BRUSSELS (RFE/RL)—Armenia has to specify the implications of its upcoming accession to a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states before it can negotiate new major agreements with the European Union, a senior official in Brussels said on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said the Armenian government has yet to detail its “new obligations stemming from membership in the Customs Union” of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The EU needs to see to what extent those obligations can “influence or limit our cooperation in certain areas where there might be issues of legal compatibility,” he said.
“For a broad and new definition or re-definition of our relations we really need to have a complete overview and idea from the Armenian side as to what they can do in the new circumstances created by Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union. This we haven’t received so far,” the official, Peter Stano, told RFE/RL in Brussels.
“We are not putting any deadlines and whenever our [Armenian] partners are ready to give us ideas on how they want to proceed with us we will be ready to respond,” he said.
Armenia was on track to sign a far-reaching Association Agreement with the EU until President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided in August 2013 to join the Russian-led bloc currently transformed into the Eurasian Economic Union. The EU responded by abandoning the planned agreement, saying that its key free trade-related provisions are “not compatible” with membership in the union.
The Armenian government has since been trying to get the EU to sign a significantly watered-down version of the scrapped accord. French President Francois Hollande is the only European leader to have publicly backed the idea so far. “Europe must accept an agreement on association with Armenia, and Armenia can go [ahead] with a trade and commercial union with Russia,” Hollande said during a May 2014 visit to Yerevan.
“There is mutual commitment from both sides to continue to further develop our cooperation in a comprehensive way in the framework of the Eastern Partnership,” Stano told RFE/RL. “This is what we are preparing to do.”
“We need to put our relations on a new basis,” added the EU official. “This basis needs to be defined by us after we really receive a comprehensive idea and view from our Armenian partners on how they want to proceed based on the new obligations stemming from the Customs Union membership.”
Sarkisian hopes to sign an accession treaty with the Eurasian Union’s three member states at a summit slated for October 10. Its signing is still not a forgone conclusion due to apparent objections voiced by Kazakhstan and Belarus.