President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) dismissed on Tuesday an opposition alliance’s calls for an end to Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The Yelk alliance put forward late last week a draft parliamentary statement demanding that the Armenian authorities embark on a “process” of invalidating Armenia’s accession treaty with the trade bloc comprising five ex-Soviet states. The statement says that EEU membership, effective from January, 2015, has hurt the country’s economy and security.
“Leaving the EEU would be fraught with very serious problems for Armenia,” the HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “It would lead to an unprecedented rise in the price of [Russian] gas. Secondly, it would change trade volumes. There are no alternative markets for products which we now sell in the EEU markets. Maybe there will be in five or ten years.”
“Armenia’s authorities see no need for changing the vector of Armenian foreign policy,” Sharmazanov added. “We should continue deepening our relations with the EEU.”
Russia’s is Armenia’s number one trading partner, having accounted for 26 percent of its foreign trade in January-July 2017, according to official Armenian statistics. Armenian exports to Russia -- most of them foodstuffs and alcoholic beverages -- rose by almost 31 percent.
By comparison, the European Union’s share in the total stood at 24.3 percent. Armenia’s trade with EEU member states also grew strongly in the seven-month period.
Yelk blames the EEU for the fact that Armenia Gross Domestic Product has shrunk in U.S. dollar terms while public debt increased since 2015. The authorities in Yerevan recorded a real GDP growth of just 0.2 percent last year.
“Had we not joined the EEU that negative dynamic would have been deeper,” insisted Sharmazanov.
Sharmazanov also brushed aside Yelk claims that EEU membership has not strengthened Armenia’s security as evidenced by continued Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan and the April 2016 fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Armenia has received [since 2015] many modern weapons and ammunition that ensure, along with the Armenian armed forces, its security. Armenia’s security system has grown stronger since we joined the EEU,” said the HHK spokesman, who is also a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament.
Russia’s ambassador in Yerevan, Ivan Volynkin, also scoffed at the Yelk initiative. “If they want to come up with such an initiative, no problem, nobody is hindering them,” Volynkin told reporters. “The question is how necessary it is for Armenia.”
“I think that the majority of Armenia’s population disagrees with that initiative because they can see the obvious advantages of Armenia’s membership in the EEU,” he said.
Yelk holds 9 seats in the 105-member parliament. None of the other political groups represented in the National Assembly has voiced support for its initiative.