The St. Petersburg Times, Russia
Jan 3 2015

Armenia Joins Russian-Led Eurasian Economic Union

The St. Petersburg Times
Published: January 3, 2015 (Issue # 1843)

Armenia officially joined the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) on Friday,
banding together with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in a Russian-led
project meant to counterbalance the European Union.

As part of a deal signed last October, Armenia will have limited
representation in the organization until the end of 2015. Three
Armenian members will share one vote in the union's governing body,
the Eurasian Economic Commission, TASS news agency reported Friday.

Kyrgyzstan is also set to join the union on May 1.

Armenia's entry into the EEU means it will have to gradually
transition to a unified tariff system with the union's other members,
with 2022 set as the deadline for the full transition, TASS reported.

The country will have to negotiate with the World Trade Organization,
of which it is a member, on its changing obligations in light of its
new membership with the economic bloc of former Soviet republics.

The Armenian government had been set to clinch a free-trade deal with
the EU until, following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin,
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in 2013 abruptly decided to switch
to the Russian-led Customs Union, a precursor to the EEU.

Trade economist Alexander Knobel told The St. Petersburg Times
previously that Armenia turned away from European integration after
Russia offered it the budget price of $170 to $180 per 1,000 cubic
meters on its all-important natural gas imports.

The Armenian economy is heavily dependent on Russia, the country's
largest foreign investor and trade partner as well as the source of
vital remittances sent home to Armenia by migrant workers.

Armenia has also cultivated a close political relationship with Russia
in order to secure itself against neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been entangled in a territorial dispute
over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding districts for
decades, with both Turkey and Azerbaijan erecting economic blockades
against Armenia in response to its occupation of the area.