The European Union and Armenia signed on Friday a deal on “readmission” of illegal immigrants in what was a further step towards a wide-ranging Association Agreement between them.
The document signed in Brussels by EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian is tied to a separate visa facilitation agreement that was sealed at the EU headquarters last December.
The simplification of the EU’s stringent visa rules for Armenian nationals was contingent on Yerevan’s commitment to helping expedite the repatriation of Armenians illegal immigrants residing in EU member states. That pledge took the form of the readmission agreement.
“The readmission agreement sets out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of both Armenia and the respective EU Member State as to when and how to take back people who are irregularly residing on their territories,” the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, said in a statement.
“The signature of a readmission agreement is a concrete step forward in EU-Armenia relations,” Malmstrom said at the signing ceremony. “I am very pleased that both agreements have now been signed. This means that Armenians will be able to travel more easily while facilitating the effective management of irregular migration,” she added.
The agreements, subject to ratification by the European Parliament, stem from the EU’s Eastern Partnership program that entitles Armenia and five other ex-Soviet states to signing far-reaching “association” accords with the 27-nation union. The Armenia-EU Association Agreement is due to be finalized by November.
During his latest visit to Brussels Nalbandian also met with EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele to discuss ongoing association talks between the two sides.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, both men “expressed satisfaction with the successful course” of the negotiation process.
“The interlocutors also discussed preparations for holding a donor conference in support of reforms in Armenia,” read a ministry statement. It gave no further details.
The EU pledged last year to organize such a conference if the Armenian government improves the conduct of national elections. It has given a largely positive assessment of Armenia’s February 18 presidential election.