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Armenia’s policy of seeking a “privileged” relationship with the European Union while remaining part of a Russian-led bloc will strengthen its positions in the region and make it more attractive to investors, France’s ambassador in Yerevan said on Tuesday.

Jonathan Lacote referred to the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the EU and Armenia that was signed in Brussels on November 24.

“The key thing about this agreement is that while being a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) Armenia can also have privileged relations with the EU,” he told a news conference.

“I think that thanks to this agreement Armenia can become a very important actor in the region,” said Lacote. “This is what I realized especially after meeting with French businesspeople in Armenia. Things will get easier for them because Armenia will move closer to European norms with [CEPA-related] reforms initiated by it.”

French companies doing business in Armenia, the diplomat went on, are first and foremost interested in tariff-free access to markets in Russia and other ex-Soviet states making up the EEU. “And if Armenia can offer a secure business environment it will certainly take on the role of a bridge,” he said. “In our view, membership in the two systems strengthens Armenia.”

The French investors include the liquor giant Pernod Ricard, which bought Armenia’s largest brandy company about two decades ago. More than 80 percent of its Armenian subsidiary’s output is exported to Russia.

The CEPA does not provide for a free-trade regime between the EU and Armenia in view of the latter’s membership in the Russian-led trade bloc. Instead, it says, the two sides will seek to ease non-tariff barriers to mutual commerce such as technical regulations and licensing and labelling requirements.

Citing “common values” shared by the two sides, the 350-page accord commits the Armenian government to implementing political reforms and “approximating” national economic laws and regulations to those of the EU. Yerevan will regularly report to Brussels on “the progress made with regard to approximation” specified by several annexes to the agreement. This “regulatory harmonization” will cover business regulation, agriculture, transport, environment, consumer protection and even energy.

Lacote stressed the significance of Yerevan’s reform commitments undertaken as part of the CEPA.

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