A pro-Western opposition alliance renewed its calls for Armenia to leave the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) during parliamentary hearings in Yerevan on Monday.
The Yelk alliance drafted in September a parliamentary declaration saying that membership in the EEU, effective from January 2015, has hurt the country’s economy and security. The document was rejected by the ruling Republican Party (HHK) and the two other parties represented in the Armenian parliament. The three groups similarly blocked last month a parliamentary inquiry into consequences of the EEU membership which was demanded by Yelk.
The opposition bloc responded by initiating the special hearings on its September motion demanding that the Armenian authorities embark on a “process” of invalidating their accession treaty with the EEU.
“Our position hasn’t changed,” one of its leaders, Edmon Marukian, said during the discussion. “In order for Armenia to move forward, it is necessary to develop Armenia’s economy and political system … To that end, Armenia must leave the EEU.”
Marukian described the EEU as a “Russian initiative that has remained on paper.” “There are serious problems with free movement of goods, services and laborand there is practically no free movement of capital [within the trade bloc,]” he claimed.
Armen Ashotian, the HHK-affiliated chairman of the parliament committee on foreign affairs, dismissed those arguments, saying that any regional integration “takes time.” “If the European Union, which has a 60-year-old history, is still building its institutions after such a long path, it is only natural that the Eurasian Economic Union has been overcoming such difficulties for the past two or two and a half years,” he said.
Ashotian also said that the EEU membership has not prevented Armenia from forging closer ties with the EU. He pointed to the signing on Friday of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Armenia and the EU.
Marukian insisted, however, that Armenian foreign policy would have been truly complementary only if Yerevan had signed a more far-reaching Association Agreement with the EU, which would have led to the creation of a “deep and comprehensive free trade area.” President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial decision in 2013 to make Armenia’s part of the Russian-led bloc precluded such an agreement.
“There is no country that is [simultaneously] part of two free-trade areas,” countered Ashotian. He also said that Armenia has managed to “steer clear of confrontational rhetoric and processes” and to base its foreign policy on the “convergence of interests” of major foreign powers.
President Sarkisian and members of his government have repeatedly said that Armenia’s economy has benefited from the EEU membership. In particular, they have cited double-digit increases in Armenian exports to Russia recorded in 2016 and so far this year.
Yelk holds 9 seats in the 105-member National Assembly.