Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
by Gayane Isahakyan
Armenian parliamentarian from the Armenian National Congress Faction, ex-Prime Minister of Armenia Hrant Bagratyan thinks that the issue of Armenia's accession to the Customs Union should be put to a referendum.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Bagratyan said that a referendum is the only way to legitimize the decision on Armenia's accession to the Customs Union.
He thinks that if Armenia has not launched the Association Agreement negotiations with the Europe, it would not have to join the Customs Union now. "It is not profitable for Armenia to join the Customs Union, because the development prospects in the Customs Union are limited. The country will no longer be able to evade membership of the Customs Union, but it has a chance to reduce the negative consequences. Armenia should first of all point out that it must have the current customs duties within the next 5-7 years after joining the Customs Union", said Bagratyan.
Secondly, the negative effect of membership of energy exporters and importers should be neutralized. "Two of the three Customs Union member countries are big exporters of energy resources and one country is an importer. The conflict of interests is inevitable. We shouldn't bury our heads in the sand - the problem of a fourfold rise in energy tariffs will also affect us", he stressed.
The third problem Armenia may face within the next few years is creation of a ruble zone. "The Customs Union envisages a ruble zone, and the location of the energy importers and exporters in the same currency zone leads to an economic crisis", he said. He thinks that Armenia enters a hard phase of serious work with Russia, but the incumbent authorities are absolutely unready for that phase.
The MP recalled that during the Feb 2013 presidential elections he was the only candidate to say that Armenia should join neither the Customs Union nor the European Union. "I have repeatedly said that if Armenia strives to become an associate member of the EU, it will be forced to join the Customs Union, because Armenia's security depends on Russia", stressed Bagratyan. He thinks that Armenia should have told Europe in advance that there is a Russian military base in Armenia and that the signing of the Association Agreement would cause Russia's anger.
To recall, on September 3 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan expressed Armenia's decision to join the Customs Union and contribute to the formation of the Eurasian economic union. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his willingness to contribute to Armenia's accession to the Customs Union in every possible way.