Armenia has no plans to join the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan which Moscow hopes could form the basis of a “Eurasian Union” of former Soviet republics, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said on Wednesday.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed the creation of such a union in a newspaper article published in October. He said it would build on the existing Russian-led customs union, which plans to remove all barriers to trade, capital, and labor movement next year.
Visiting the Russian city of Saint Petersburg later in October, Sarkisian said Armenia “positively views” Putin’s idea which is seen by some Kremlin critics as an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union.
The Armenian premier all but ruled out on Wednesday the possibility of Yerevan’s accession to the union, though. He argued that Armenia does not have a common border with Russia and other Soviet republics likely to join it.
“The regimes that our colleagues are introducing -- in particular, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan acting with the framework of a common customs zone -- it is technically impossible for us to adopt and implement them,” Sarkisian told reporters. “In practice, there are no examples of a country joining a customs union with which it has no common border because the whole thing loses its economic meaning.”
“At the moment there is no new proposal on the agenda which we have to discuss,” he said.
Successive Armenian governments have cited the same reason for not joining the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec), a looser grouping of Russia and the four other former Soviet republics. Armenia has only an observer status in the Eurasec.
But it did sign in October a multilateral free trade agreement with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan. Sarkisian traveled to Saint Petersburg to attend the signing ceremony led by Putin.
The Armenian government insisted afterwards the agreement will not hamper the signing of a similar but more far-reaching free trade deal with the European Union. EU officials have confirmed this.
Sarkisian flew to Brussels earlier this week to press for the start of official negotiations on the creation of a “deep and comprehensive free trade area,” or DCFTA, between Armenia and the EU. A government statement cited him as telling EU Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht that Yerevan has already complied with EU preconditions for those talks.