The European Union is continuing to “review” its relationship with Armenia nine months after abandoning a planned Association Agreement with the Armenian government, a senior EU diplomat said on Tuesday.
Traian Hristea, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, indicated that the 28-nation bloc is in no rush to find an alternative legal framework for deepening ties with the South Caucasus country. “As you can understand, this review is not an activity which you can start today and finish tomorrow because it involves Armenia’s authorities, Armenian civil society representatives, EU institutions and the EU’s 28 member states,” he told reporters.
“The review and discussions are in progress. That will take some time,” Hristea said, calling the process “very time-consuming.” In the meantime, he went on, the EU will keep supporting, through financial and technical assistance, reforms carried out by various Armenian government agencies.
The EU and Armenia were on track to finalize the extensive Association Agreement until President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided last August to seek to join the Russian-led Customs Union. EU officials argued that membership in the trade bloc is incompatible with key terms of the planned agreement relating to the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, also rejected an Armenian proposal to sign a watered-down version of the accord containing only political provisions.
The Sarkisian government again floated this idea in March and appeared to have secured France’s support for it last month. Visiting Yerevan on May 12-13, French President Francois Hollande, called for an “exceptional formula” of political association between the EU and Armenia that would not contradict the latter’s close ties with Russia. European Commission officials have not yet commented on Hollande’s move.