YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Negotiations on a new treaty between the European Union and Armenia will likely progress rapidly after they are formally authorized by the EU member states later this year, according to a senior European diplomat.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Traian Hristea, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, confirmed that the bloc’s executive body, the European Commission, hopes to receive a “mandate” for the talks at next month’s EU summit in Latvia’s capital Riga.
The talks will center on a deal that will serve as a less ambitious alternative to a planned Association Agreement which was cancelled by the EU after Armenia’s abrupt decision in 2013 to join a Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states. Armenian and EU officials completed last month a “scoping exercise” aimed at identifying concrete areas of closer ties to be covered by the deal. The European Commission is now due to present its results to the 28 member states.
“If the mandate to negotiate will be ready by Riga, all the more better,” said Hristea. “In any case, the Riga summit will somehow take note of our achievements and our better understanding of how to proceed further.”
“After we receive the mandate from the member states, of course we will engage in negotiations,” he went on. “I not only hope but also believe that these negotiations should not last forever because actually we already agreed in Vilnius [in 2013] that we should use to the maximum what we already negotiated in the Association Agreement.”
“So I hope that as soon as we have the mandate we can make very fast progress. The Commission will be very much determined to have this done as soon as possible,” stressed the diplomat.
European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn discussed the matter with Armenian leaders when he visited Yerevan on March 18. The visit coincided with a session in the Armenian capital of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, a body bringing together lawmakers from the EU and ex-Soviet republics involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.
Addressing the Euronest, President Serzh Sarkisian reiterated that Armenia remains committed to forging closer links with the EU despite its recent accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). “We act on the premise that it is possible to combine Armenia’s membership in the EEU … with a deep and extensive agenda with the EU,” he said.
Hristea said the Euronest meeting and Hahn’s visit underlined the seriousness of Yerevan’s European integration drive. “In all these discussions we were actually witnessing a willingness and commitment to engage with the European Union up to the level of new internationally assumed commitments by Armenia,” he said.