President Serzh Sarkisian claimed on Wednesday that his decision to make Armenia part of a Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states has not damaged relations with the European Union.
Sarkisian was quoted by his press office saying that “nothing has changed in those relations” at a meeting with Greece’s visiting parliament speaker, Vangelis Meimarakis.
The Armenian government and the EU are continuing to make “joint efforts to further deepen their partnership,” he said, according to a statement released by the office. He argued that his National Security Council approved on Tuesday a plan of joint actions for 2014 and 2015 agreed with the EU’s executive body, the European Commission.
Sarkisian said that Yerevan reaffirmed its “commitment to developing close cooperation with the EU” at an EU summit held in Vilnius last November. He referred to a joint statement that was issued there by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and the EU’s foreign policy, Catherine Ashton.
The Vilnius statement certified that the two sides will not sign a planned Association Agreement because of Armenia’s plans to join the Russian-led Customs Union, which were unexpectedly announced by Sarkisian in early September. The dramatic foreign policy U-turn came less than two months after Yerevan and Brussels completed three-year negotiations on the Association Agreement. The wide-ranging accord was due to be initialed at Vilnius.
Senior Armenian and EU officials shed little light on the future of Armenia-EU ties after they met in Brussels in December. Stefan Fuele, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, noted a “difference in the content of our discussions” resulting from Sarkisian’s volte-face. But he said the EU is still determined to “continue to have a close relationship and even take it forward based on what we have achieved so far.”
It remains unclear whether the two sides are planning to sign an alternative treaty in the foreseeable future.
The changed atmosphere in their dealings was highlighted by the failure of Armenian and EU lawmakers to adopt a joint statement at a meeting of their Parliamentary Cooperation Committee held in Brussels early this month. Armenian pro-government members of the committee accused their European colleagues of adopting a pro-Azerbaijani stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in retaliation against Armenia’s imminent accession to the Customs Union.
Opposition deputies sitting on the panel denied that, however. One of them claimed that the Armenian authorities did not want any joint declarations with the European Parliament for fear of annoying Russia.