Armenia's membership in EAEU: reality and emotions

Susanna Petrosyan, Yerevan. Exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Armenia's membership in EAEU: reality and emotions

The topic of Armenia's membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) became more relevant on the background of growing role of the government in connection with upcoming transition to the parliamentary form of government in April of 2018. Some pro-Western experts and politicians continue to say that the country chose a wrong path of development, which, in their opinion, caused the relations between Armenia and the EU to stagnate, as well as made economic indicators worse. According to economist Ashot Yegiazaryan, right now the country has reached a dead end, since the EAEU has no integration potential. There are also forces in Armenia, for example a small pro-Western party called "Free Democrats", who urge Armenia to withdraw from the EAEU and follow the European path of development.

However, statistical data shows that Armenia's membership in the EAEU contributes to the economic growth. In 2016, export from Armenia to the EAEU rose by 50.4% (to $418 million), while export from Armenia to Russia, mainly consisting of agricultural and food products, increased by 64.2% (from $226 to $371 million). Trade turnover between the two countries grew by more than 10%. According to economist Ashot Tevikyan, this data is encouraging and suggests that there are a lot of prospects for further growth of Armenia's export potential in the EAEU. In addition, the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), which operates in the framework of the EAEU, participates in the financing of such important projects as the construction of a new bloc of the Yerevan Thermal Power Plant, as well as in the construction of the North-South transport corridor in Armenia. Bank's credit investments in Armenia reach $515 million. Interest rate of the approved loans is around 1.5-2.1%.

Of course, there are some problems. There are certain difficulties regarding Armenian labor migrants, some Armenian companies still have problems in the Russian market. Many experts are also concerned that Armenia's export to Russia mostly consists of agricultural products, while it is necessary to pay attention to the development of high-tech industry.

However, it is obvious that there are more positive moments than negative ones. So it can be said that economic indicators of Armenia's membership in the EAEU show real results in contrast to the emotional approaches of those who doubt the necessety of accession to the EAEU. 

Some experts and media are also concerned about the signing of the framework agreement on comprehensive and expanded partnership between the EU and Armenia, expected at the summit of the Eastern Partnership in November. The assertions that Russia will put pressure on the Armenian leadership in order to prevent the signing of a framework agreement with the EU, just like in 2013, at the heart of this emotional campaign. Meanwhile, according to deputy director of the "Caucasus" institute, Sergey Minasyan, current agreement can be considered a lighter version of the Association Agreement with the EU and the document on a comprehensive free trade zone that Armenia was asked to sign in 2013. The biggest difference is that previous document gave Armenia a "system of preferences".

It is extremely unlikely that Moscow will somehow hinder the signing. Current agreement is tied to Armenia's obligations before the EAEU by mutual agreement of the parties. It was noted in the final declaration of the Riga Eastern Partnership summit in 2015 that Armenia is ready to cooperate with the EU in those areas that do not contradict its EAEU obligations.