by Yerevan press club
For about four years Armenia was engaged in negotiations around the Association Agreement with the European Union which can be considered as one of the most successful negotiation rounds in the history of the modern Armenian diplomacy. To a certain extent these negotiations contradict the generally accepted notion that EU maintains a harsh dialogue with all those seeking rapprochement with the European community. On most of the provisions that could potentially cause “discomfort” for Yerevan and create obstacles for the fulfillment of its obligations, the Armenian side managed to bargain fairly flexible formulations.
It is these sections of the Agreement which became the subject of the most active manipulation on part of opponents (explicit and implicit) of the Association Agreement. Notably, there were speculations that the new level of relations with the EU will restrain Armenia's cooperation with its strategic ally Russia. Artificial formulas of "either-or", "no-no", "and-and" were put into circulation for the purposes of propaganda. As a prove of the "either-or" principle, allegedly imposed by the European Union, the statements of some EU officials about the incompatibility of the Association Agreement and membership in the Customs Union (CU) were brought. And this interpretation from time to time was supported by representatives of RA authorities insisting that they have always been proponents of the "and-and" formula and that they were surprised with the announced incompatibility of the two integration projects. In fact, Armenian political elites and the media controlled by them were playing naive. In reality though, the Association Agreement with the EU, including the integration into the free trade zone, in no way restrained Yerevan from engaging in SYMETRIC integration schemes. Armenia could join other free trade zones, including conclusion of similar agreements with Russia and other former Soviet countries. In this regard, the Association Agreement allowed for the realization of the “and-and” formula at its best. Whereas the Customs Union prohibits engagement in other integration processes with its protectionist mechanisms, imposing the formula of “or-or” on its members.
Armenian community was forced upon the idea that, say, "it is impossible to be in one security system (meaning the membership of RA in the Collective Security Treaty Organization- Auth.), and be economically integrated into an alternative system at the same time." First, Armenia was not to be integrated into an “alternative” system; RA would retain the freedom to maintain relations similar to the scheme of EU’s economic relations with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, as it is mentioned above. If the Association Agreement implied higher standards for the Armenian products bidding for free access to EU markets, other trade partners of Yerevan (same Moscow, Astana or Minsk) would only benefit from that. By the way, correspondent standards adopted by one of the founding countries of CU - Belarus, are now higher than in the whole Customs Union... Secondly, Turkey’s accession was seriously discussed in the framework of the Customs Union. President of Kazakhtan Nursultan Nazarbaev even made a formal proposal to Ankara. But how about Turkey’s membership in the political-military alliance of NATO? Or maybe the officials in CU capitals are so naïve that they allow for the possibility of Turkey’s exit from NATO? All these arguments against the association with EU intended for duped audience do not deserve a name other than demagogy.
Armenia’s membership in the CSTO was fundamentally considered in its variant of the Association Agreement with EU; this circumstance led to a much more modest section of the document pertaining the partnership in the spheres of security than in case of the other three countries (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), which have views for the membership in NATO. The Agreement did not contain any prerequisites to review the contractual obligations of Yerevan with CSTO partners. Also, as appose to the other three countries, Armenia did not raise the issue of prospective EU membership and did not assume to make any changes in the bilateral relations with Russia or interactions within the CIS. In other words, nobody would force Armenia to choose “EU or Russia” in case the agreement was signed. At least in case of Armenia, the assurances given by EU that the Eastern Partnership is not directed against Moscow’s interests and its relations with partner countries had a good reason. To suggest otherwise is tantamount to the view that socio-economic and political development of Armenia, as such, is already against Russian interests. If so, then the problem is not in the relations of Armenia with EU but rather with those who formulate and try to realize such “interests” of Moscow...
Another myth regarding the Association Agreement has to do with one of the most sensitive issues for the public opinion in Armenia - the Mountainous Karabagh conflict. Opponents of the agreement were actively spreading false information that the text of the agreements contains a provision on the future status of MK unacceptable for the national interests of RA. It’s hard to say on who or what the authors of the misinformation were counting on because for any person even remotely familiar with resolution of the conflicts similar to Mountainous Karabagh, it’s obvious that the format and character of negotiations around the Association Agreement excludes the very possibility of stipulation on MK status in that document. At the same time, as the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council of May 29 in Astana proved, real risks for the unrecognized republic rather exist in the framework of Customs (Eurasian) Union.
Even in a question of the future of Metsamor nuclear power plant where the position of the Armenian side is highly vulnerable given the security risks posed by the plant, the Association Agreement provided “softer” formulations compared to the preceding documents regulating EU-RA relations. In the Agreement the prospect of closing the nuclear power plant was directly linked to the issue of energy security of Armenia insured by alternative means. Now compare these approaches with “integration” process of Armenia in Eurasian Economic Union…