New Approach?: Armenia Eager To See Change In EU’s ‘tough Position’

NEW APPROACH?: ARMENIA EAGER TO SEE CHANGE IN EU’S ‘TOUGH POSITION’ AFTER HOLLANDE REMARKS

Analysis | 16.05.14 | 10:27

By Naira Hayrumyan
ArmeniaNow correspondent

During his visit to Yerevan earlier this week, French President
Francois Hollande said that France would like to see a full-fledged
European Union-Armenia Association, but he believes that the mechanism
of cooperation to be elaborated should not be contrary to Armenia’s
membership in the Russian-led Customs Union. At the same time,
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan stated that he expects “special
offers” for Armenia from Europe.

In Armenia, the French president’s statement was construed as a sign
of change in the tough position of Europe, whose representatives,
after Armenia’s announcement on September 3, 2013 about its intention
to join the Customs Union, in fact, said that the way for the South
Caucasus country to Europe had been closed. Cooperation indeed was
minimized and the principle of “either-or” was maintained.

However, further cooperation between Armenia and the EU apparently
depends on several factors. In particular, Polish Ambassador to Armenia
Zdzislaw Raczynski suggests waiting for Armenia’s joining the Eurasian
Union and then adjusting the relations with the EU. On the one hand,
entry into the Eurasian Union will, indeed, outline the framework
within which cooperation is possible. But on the other hand, this
entry is still under a big question mark. In particular, the question
of the status of Karabakh in the future Eurasian Union has become more
topical. One of the Eurasian officials said that customs check points
will be set up between Armenia and Karabakh, but the spokesman for the
ruling Republican Party of Armenia Eduard Sharmazanov categorically
denied the possibility of establishing such checkpoints.

Ambassador Traian Hristea, head of the EU Delegation to Armenia,
conditions Armenia’s future relations with the EU by the forthcoming
elections to the European Parliament. “It is difficult to say what
will happen then. The future configuration will become clear after the
elections to the European Parliament,” said Hristea, in fact confirming
that Europe has not yet developed an approach towards Armenia.

Armenia, apparently, is going to maintain the grant projects of
cooperation with the EU, which are connected with reforms of the
state. Sargsyan stressed that Armenia will continue to deepen relations
with the EU, “because they give the country an opportunity to return
to its roots and implement reforms at a rapid pace.” It is difficult
to say whether Europe will agree to give money to reform the state
structure of a country that is a member of the Eurasian Union.

However, the statement by Hollande has become an ideological weapon
in the hands of the Armenian ruling party, which from the outset has
insisted on the “and-and” policy balancing between Russia and the
EU, while European politicians have insisted on Armenia’s making a
clear choice.

Armenia’s Minister of Education and Science, deputy chairman of the
Republican Party Armen Ashotyan says: “Some of our partners argued
that it was an unrealistic position and four years of negotiations
with the EU had sunk into oblivion. But it was not long before Europe
realized that by way of confrontation between the countries of Eastern
Partnership and Russia it is impossible to build a prosperous European
space. In order to understand all this, one should have passed through
a series of Ukrainian events. But it is good that European politicians
speak about what they did not speak about before. France is a major
partner of Armenia on the way towards European integration.”

Meanwhile, relations between Armenia and the West are not interrupted.

The EU continues its financial assistance to Armenia. On May 14,
through the Neighborhood Investment Facility, the EU allocated a grant
of â~B¬15 million under the Rural Infrastructures Program agreement. In
its turn, the Armenian side reaffirmed to Germany, which is the
commanding country of the ISAF Northern Command, its commitment to
participate in the “Decisive Support” mission in Afghanistan in 2015.

http://armenianow.com/commentary/analysis/54425/armenia_european_association_agreement

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