Armenia–European Union relations
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Armenia and the European Union have maintained positive relations over the years. An Armenia–EU Association Agreement was called off by Armenia early September 2013, though a revised agreement is still under consideration.
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) (signed in 1996 and in force since 1999) serves as the legal framework for EU-Armenia bilateral relations. Since 2004, Armenia and the other South Caucasus states have been part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, encouraging closer ties between Armenia and the EU. An ENP Action Plan for Armenia was published on 2 March 2005, "highlighting areas in which bilateral cooperation could feasibly and valuably be strengthened." The plan sets "jointly defined priorities in selected areas for the next five years." In November 2005, formal consultations on the Action Plan were opened in Yerevan and as of 2008 are ongoing. However, most scholars and commentators have criticized the effectiveness of the ENP in facilitating reform objectives outlined in the Action Plan, especially in relation to democracy, corruption and civil society engagement. Armenia entered the EU’s Eastern Partnership in 2009.
Armenia and the EU began negotiating an Association Agreement, which might ultimately include a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, to replace their PCA in July 2010. In November 2012, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle stated that the AA negotiations could be finalized by November 2013. The new EU Centre in Armenia, set to become the European Union communication hub, officially opened in central Yerevan on 31 January 2013. On 3 September 2013 Armenia announced their decision to join the EurAsEC Customs Union. According to EU politicians, Armenian membership in the EurAsEC Customs Union would be incompatible with the agreements negotiated with the EU. President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan stated at the 2 October 2013 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe session that Armenia was ready to sign the AA during the November 2013 Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, without the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area component of the agreement that contradicts Armenia's membership in the EurAsEC Customs Union. A spokesperson of EU Commissioner Füle responded a few day later by saying "No Armenia-EU document is being readied to be signed at a Vilnius summit" and “We’re trying to find routes for further cooperation with Armenia, based on the existing achievements”. This was followed by other EU officials who echoed this statement. No AA was ultimately initialled at the summit. In December 2013, the Polish ambassador to Armenia said that the EU and Armenia were discussing a less in-depth bilateral agreement on their relations, and did "not rule out the possibility that it may be an association agreement in a different form". In January 2015 the EU commissioner for European neighbourhood policy and enlargement Johannes Hahn stated that the EU was willing to sign a revised AA without free trade provisions. Negotiations were launched in December 2015.
Although Armenia’s trade with EU states far exceeds that with EurAsEC Customs Union members Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan combined, Armenia is dependent on Russia for security. Armenia's alliance with Russia is seen by Armenia as a counterbalance to Azerbaijan’s sharp hike in military spending (Azerbaijan bought tanks, artillery cannons and rocket launchers worth billions of US dollars from Russia in 2011, 2012 and 2013). This is seen by Armenia as a threat given that the Nagorno-Karabakh War (an armed conflict that took place from 1991 to May 1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan) remains unresolved. Russia (also) has a military presence in Armenia.
A December 2006 public opinion poll in Armenia found that EU membership would be welcomed, with 64% out of a sample of 2,000 being in favour and only 11.8% being against. Another poll conducted in the Armenian capital Yerevan in October 2006 suggested that "as many as 72% of city residents believe, with varying degrees of conviction, that their country's future lies with the EU rather than the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)." Still, more than two-thirds of the country's population believed that Armenia would not be ready to join the EU until at least 2015. A 2007 opinion poll indicated an increase in Armenian EU interest, with 80% of the Armenian public favoring eventual membership.
The 3 September 2013 decision by Armenia to join the EurAsEC Customs Union sparked a series of protests in Yerevan against the action. According to Eurasia Partnership fund director Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan “The [Armenian] public largely supports joining with Russia. Plus they don’t like the EU, which they see as a source of perverted values,” he added “They love Russia, at least insofar as the monster you know is better than one you don’t”.
There is a lot of interest in Armenia eventually joining the European Union, especially among several prominent Armenian politicians and the general public in Armenia. However, former President Robert Kocharyan, has said he will keep Armenia tied to Russia and the CSTO for now, remaining partners, not members of the EU and NATO. It is unclear what position President Serzh Sargsyan will take on the issue.
According to Artur Baghdasarian, head of the Rule of Law party and former speaker of the Azgayin Zhoghov, Armenian membership in the European Union "should be one of the key priorities" of the country's "present and future foreign policy." Baghdasarian believes that "EU membership will open new avenues for Armenia to move to a new geopolitical milieu as well as a new economic environment." He also added that it "will enable Armenia to have access to a completely new security system." EU membership is on the agenda of many political parties in Armenia including the pro-Western Heritage party.
Armenia's former Minister of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanyan reiterated in 2005 that "Armenia is Europe. This is a fact, it's not a response to a question.". Torben Holtze, head of the European Commission's representation in Armenia and Georgia and Ambassador of the European Union with residence in Tbilisi, stated recently: "As a matter of principle, Armenia is a European country and like other European states it has the right to be an EU member provided it meets necessary standards and criteria." On 12 January 2002, the European Parliament noted that Armenia and Georgia may enter the EU in the future.
Hovhannes Hovhannisyan said there is a quite strong opinion in Armenia that the country’s future lies with Europe. “There is no talk about Asia,” he said, adding that Armenian society considers itself European and celebrates its European origins and values. He also said Armenia shares a significant history with Europe because Armenian comes from the same language family as many European languages.
- Council of Europe
- Enlargement of the European Union
- Foreign relations of the European Union
- Future enlargement of the European Union
- Georgia–European Union relations
- Moldova–European Union relations
- Ukraine–European Union relations
- Russia–European Union relations
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