Former Armenian Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian believes that the country will see its economy declining in the short term if it becomes a member of the emerging Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on its current terms.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday Bagratian, who is currently an opposition lawmaker, said that such membership can be successful only if Armenia is given some privileges by the Customs Union member countries and ensures proper governance.
“If we become a member of the Customs Union, then I do not see any chance for betterment in the short term. The question is on what terms we become a member. If it is on the terms that the three current members of the Customs Union have agreed upon, I definitely expect economic deterioration,” said Bagratian, who headed the Armenian government in 1993-96.
“Armenia’s economy makes only 0.4 percent of the Customs Union member states’ collective GDP. The bulk of Armenia’s trade with the Customs Union member countries falls on the purchase of energy resources from Russia. Most of our foreign trade is not connected with the Customs Union member states,” the former prime minister explained.
In Bagratian’s opinion, if the Customs Union members provide Armenia with certain customs privileges, such as exemptions on about a thousand names of goods, then “in case of good management it will be possible to have successes by using the territory of the Customs Union for increasing Armenia’s export potentialities”.
“But this is highly unlikely. Today they do not regard us even as an equal partner, let alone giving us exemptions on a thousand names of commodities,” Bagratian said.
Armenia first announced its intention to join the Customs Union and then participate in the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union last September. President Serzh Sarkisian hoped that Armenia would join the Russian-led trade bloc in time for its transformation into the Eurasian Economic Union that was announced at a May 29 summit in Astana. But the presidents of the three member states only committed themselves to having the accession treaty with Yerevan prepared by July 1. The Union’s executive body said late last month that a draft treaty had already been submitted to the Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh governments for approval.
No clarity was brought into the possible date of Armenia’s accession to the Union even after the meeting of the Armenian and Russian prime ministers in Sochi last Friday.
Earlier this month, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov said that Armenia’s accession treaty could be signed at another meeting of the heads of the Eurasian Economic Union member states scheduled to be held in the Belarus capital of Minsk in October. But no official statement has been made in this regard yet.