eurasian Economic Union by January 2015. “When Germany, France, Italy, Greece or Bulgaria joined the EU, did they lose their sovereignty?” Sharmazanov argued at a news conference.
Sarkisian has similarly dismissed his critics’ claims that he put Armenia’s independence at serious risk with his unexpected decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union. “There is one thing that cannot change in any situation: the sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia,” the president said on September 21 during official celebrations of Armenia’s Independence Day.
Armenian opposition and civic groups have since continued to express serious concern about Sarkisian’s failure to resist what they regard as the Kremlin’s plans to recreate the Soviet Union. Some critics have also warned of a negative impact on continued Armenian control over Nagorno-Karabakh. They fear that Yerevan will be forced to tax goods imported from Karabakh after joining the Customs Union.
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev stoked those fears on Tuesday when he again questioned the absence of any customs checkpoints on Armenia’s borders with the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. He said this is why he signed a “roadmap” to Armenia’s accession to the union with reservations.
Sharmazanov, who is also a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, downplayed Nazarbayev’s misgivings and attributed them to Kazakhstan’s close ties with Azerbaijan. “Mr. Nazarbayev signed the roadmap. No other document was presented by the Kazakh side,” he said.
Sharmazanov insisted that Armenian entry into the trade bloc will not have any implications for the unresolved Karabakh conflict. “The Customs Union is an economic, not political, union,” he claimed. “Political issues are therefore not discussed there.”