President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) has brushed aside some opposition leaders’ calls for Armenia to leave the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman, insisted that membership in the trade bloc has proved beneficial for Armenia and its economy. He said the Armenian authorities will prove this with “much more complete information” to be published this autumn.
“If we did not join the Eurasian Economic Union, would we sell Armenian cognac, which is called brandy in Europe, in France or Great Britain?” Sharmazanov told reporters after a meeting of the HHK’s leadership held late on Thursday. “After all, we joined a 180-million market which gives us big opportunities for development.”
“We believe that it’s an artificial agenda for Armenia’s political life,” he said, commenting on calls for the country’s exit from the EEU voiced recently by some leaders of the opposition Yelk alliance.
One of them, 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. Another Yelk leader, Aram Sarkisian, seemed to back the idea when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service earlier this month.
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, Aram 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 the country’s immediate exit from the union advocated by pro-Western politicians.
Sharmazanov emphasized this fact. He said Yelk has still not formulated an official position on the issue.
Lena Nazarian, a Yelk parliamentarian affiliated with Pashinian’s party, said on Friday that all three opposition forces making up the bloc believe that President Serzh Sarkisian’s unexpected decision in 2013 to make Armenia part of the EEU was a “serious mistake” that put the country’s sovereignty at risk. But she also acknowledged: “We may have different opinions on when is the right time to come up with a proposal to leave the union.”
President Sarkisian’s 2013 U-turn precluded the signing by his government of a far-reaching Association Agreement with the European Union. It was widely attributed to Russian pressure.
According to official statistics, Russia and other major EEU member states -- Kazakhstan and Belarus -- accounted for 27 percent of Armenia’s foreign trade in the first half of this year. By comparison, the EU’s share in the total stood at just over 24 percent.