European Union leaders and six former Soviet republics have swiftly agreed on a final joint declaration of their Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit in Brussels, avoiding a repeat of the squabbling between Armenia and Azerbaijan that triggered delays at the last summit two years ago.
The final declaration, published on the European Council’s website, does not mention any specific conflicts in the region, including the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
But it states that the “summit participants remain deeply concerned about the continued violations of principles of international law in many parts of the region.”
It adds that they welcome “the EU’s strengthened role in conflict resolution and confidence building in the framework or in support of existing agreed negotiating formats and processes, including through field presence, when appropriate.”
That language was enough to secure approval from Armenia and Azerbaijan. The two neighbors, who have been locked in a decades-long standoff over Nagorno-Karabakh, clashed over the final text of the declaration at the 2015 summit in Riga.
The final text of this year’s declaration features the same language as the Riga declaration concerning the potential future EU accession of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, each of which have signed Association Agreements with the 28-member bloc.
It states that “the summit participants acknowledge the European aspirations and European choice of the partners concerned, as stated in the association agreements.”
The EU launched the Eastern Partnership in 2009 to promote economic integration and European values in six Eastern European and South Caucasus countries.
The summit’s main event will likely be the signing of an enhanced EU partnership deal with Armenia. That pact, however, omits free trade and is less ambitious than the Association Agreements secured by Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Like those three countries, Armenia previously negotiated an EU Association Agreement. But Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian walked away from the deal in 2013 under apparent pressure from Russia, and Armenia later joined the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
However, Sarkisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service upon arrival in Brussels on November 23 that there was no contradiction between Yerevan’s EU partnership and its EEU membership.
“By signing this agreement we’re saying that indeed it is possible to be a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and also be a member of the Eastern Partnership,” Sarkisian said.
He added that he has “never heard from any Russian leader, and especially from President Vladimir Putin, so much as a word of reproach about Armenia’s cooperation with the EU.”