The opposition Yelk alliance may soon demand that Armenia leave the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), one of its leaders said on Monday.
“Right from the beginning of this autumn this will be one of the main issues discussed by the Yelk alliance,” Aram Sarkisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The issue of discussions on the EEU, relations with the EEU and leaving the EEU will definitely be on the agenda of the Yelk alliance.”
Yelk was set up by three opposition parties late last year and won 9 of the 105 seats in Armenia’s current parliament elected in April. Two of those parties, Sarkisian’s Republic and Bright Armenia, have a pro-Western orientation, while third one, Civil Contract, advocates a more neutral Armenian foreign policy.
The Civil Contract leader, Nikol Pashinian, opposed Armenia’s accession to the EEU in January 2015. But he repeatedly objected last year to some pro-Western politicians’ calls for Yerevan to leave Russian-dominated trade bloc. Pashinian argued in June 2016 that dramatic foreign policy changes rarely benefit countries.
The Bright Armenia leader, Edmon Marukian, said last month that Armenia should leave the EEU because of Moscow’s controversial decision to stop recognizing the validity of Armenian driving licenses used by migrant workers in Russia. While Aram Sarkisian seems supportive of the idea, Pashinian’s position is not yet known.
Sarkisian acknowledged that the Armenian government, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, will oppose any attempts to end Armenia’s membership in the EEU. “One needs to have a very bright imagination to expect these authorities to take such a step,” he said. “But with such steps these authorities could at least restrain Russia and clinch more from it.”
The veteran politician, who served as prime minister from 1999-2000, said that EEU membership has not benefited Armenia. He claimed that Yerevan should hedge its bets also because Russia “will succumb” to new economic sanctions that have been imposed on it by the United States.
Russia is Armenia’s leading trading partner and principal source of vital remittances from Armenians working abroad.
President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided to make Armenia part of the EEU in September 2013, precluding the signing of an Association Agreement with the European Union. The U-turn was widely attributed to Russian pressure. The Armenian government has denied such pressure, however, saying that close commercial ties with Russia and other ex-Soviet states are vital for the Armenian economy.