The European Union and Armenia are expected to sign an agreement aimed at significantly deepening their relations at a ceremony which is due to be held in Brussels on Friday on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership summit.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian is attending the summit that brings together the leaders of six Eastern Partnership countries.
The signing of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Yerevan and Brussels is likely to become the main event of the summit. The accord, however, omits free trade and is less ambitious than the association agreements secured by Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The EU launched the Eastern Partnership in 2009 to promote economic integration and European values in six eastern European and South Caucasus countries.
Like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, Armenia previously negotiated an association agreement with the EU, but it walked away from the deal in 2013 and later joined the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The text of the new agreement contains quite a few provisions seen as favorable for Armenia. In particular, the CEPA commits Armenia to reform its institutions, political system and to further strengthen human rights. And if Armenia fulfills all its commitments, it can receive substantial economic support from the European Union under the so-called “more-for-more” principle. In other words, if Armenia lives up to its commitments under the CEPA, the EU is committed to supporting and promoting investments in Armenia.
The CEPA also contains some good news for small and medium-sized enterprises with its so-called “access to local currency lending”. Observers say this can also become a stimulus for Armenia’s economic development.
Boris Navasardian, who formerly coordinated the Eastern Partnership Civil Forum’s Armenian National Platform, believes that the agreement expected to be signed on November 24 is also important for Armenia in terms of economic development.
“There are opinions that the economic field is not covered by the agreement, but we see that there are quite serious wordings specifically for economic cooperation,” said Navasardian, stressing that it is also important how Armenia benefits from the opportunities offered under the CEPA.
This year’s summit in Brussels could also see clashes over its final declaration. One paragraph concerning conflicts in the region has been left open after both Armenia and Azerbaijan wanted specific, but conflicting, statements on Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a draft text seen by RFE/RL.
The current text of the declaration reads: “The summit participants call for renewed efforts to promote the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the region on the basis of the principles and norms of international law.” It adds that “the resolution of the conflicts, building trust and good neighborly relations are essential to economic and social development and cooperation.”
Negotiations over the matter appear to be still ongoing behind closed doors.
If everything goes well, the EU will start a dialogue with Armenia on visa liberalization.
The agreement envisages cooperation not only in economic and political issues, but also in security matters. In fact, Armenia has no security-related commitments within the framework of the EEU and in this sense Armenia can enter into such agreements with the European Union. The EU’s commitments to help Armenia in the security issue are also seen as beneficial for Yerevan.
While in Brussels Armenian President Sarkisian today met with King Philippe of Belgium and members of the Board of European Friends of Armenia international non-governmental organization.
Later on Tuesday, the Armenian leader attended the summit of the European People’s Party.