Armenia’s landmark agreement with the European Union signed last week will not complicate or damage its close political and economic relations with Russia, senior Armenian officials reiterated on Friday.
Parliament speaker Ara Babloyan and senior government officials stressed the significance of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) during parliamentary hearings aimed at increasing public awareness of the deal. Senior European diplomats based in Yerevan also attended and spoke at the hearings.
“We do not aim to build and strengthen those relations [with the EU] at the expense of our cooperation with any other country or structure,” said Babloyan. “Armenia has never followed the path of pitting the interests of its partners, let alone friends, against each other.”
“We are an integral part of both the Eurasian space and Europe, and we cannot stay away from Eurasian and pan-European processes,” he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Vache Gabrielian described the deal with the EU as a “big achievement” for Armenia, saying that it will contribute to the country’s democratization and economic development. It is also “compatible” with Armenia’s international obligations, he said in a clear reference to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
“This compatibility allows us to develop relations both within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union and in terms of deeper cooperation with Europe,” Gabrielian told the hearings.
The CEPA commits the Armenian government to implementing political reforms and “approximating” national economic laws and regulations to those of the EU. This “regulatory harmonization” will cover business regulation, agriculture, transport, environment, consumer protection and even energy.
The 350-page document does not contain far-reaching free trade-related provisions, unlike an Association Agreement that was negotiated by Armenian and EU officials in the summer of 2013. That deal fell through after the Armenian leadership opted to join a Russian-led trade bloc, a move widely attributed to Russian pressure.
Russia’s ambassador to Armenia admitted last week that CEPA provisions do not run counter to Yerevan’s EEU membership commitments. For her part, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that Moscow “respects” its South Caucasus ally’s desire to deepen ties with the EU.
Even so, Russian commentators have denounced the EU-Armenia accord in talk shows aired by Russia’s leading state-controlled TV channels in recent days. Senior representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia rejected the harsh criticism.