A senior European Union diplomat has expressed hope that the EU will start “soon” formal negotiations with Armenia on lifting its visa requirements for Armenian citizens.
EU leaders pledged to launch a “visa liberalization dialogue” with Yerevan at their Eastern Partnership summit with Armenia and five other former Soviet republics held in Brussels more than two years ago. The pledge followed the signing of a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the EU and Armenia.
Both the current and former Armenian governments have since pressed the 27-nation bloc to set a date for the start of the dialogue.
Andrea Wiktorin, the head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, said late on Thursday that the European Commission acknowledges the Armenian authorities’ implementation of a 2013 agreement on “readmission” of Armenian illegal migrants seeking asylum in Europe.
“The Commission sees a possibility of starting such a dialogue,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But this is a decision that has to be made by all EU member states. We hope that we will soon reach the point where the member states agree to start the dialogue.”
Wiktorin cautioned at the same time that “several” European countries still have concerns about the large number of Armenian asylum seekers on their soil. “The challenge is to convince these EU member states,” she said.
Citing the “example of other countries,” the diplomat also said that visa liberalization dialogue could take “years” of preparation.
Tens of thousands of Armenians have emigrated to Europe for mainly economic reasons since the early 1990s. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated in September that the number of such migrants has fallen considerably since the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that brought him to power.
Pashinian cited official EU statistics showing that there were 1,815 first-time Armenian asylum applicants in the EU in the first half of 2019, down from 2,475 in the same period of 2018. The number of Armenia asylum seeks stood at 3,250 in the first half of 2017.