MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—Armenia will formally join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) one day after the Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states starts functioning on January 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at an EEU summit in Moscow on Tuesday.
“Two months ago we signed in Minsk the treaty on Armenia’s accession to the union,” Putin said in his opening remarks at meeting publicized by the Kremlin. “The procedures for its ratification [by the parliaments of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan] are complete. So Armenia will become a full-fledged member of our grouping on January 2.”
“We are convinced that Armenia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s membership in the Eurasian Union corresponds to the fundamental national interests of these countries and opens up broad horizons for their socioeconomic development,” Putin told a joint news conference with his EEU counterparts, including President Serzh Sarkisian, held after the gathering.
“I can only thank the heads of state from the Eurasian Economic Union for their support for Armenia’s accession,” Sarkisian said for his part, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. He praised the EEU’s Moscow-based executive body and relevant government agencies for their “enormous work” done over the past year.
Sarkisian has repeatedly defended his controversial decision last year to seek membership in the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan transformed into the more closely-knit EEU. He has said that it will speed up Armenia’s economic growth by facilitating local manufacturers’ access to a vast ex-Soviet market. Sarkisian has also described national security considerations as another reason for his decision widely attributed to strong Russian pressure.
The Armenian president and his political allies have also dismissed critics’ claims that EEU membership will put Armenia’s national independence at risk.
Putin made a similar point at the EEU summit. “[The EEU] is based on the principles of equality, trust, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests,” he said. “Its participants are not renouncing their state sovereignty and are retaining their national identity.”
Putin further claimed that the new union will give “additional impetus” to economic growth in its member states. “The union will become a powerful center of growth in the entire region,” he said.