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And-And Vs. Either-Or: Armenia Says EU Free Trade Area, Customs Unio

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  • And-And Vs. Either-Or: Armenia Says EU Free Trade Area, Customs Unio


    ANALYSIS | 28.06.13 | 11:59

    ArmeniaNow correspondent

    Armenia does not yet aim to join the European Union, the matter
    concerns only a Free Trade Area with the EU, said Armenia's Deputy
    Minister of Foreign Affairs Shavarsh Kocharyan on Thursday. He also
    added that Armenia does not aspire to become a member of the Customs
    Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan either.

    The question 'and-and' or 'either-or' has become central to Armenia,
    and Yerevan clearly prefers equidistant cooperation with Russia and
    Europe for now. However, more frequently statements are heard from the
    West about the need to make a choice along the 'either-or' lines. This
    was, in particular, said during the visit of Armenian President Serzh
    Sargsyan to Poland by president of this country Bronislaw Komorowski.

    The Polish leader said that "it is impossible to operate simultaneously
    on two different economic squares."

    While visiting Armenia at the beginning of this year Georgia's Prime
    Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said in one of media interviews that he
    good-naturedly envied the ability of Armenia to follow the path to
    the West while also maintaining good relations with Russia. But it
    can hardly be regarded as Sargsyan's political know-how or a sign of
    wise caution. Rather, it is a necessitated strategy, a sign of weak
    positions and lack of determination.

    In December 2011, when plans for signing an agreement on the
    establishment of a Free Trade Area between Armenia and the EU were
    announced, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, while attending
    a minor forum in St. Petersburg, unexpectedly signed an agreement
    on Armenia's joining the CIS free trade zone. It caused a strong
    reaction in Armenia. After that, it became clear that Moscow will
    do everything possible to torpedo agreements between post-Soviet
    countries and the EU.

    Azerbaijan and Belarus have already been left out of the EU Eastern
    Partnership process. Moldova recently announced that the negotiations
    on the Association Agreement with the EU had been completed and it
    only remained to sign it. But Russia currently inspires protests in
    Moldova over Transdniestria and Gagauzia, where ideas about joining
    the Eurasian Union are being voiced more articulately now.

    There is also an ambiguous situation in Ukraine, which has nearly
    completed preparations for the Association. The Ukrainian opposition
    which has ties with Russia has once again blocked the work of the
    local parliament, which means that Ukraine may not be able to adopt
    the last required documents by the November deadline.

    So far only Georgia has expressed an unequivocal position as this
    is the only country among the six originally engaged for Eastern
    Partnership where a referendum on the choice of the foreign-policy
    course was held. The Georgian people spoke in favor of EU and NATO
    memberships. And recently this position was also confirmed by Georgia's
    prime minister.

    And Armenia in this situation may prove a decisive player that, using
    soccer terminology, will manage to score a goal. The question is for
    which side Armenia will play. If Russia manages to force Armenia to
    abandon its European course, the whole Eastern Partnership may break
    down. And conversely, Armenia's firmness may lead to agreements being
    signed in November.

    The Gallup International Association's Armenian affiliate recently
    conducted an opinion poll according to which 61 percent of respondents
    in Armenia spoke in favor of deeper ties with Russia. The same
    organization conducted a similar survey in 2011 showing the level of
    support for ties with Russia at 75 percent. And in 2009, according
    to surveys, more than 90 percent of respondents in Armenia were
    pro-Russian. This means that in Armenia fewer and fewer people see
    their future in the revived Soviet Union, which Russian President
    Vladimir Putin is trying to make a reality.