The executive body of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has reportedly told Russia to reverse its controversial decision to stop recognizing the validity of driving licenses issued by Armenia, a member of the Russian-led trade bloc.
A Russian law which took effect on June 1 banned foreign nationals with driving licenses issued by their home countries from working as drivers in Russia. The State Duma, the Russian lower house of parliament, passed last week another law which waived the restriction for citizens of those countries, including EEU members Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, where the Russian language has an official legal status.
Armenia is not one of those countries, meaning that a large number of its migrant workers driving trucks, taxis and other vehicles in Russia now risk losing their jobs. Some of them are said to have already been forced to return home.
The Armenian parliament speaker, Ara Babloyan, raised the matter with his Russian counterpart, Vyacheslav Volodin, when they met in Moscow on Monday. Volodin responded by suggesting that Armenia adopt Russian as its second official language in order to circumvent the ban.
Volodin’s remark caused outrage in Yerevan, with local opposition politicians, media commentators and intellectuals accusing Moscow of meddling in Armenia’s internal affairs. Armen Ashotian, a senior lawmaker who accompanied Babloyan on the trip to the Russian capital, rushed to assure them that Armenian authorities have no intention to change a constitutional provision stipulating that Armenia is the country’s sole official language.
The Moscow daily “Kommersant” reported afterwards that the Eurasian Economic Commission, the EEU’s executive body, has urged the Russian government to ensure that the ban on foreign driving licenses does not apply to any EEU member state, including Armenia. It quoted the head of the commission, Oleg Pankratov, as saying that it runs counter to EEU regulations on a common labor market set up by Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.