POLISH AMBASSADOR TO ARMENIA ZDISLAV RACHINSKI: "DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE CUSTOMS UNION DOCUMENT LOOKS LIKE?"

October 30 2013

This question was addressed by the Polish Ambassador to Armenia Zdislav
Rachinski, assuring that having the EU Association Agreement did not
assume impossibility of having a free trade zone with the CU.

- Mr. Ambassador, some Armenian political figures have expressed an
opinion that as if Poland and Sweden are not the best companions or
moderators in the EU policy towards the former Soviet Union countries,
allegedly due to anti-Russian orientation. What is your opinion on
these charges? For example, recently, the former Ambassador to Armenia
Vyacheslav Kovalenko said that RF should form a 'pro-Russian elite'
in Armenia; he believes that the West does a lot in formation of
anti-Russian sentiments, and RF should oppose something to it.

Wouldn't it be right for other EU countries to lead the Eastern
Partnership process? - Eastern Partnership program, which conditionally
can be called EPP plus European Neighborhood Program (ENP), is the
common, joint policy of EU 28 member countries. Poland and Sweden,
with their initiative of the Eastern Partnership, added the value by
adding to it, which qualitatively is different from the ENP and EPP,
and which opens new opportunities and prospects to the New Eastern
European countries, which was formerly missing with other countries
collaborating with the EU. Apparently, it was not accidental that
the EPP emerged after Sweden and Poland became members of the EU,
by enriching the European democratic community with their knowledge
of Eastern Europe, with the vision of their historical commitment
and solidarity. As for anti-Russian imaginary claims, if any...,
in my opinion, they emerge as a result of lack of knowledge, which
certainly is not commendable, but it is possible to correct it. And
the facts about my country are as follows: Poland as an EU country
after Germany, Italy and the Netherlands is the fourth largest country
in turnover rates with the RF. Poland is the only country in the
Schengen area, where Russian citizens can visit without a visa. Along
with Germany and France, Poland has the infrastructure of the most
branched institutes with RF in the EU. There is even such a slight,
but quite eloquent fact that Poland is the only EU and NATO country
where the RF Foreign Minister attended the meeting of ambassadors as
an honored invitee. What anti-Russian are you talking about?... I
do not want to think that those who claim about Polish imaginary
anti-Russian, are doing this with insidious intention, though, of
course, such speculations, obviously, do not revive from the interests
of Poland and, not to speak about the interests of development of
Polish-Russian constructive relations. Of course, I do not want to
think that Poland is blamed in anti-Russian activities for the fact
that we have consistently and disinterestedly supported to the right
of free choice and independence of other countries, to aspirations
of the peoples of new Eastern Europe to live in democracy and welfare
conditions, to become developed with their own vision to the perception
of the world and the future of the region. Like during the communism,
Poland's democratic forces were not accepting Brezhnev's Doctrine,
so as today's Poland does not recognize and accept the policy of
the canon-eternal territories. - However, it leaves the impression
that a very tough battle is going for the South Caucasus between the
West and RF, don't you agree? - I would not use the word "battle",
perhaps, a competition of different value systems, of different
systems of integration. There are certain indicators of values. Some
believe that it is better to develop in authoritarian regimes, in
the presence of centralized economy, at least a strong centralized
authority and charismatic leader. At the same time, successful example
of modernization and development of Singapore is mentioned. There is
another system, according to which, to quote RF President "freedom is
better than non-freedom", "choice is better than the lack of choice."

Everything that has emerged in the European continent, starting from
ancient Greece to modern EU, has not been created in one day, it has
been tested for centuries with its mistakes, and, good or bad, it is
operating in current social and state models. All of this we call the
European value system. This system functions, although sometimes there
are difficulties. What we call European values, these are not only
democracy, free elections, priority of law and the institutions of
the enforcement thereof, but the first of all fundamental importance
of the right of the person, the individual. Accordingly, of course,
I disagree when this is denied, it is simply a consequence of lack
of knowledge or intent. Yes, I can agree with you that there is not
a battle, but a contest between these two values systems, yes, it
is true. Any people can make a choice on how they want to live. We
recommend what has worked effectively. Recently you have traveled to
Poland and have seen what today's Poland looks like. If you were in
Poland twenty years ago, you would have felt the difference. It is
obvious. Despite all the difficulties that are there, and everyone
has, the progress is obvious, and I do not mean only well-being,
but also institutional, infrastructure development, civil society,
mass media freedom. Therefore, when Poles and Czech say that you
can achieve all this, they are not just words, but a belief by own
example that all of that can be really achieved. Therefore, it is not
accidental that my very country puts forward the Eastern Partnership
program with Sweden. There was nothing as such before, and I dare to
conclude that, if not the Polish-Swedish initiative, in addition to
the Neighborhood project, no other initiative would be generated. -
Mr. Rachinski, the authorities announced that the Association Agreement
between Armenia and the EU is still pending. This was stated by Deputy
Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan a few days ago.

He also noted that the official Yerevan is working on "legally
renovating" the document. Do you know what work is being done,
and what it is about? - My country's position for Armenia and the
EU is clear, open and permanent. Poland supports the nearest and
closest relations of Armenia with EU, which will have such a form
and legal basis, which Armenian wants and can have. Of course, from
our perspective, the optimal solution for Armenia, which has an open
and liberal economy, which has achieved a lot and has successfully
completed the negotiations with the EU regarding enhancement of free
trade and prospects on establishment of EU Association Agreement
and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, would be to develop
the economy and modernize the country within the framework of EU
Association. Poland employed its authority and put forth much effort
to convince its EU partners to make this approaches acceptable. But,
as far as Armenia decided to choose a different model of integration,
we fully respect Armenia's freedom of choice, and we will seek other
remedies and decisions with other EU countries and the European
Commission, who will respond everything that we've accomplished,
and will find new legal framework for closer cooperation between
Armenia and the EU. As to how the new agreement will be called, the
question remains open; it can be called an Association Agreement. It
is not the name of the agreement that is important, but the content,
and to ensure that it meets the aspirations of the people of Armenia
and the authorities, who want to see them in the EU Association. In
other words, not a blank document, but rather a tool, a road map, if
you like, for transformation and modernization of the country. Here's
what is the main. Due to known technical and legal reasons, currently
the Association Agreement and DCFTA agreed between Armenia-EU can not
be adopted in July. It has been two years since I am celebrating the
incompatibility of two different regulatory systems, the Association
Agreement and DCFTA with the Customs Union in the conditions that
they exist today. And, I do not understand why documentation of this
obvious fact sometimes irritates people. But what is impossible today,
could be possible tomorrow... As for how the document will be called:
updated and modernized, ultimately, it is important that the concept
may have different contents. EU Association Agreements have been
signed with various countries, particularly with the countries
of North Africa, but they are completely different association
processes, they do not have similar economic component, nor include
the issue of visa facilitation. What was and, I think, is still
in negotiations with Armenia, was a different matter, since the EU
Association Agreement and DCFTA with Armenia had already been agreed,
and the negotiations were completed. In other words, it was already
a road map for creation of a common economic area, which was not,
for instances, with Morocco, with which the EU is just beginning
to negotiate on free trade are. Meanwhile, for Armenia and other
countries, it was immediately suggested. Armenia and other countries
of the Eastern Partnership are the EU European neighborhood countries,
which are geographically and culturally closer to the EU countries,
therefore, such a high degree of integration was offered to them. If
you cut off the economic section of the agreement, the solid part of
the political section remains without this path. Armenia has always
said that the EU Association Agreement for Armenia is the path of
country's modernization. And, now, to be honest, it is not so clear for
me how the process should proceed. And, the fact that the Association
Agreement remains on the agenda, I share this opinion because neither
Armenia nor the EU will not go to anywhere, they will continue to be
neighbors, and a platform of joint actions should be created around
cooperation. How deep this agreement should be modernized, it will
depend on Armenia, because we do not know what obligations Armenia
will assume, declaring that it is ready to join the Customs Union. To
the point, association with EU in no case assumes impossibility of
having a free trade area with the Customs Union. And the contrary,
as President Putin directly noted in Minsk, was impossible. EU does
not say that it is impossible to be associated with the EU and at the
same time to have free trade relations with the CIS countries. We
say that it is not possible to combine the two regulatory regimes,
there are such taxes and customs here, different ones over there,
such traffic rules here, different ones over there, in short, it is
technically impossible to combine. - And how do you feel about the
calls, to publicize the text of the Association Agreement, taking into
account the fact that quite speculations were voiced. For example,
it was said that RF is not against the EU-Armenia cooperation, but
it was against Armenia's conceding a part of its sovereignty to EU
by signing this agreement. Mr. Ambassador, was there such a danger,
if Armenia had accepted the Association Agreement? - You know, they
are really speculations, which are aimed at sowing seeds of suspicion
outdated in something for which there are no bases at all. First,
let's start with the technical issues of the problem: publication of
the agreement.

Armenia-EU Association Agreement will be made public after initialing.

Why not earlier?... Because almost a year would pass from initialing
to signing, and meanwhile the public would get to know and express
opinion. To the point, the initialing document was still not the
main text, but it was still undergoing changes, the development was
underway, and based on that logic, every day new changes were to
be published until initialing, which would be meaningless. As for
the content of the agreement, it is not a geopolitical agreement
about Nagorno- Karabakh, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, but just a
regulatory economic agreement on how to make free trade, and what are
the prospects for future EU-Armenia relations. As for the aforesaid
speculation, fortunately or unfortunately, are not generally touched
upon. The Agreement did not also contain clauses on conducting joint
flights to the space, as well as about capturing the Antarctic. On the
other hand, do you know what the document on Customs Union is about?...

Was it published?... - Some Russian experts have voiced the opinion
that the Customs Union does not need Armenia, but they are sure that
Armenia announced joining the CU under the pressure of Russia. What do
you think, why did Armenia made this step, anyhow, were there pressures
towards the Armenian side? - There are two opinions: In his speech at
the European Parliament, Mr. Fule definitely spoke against the pressure
of third countries on the Eastern Partnership member countries,
compelling them to make this-or-that decision. Armenia's authorities
have officially stated that there has not been any pressure. This
is what we perceived. Based on this statement, I acknowledge that
Armenia has made its decision by pondering and not impromptu, it
was an agenda item and a subject of negotiations for a long time
that everything was calculated, and that the decision will provide a
real benefit to Armenia, above all, economic advantages. I'm talking
about the economic aspects since Armenia is regulating the security
issues in the framework of CSTO and bilateral agreements. I do not
know any other calculations, but I am aware of our experts' studies,
according to which the adoption of the EU Association Agreement
with Armenia would result in total increase of Armenia's produce,
in annual growth of GDP by two to three per cent, in other words,
around 150 million euros per year. But the most important thing that
my Armenian colleagues were assuring is the provision of the road
of rapid modernization of the country through the EU Association
Agreement, which can not be measured by numerical indexes, but in
terms of historical perspective, it was obvious. The EU is a unique
organization. It is not only the world's most powerful economic union,
but also a mechanism of cooperation of countries in all various
areas in the earlier history. Despite the available problems, it is
a working mechanism. Three countries, as of today, constitute part
of the Customs Union: Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. Of course, it
is difficult to assess the level of democracy in these countries,
because I do not work in those countries, but I dare to say that
this level is not higher than in EU countries. I also think that the
internal problems with regard to the development of the society are
better regulated in EU countries than in CU member countries. When
choosing this-or-that direction, we make the choice not only in
today's economic interests, but between development prospects. You
know, it's quite risky to make a decision on joining the EU, I do not
hide it, because it requires tremendous efforts within the country,
determination and vision. It might be safer to stay where there are.

But, one who achieves new heights, moves on. Accordingly, it's
not an easy choice. From psychological point of view, I realize the
frustration by the society because there were some hopes, expectations
over there, but the historical process is not counted in months,
it's a longer process, and, indeed, everything is still pending.

EMMA GABRIELYAN

Read more at: http://en.aravot.am/2013/10/30/162273/



From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress