Armenia will not risk losing its independence after joining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), President Serzh Sarkisian insisted on Sunday as he marked the 23rd anniversary of the country’s secession from the Soviet Union.
“Today, on Armenia's Independence Day, I declare with utmost responsibility that our membership in the Eurasian Economic Union does not pose a threat to Armenia's political independence in any way. Such claims [to the contrary] are groundless,” he said in a speech at an official reception held in Yerevan on the occasion.
“There is no integration process in the world which does not presuppose coordination of steps. This is more than a natural phenomenon,” Sarkisian added, responding to critics of his unexpected decision last year to seek membership of the bloc comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The critics, among them pro-Western civic groups and some opposition parties, say that the EEU is part of Russian’s President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to restore Russian hegemony over much of the former Soviet Union. They also believe that the Russian-led bloc’s protectionist policies will spell serious trouble for the Armenian economy.
Sarkisian claimed, however, that EEU membership will on the contrary open up “new opportunities for economic development” by facilitating Armenian exporters’ access to a “huge market.” Still, he at the same time seemed to admit economic risks involved.
“None of us is a prophet and we don’t know what results we will have in 10 or 20 years’ time. But one thing is clear: in case of working hard we could anticipate serious economic benefits,” he said.
Sarkisian hopes to sign an accession treaty with the Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh presidents at their next summit to be held in Minsk on October 10. Moscow is now thought to be pressing Belarus and Kazakhstan to drop their apparent objections to Armenia’s quick accession to the EEU.
Congratulating Sarkisian on the Armenian independence anniversary at the weekend, Putin said that Yerevan’s EEU membership bid is elevating Russian-Armenian relations to a “qualitatively new level.” Those relations are now developing “in the spirit of allied partnership,” Putin wrote in a letter cited by the Kremlin.