Armenia has made more progress towards signing an “association agreement” with the European Union than virtually all other former Soviet republics included in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said on Thursday.
“We are very content with how negotiations on the association agreement between the EU and Armenia are moving forward,” Azubalis said during a visit to Yerevan.
“Compared with the other [Eastern Partnership] countries excluding Ukraine, Armenia is firmly in the lead,” he told a joint news conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
Those countries are Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova.
The Armenian government and the EU’s executive European Commission opened the association talks in summer 2010 and have since concluded 22 negotiating “chapters.” They also began in late February separate talks on facilitating the EU’s visa requirements for Armenian citizens, another major element of the future comprehensive accord.
As part of the Eastern Partnership process, the two sides are also poised to officially start negotiating on the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between Armenia and the 27-nation bloc. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has said that the launch of the free trade talks will mark a “turning point in our trade relations with Armenia.”
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Armenia’s European integration drive was high on the agenda of Nalbandian’s meeting with Azubalis along with issues related to bilateral Armenian-Lithuanian ties and regional security. The Lithuanian minister also discussed the matter with President Serzh Sarkisian at a separate meeting later in the day.
A statement issued by Sarkisian’s press office said Azubalis expressed “sincere joy” at Armenia’s deepening ties with the EU. “The president of the republic pointed out that Lithuania’s support within the EU’s Eastern Partnership framework is important for Armenia,” it said.