President Serzh Sarkisian has insisted that Armenia has benefited from its membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) while admitting that he had “greater expectations” from it.
“We made the right choice, we can see the first results,” Sarkisian told a Russian radio station, Business FM, in an interview aired late on Wednesday.
“First of all, the economic situation here has stabilized since 2016,” he said. “There was growth [in 2016,] however modest. We had a GDP growth of around 5 percent in the first eight months of this year.”
Sarkisian also pointed to double-digit increases in Armenian exports to Russia and other EEU member states recorded in 2016 and this year.
But he also said: “Of course, expectations were greater. The situation that shaped up in the world economy and the Russian economy reduced the anticipated effects of our membership in the EEU.”
Sarkisian’s pro-Western critics at home say that EEU membership has reflected negatively on Armenia’s economy and even national security. In particular, they point to a sharp drop in Armenian exports to Russia that followed the country’s accession to the EEU in January 2015. Armenian officials blame it on a dramatic depreciation of the Russian national currency, the ruble, caused by the collapse of oil prices and Western economic sanctions against Moscow.
Sarkisian unexpectedly announced his decision to make Armenia part of the Russian-led trade bloc in September 2013. The move scuttled an Association Agreement that was negotiated by Armenian and the European Union officials earlier in 2013. Armenia and the EU are due to sign a less ambitious Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) later this month.
Sarkisian assured the Russian broadcaster that none of the CEPA’s economic provisions run counter to Armenia’s EEU membership commitments.
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 EU’s share in the total stood at 24.3 percent. Armenia’s trade with EU member states also grew strongly in the seven-month period.