The European Union and Armenia are poised to start official negotiations on a new agreement to deepen their relations, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said on Wednesday after talks with a senior EU official visiting Yerevan.
The EU’s European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn met with Nalbandian and President Serzh Sarkisian to discuss the future of those ties in the light of Armenia’s recent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
“We noted with satisfaction the consultations that have been held between the EU and Armenia with the aim of identifying a future legal basis [of their relations] through negotiations,” Nalbandian told a joint news conference with Hahn.
He said the executive European Commission needs a formal green light from the EU’s member governments in order to open such talks. “I think that there are prerequisites for the issuance of such a mandate soon. So we will start the negotiations to work out a legal document that will serve as a basis for Armenia’s relations and cooperation with the EU,” added the chief Armenian diplomat.
Hahn essentially confirmed this, saying that the two sides are aiming for an “ambitious agreement.” “I am confident that we will receive a mandate to start very substantive negotiations in the near future,” he said.
Hahn also said that Armenian and EU officials have all but defined the scope of closer ties to be regulated by the future accord. “We are forward-looking and determined to shape a positive agenda for further cooperation in areas that are compatible with Armenia’s other obligations,” he stressed.
The deal mentioned by the two men would serve as an alternative to an Association Agreement which Yerevan and Brussels were close to finalizing in 2013. President Serzh Sarkisian scuttled that agreement with his unexpected decision to seek Armenia’s membership in the EEU. His foreign policy U-turn was widely blamed on strong Russian pressure.
According to Sarkisian’s press office, Hahn told the Armenian leader that the three-year negotiations on the Association Agreement were “not a waste of time.” They allowed Armenia get a better idea of EU practices and standards, he said.
Hahn already discussed the issue with Nalbandian in Brussels in January. He said after those talks that the two sides could use political elements of the cancelled agreement in their future cooperation framework.