The European Union and Armenia have yet to agree on a new legal framework for their closer relations that would not run counter to the South Caucasus country’s recent accession to a Russian-led alliance, according to officials in Brussels.
“We are still reflecting together with Armenia on how to take our relations forward in the light of Armenia’s obligations to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU),” said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.
“Clearly, an Association Agreement is now out of the question and we need to find new ways of developing our relations by fully respecting the obligations that both sides have,” Kocijancic told reporters at the EU headquarters in the Belgian capital.
The EU and Armenia were on track to sign such an agreement until President Serzh Sarkisian’s unexpected decision in 2013 to make his country part of the trade bloc comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The EU abandoned the planned accord, saying that it is “not compatible” with membership in the EEU.
Gerhard Schumann-Hitzler, a senior EU official coordinating the bloc’s Eastern Partnership program, said this week that Sarkisian’s volte face “closed many doors” to Armenia’s closer cooperation with the EU.
Armenia’s Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonian said in December that Yerevan and Brussels began exploring this summer the possibility of an alternative arrangement for closer Armenia-EU ties. Melkonian said they could sign “in the near future” a deal that would contain not only political but also economic provisions of their ill-fated Association Agreement.
The EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy, Johannes Hahn, made similar comments last month after talks in Brussels with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. Hahn said the EU “should make best possible use” of the ill-fated Association Agreement. “It needs to be adjusted in order to reflect the new context but the substance of its political part I hope should be kept,” added.
Neither Kocijancic nor Schumann-Hitzler commented on the possibility of such a deal. Schumann-Hitzler said only that it is up to Yerevan to decide how far it wants to go in the process of European integration.