Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Armenia-EU Relations Enter a New Phase

Published in Field Reports

By Erik Davtyan (04/15/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The second half of March saw several high level meetings and agreements signed between EU representatives and Armenian authorities. On March 16, the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Wilhelm Molterer and Armenia’s Minister of Finances Gagik Khachatryan signed an agreement, according to which the EIB will lend EUR 10 million to finance the construction of an electricity transmission line and a high voltage direct current station to develop a link between Armenia and Georgia. Georgia plays a crucial role in Armenia’s energy security system; a fact emphasized both by Khachatryan and Molterer. Commenting on new cooperation in the energy sphere, EU Ambassador Traian Hristea said the EU confirms its “willingness … to support the basic needs of Armenian citizens and in particular their access to sustainable energy through efficient electrical networks.” In turn, Armenia’s Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian also welcomed the signing of the agreement.

The next important event in EU-Armenia relations was the 4th session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly (EPA) that took place in Yerevan. On March 18, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Though the representatives of Belarus and Azerbaijan were missing, the EPA “called on Turkey to reconcile with its past.” The Co-Chairperson of the EPA, Heidi Hautala, described the resolution as “a very important decision.” This resolution followed the European Parliament’s March 12 call on the EU states to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Regarding the future of Armenia-EU relations, Hautala stated that the parties are discussing a new bilateral agreement.

The fact that the EPA held its first session in Yerevan was of great importance for Armenia. At the opening ceremony of the EPA session, Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan personally welcomed the parliamentary delegation and called that week a European one, reiterating that while being a part of the Eurasian Economic Union, Armenia will “accommodate the EU’s deep and comprehensive agenda.” The EPA session was attended by the EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn. In his meetings with President Sargsyan, Prime Minister Abrahamian and Foreign Minister Nalbandian, Hahn welcomed the progress in Armenia-EU relations, especially in the context of the Mobility Partnership.

On March 18, President Sargsyan paid a working visit to Belgium, attending the summit of the European People’s Party (EPP). On March 3, the EPP had adopted a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide. During the visit, Sargsyan held several meetings with EU high officials, including the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The third important event in EU-Armenia relations was the 15th session of the Commission for Armenia-European Union Parliamentary Cooperation, held on March 19-20 in Yerevan. On March 20, the Commission adopted a Final Statement, concerning the condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, the future of EU-Armenia relations, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Commission expressed its strong support for the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in the peace regulation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan. During the session, a deputy of Armenia’s National Assembly, Stepan Margaryan said that there is no common position in the South Caucasus regarding international organizations, and that Armenia therefore needs a new agenda for its future relations with the EU. As to the economic aspect of relations, Armenia’s Minister of Economy Karen Chshmaritian emphasized the EU’s role in supporting Armenia’s budgetary and economic policy.

The fact that the Armenian Genocide was on the eve of its 100th anniversary recognized by various European institutions was highly appreciated by all political parties and scientific circles of Armenia. However, politicians and experts have different views regarding the future of Armenia-EU relations. According to the head of the European Integration NGO, Karen Bekaryan, “the stage of uncertainty in Armenia-EU relations is overcome.” He believes that a new agreement will be prepared at the threshold of the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga.

Summarizing the March negotiations, the director of the Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan believes that there is a great possibility that the parties will sign a new document at the Riga summit. According to Iskandaryan, the EU is Armenia’s biggest economic partner and, in any case, bilateral relations will continue. On the other hand, the head of the Modus Vivendi Center, Ara Papian, thinks that considering Armenia’s membership in the EEU, its recent activities towards the EU will not appear as credible to the EU. 

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