A planned agreement on Armenia’s “enhanced partnership” with the European Union is not as significant as it is portrayed by some pro-Western elements in the county, a deputy chairman of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party said on Thursday.
“The document that will be signed is beautiful and important, but I think that it’s wrong to give it extra lighting, gloss and other stuff or turn into a Christmas tree,” said Armen Ashotian. “Because we are thereby heightening our expectations which will not be met later on and we will say that the European vector [of Armenian foreign policy] has failed.”
The draft Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is designed to deepen Armenia’s political and economic ties with the EU. Citing “common values” shared by the two sides, the 350-page document commits the Armenian government to implementing political reforms and “approximating” national economic laws and regulations to those of the EU.
The CEPA does not contain far-reaching free trade-related provisions, unlike an Association Agreement that was negotiated by Armenian and EU officials in the summer of 2013. The Armenian leadership scuttled that agreement by opting to join a Russian-led trade bloc.
Ashotian, who also chairs the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, seemed to imply that the CEPA will be signed as planned at an EU summit in Brussels scheduled for November 24. He said the two sides will make clear that the deal is not directed against third parties.
Speaking at a Yerevan-based think-tank, Ashotian also made the point that the CEPA is important to only Armenia but also the EU because the latter needs to showcase a “success story” at the Brussels summit.
“The EU need to have another partner in the region alongside Georgia,” said Ashotian. “There are many other reasons as well. For instance, this agreement will contribute to regional stability and therefore the risk of a new war or other instability could significantly decrease. This is a mutually beneficial document.”
Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy, hailed “the groundbreaking new agreement” with Armenia when he visited Yerevan earlier this month. He said it will not only deepen the EU’s ties with Armenia but also serve as a “blueprint” for other countries.