The European Union and Armenia will almost certainly sign next month an agreement aimed at significantly deepening their relations, a senior EU official said late on Thursday.
Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy, confirmed that the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is due to be signed during or on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels scheduled for November 24.
“This agreement with Armenia will be signed, no doubt about it.” Hahn said at a meeting with civil society members from Armenia and other ex-Soviet states held in Estonia’s capital Tallinn.
“I think it’s pretty sure that this will be done around the summit or at the summit,” he added.
In an apparent reference to Russia, Hahn suggested that the EU’s and Armenia’s “neighbors” do not object to the deal. “At least they accept it,” he said.
Russian pressure exerted on Yerevan is widely believed to have scuttled a more ambitious Association Agreement which Armenia and the EU nearly finalized in 2013. President Serzh Sarkisian precluded that accord with his unexpected decision to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The spokesman for Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Eduard Sharmazanov, made clear late on Thursday that Yerevan is “planning” to sign the CEPA in Brussels. “Had we seen any problems in the agreement we would not have initialed it [in March,]” he said.
Unlike the Association Agreement, the CEPA would not make Armenia part of a “deep and comprehensive free trade area” with the EU. Still, the 350-page document commits Yerevan to “approximating” Armenian economic laws and regulations to those of the EU.
Hahn stressed that Armenia is the first EEU member state that will sign a “far-reaching agreement” with the EU. “This is important … This shows that co-existence is possible,” he said.
Hahn went on to reiterate his view that the CEPA will serve as a “blueprint” for other countries interested in closer ties with the EU.