Armenia-EU: Calm before the storm?

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Armenia-EU: Calm before the storm?

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan plans to sign the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU) at the Eastern Partnership summit on November 24. And if earlier there were fears that the resolution on the results of the summit, the second point of which says that the summit member-states support the territorial integrity of Eastern Partnership states, could cause scandal that which will turn out badly for Armenia, then on the eve of the summit they no longer bring up this topic.

The Zhoghovurd newspaper writes that the EU is ready to sign the agreement: "The head of the EU delegation in Armenia, Ambassador Petr Svitalsky noted that there are no technical obstacles to signing the agreement. The fear of non-signing of the agreement arose after the text of the document was published, when some said that the signing may be delayed due to technical problems, in particular, several EU member states did not manage to translate the document on cooperation. But it turns out that there are no problems."

Petr Svitalsky

At the same time, Zhamanak newspaper writes that the declaration of the summit was locked in a stalemate because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: "Yerevan and Baku have not yet agreed on the wordings linked to the conflict, while the rest of the document was fully coordinated. The ambassadors of all 28 EU member states agreed on the declaration, except for one paragraph that deals with regional conflicts. EU member states have missed this part, as Armenia and Azerbaijan want to include in the text the wordings on Nagorno- Karabakh, which are at odds with each other. In fact, the declaration is ready, but Armenia and Azerbaijan are still struggling over wordings concerning Karabakh. Brussels is very concerned about it. The issue can turn into a drama: it is possible that Sargsyan and Aliyev will refuse signing the document due to the wordings on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or negotiations on it," Radio Liberty reports.

According to Russian political scientists, signing the agreement does not mean Armenia joining the European Union. Rather, it has a loud propaganda effect that overstates the expectations of a part of the Armenian elite. As for real consequences for the republic's economic development, they will not be significant. But a potentially dangerous item about the closure of the Armenian NPP is quite real. And considering the fact that the station provides about 40% of the country's electricity, this requirement of the EU can significantly undermine the energy balance of Armenia and the country's economy as a whole, Sputnik Armenia writes. "The EU acts quite consistently and aggressively. Its desire to tear Armenia away from Russia is obvious, but it requires resources. What can it offer in return and will the Armenian side be able to defend its national and economic interests? An excessive interest in the West will not give the advantages, which are expected by the local population.

Even Armenian political scientists are skeptical about the possible effect of signing the document. For example, Stepan Safaryan suggested that sooner or later a partnership agreement between Armenia and the EU will be sign, but one should not expect from it any effects in the short term. "In the best case we will see them in the medium and long term," the political scientist noted.

The head of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation Stepan Grigoryan also does not plan to make any projections. He suggested that the official statements of Yerevan and Brussels on this issue should be enough for now, although he expressed confidence that, despite some controversial issues, the Armenian authorities will sign an agreement with the EU".

Yerevan planned to sign the Association and Free-Trade Agreements with the EU agreements within the framework of the Eastern Partnership program, which provides for association with the EU, back in November 2013 at the Vilnius summit of the Eastern Partnership. However, two months before it, Armenia announced its intention to join the Customs Union and participate in Eurasian integration, and then in January 2015 the country joined the Eurasian Economic Union. At the Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Luxembourg on October 12, 2015, the EU Council authorized the European Commission to start negotiations on a new comprehensive agreement with Armenia, which will replace the current agreement on partnership and cooperation between the EU and the republic.