The Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations on Wednesday formally objected to the opposition Yelk alliance’s calls for Armenia’s withdrawal from the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
A parliamentary declaration drafted by the pro-Western alliance says 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 National Assembly when it was first circulated in September.
Nevertheless, Yelk continued to press for a full-fledged parliamentary debate on the issue. The parliament committee, dominated by pro-government lawmakers, discussed and overwhelmingly voted to give a negative assessment of the Yelk motion.
“This issue will not be on Armenia’s political agenda as long the Republican Party (HHK) and its coalition partner [Dashnaktsutyun] are in power. Namely, at least until 2022,” Armen Ashotian, the committee chairman, said just before the vote.
Ashotian insisted that membership in the EEU stems from Armenia’s national interests even if it has not yet lived up to the country’s economic expectations. An exit from the bloc would only harm the country, he said.
For their part, Yelk lawmakers reiterated their arguments against EEU membership. One of them, Edmon Marukian, claimed that the Armenian economy has not only not benefited from it but will also suffer from higher uniform import duties of EEU member states.
Marukian said that Yerevan should not only leave the trade bloc of five ex-Soviet states but also seek an Association Agreement with the European Union. In that regard, another Yelk leader, Nikol Pashinian, downplayed the significance of a less far-reaching accord which Armenia signed with the EU last week.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, disagreed, saying that Armenia can capitalize on the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). “There has emerged a new situation where Armenia can use opportunities and gain new resources for development,” he said.
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. Marukian admitted that the parliament committee vote means it will most probably fail to include the issue on the National Assembly agenda next week.