September 6, 2013 - 16:39 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Tel Aviv-based political analyst Alexander Tsinker describes Armenia’s decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union as “a serious political move, given the country’s complementary policy.”
“Taking into account the current political, social and economic situation in Armenia as well as the unsettled Nagorno Karabakh conflict, this decision was quite predictable,” Tsinker told PanARMENIAN.Net
“The decision was conditioned by defense cooperation with Russia and the low gas price, which could jump up more than twice, should Armenia choose complete eurointegration,” he said.
According to the expert, Armenia’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization also played its role. “It’s impossible to be a member of both the CSTO and NATO, however, simultaneous cooperation with the Customs Union and European Union is quite acceptable,” he said, adding that the European officials have already recovered from the shock and started seeking for new forms of collaboration with Armenia.
“Armenia tries not to lose any of the available development trends. A country should ‘be friends’ with major geopolitical actors and at the same time should not forget about its own interests. Probably, Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union was a forced but expected move, however, the traces of complementary policy it pursues will be observable in the future as well, irrelatively of the path it will choose. The authorities are likely to take decisions on the spot. Yerevan solved one problem in Moscow in September, the other problem is waiting in Vilnius in November,” he said.
Armenia completed technical talks on a ‘deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement' (DCFTA) with the EU in July and it was set to be signed at a summit with the EU in late November.
In addition to a free-trade deal, Armenia has been working towards the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU, a framework agreement on cooperation that is seen as a first step towards political integration with the EU.
Nevertheless, during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan said Armenia is ready to join Customs Union, with further plans to be involved in formation of Eurasian Economic Union, thus arousing indignation of European officials.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt described Armenia’s intention as a U-turn in relations with the European Union. “Seems as if Armenia will break talks on free trade agreement with EU and integrate with Russia instead,” he said on his Twitter account.
Linas Linkevicius, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Armenia “has blocked its chances of signing a free trade deal with the European Union by choosing to join the Russia-led union.”
However, later the European Commission issued a statement saying that “the Association Agreement (including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area) with Armenia can be compatible with economic cooperation with the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.”
“In July this year, after three and a half years, we finalized the negotiations of the Association Agreement (including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area) with Armenia. This agreement would allow Armenia with the EU´s support, to drive forward a program of comprehensive modernization and reform based upon shared values, political association and economic integration. We take note of Armenia's apparent wish to join the Customs Union. We look forward to understanding better from Armenia what their intentions are and how they wish to ensure compatibility between these and the commitments undertaken through the Association Agreement and DCFTA. Once this consultation has been completed, we will draw our conclusions on the way forward. We want to underline once again that AA/DCFTA is a blueprint for reforms beneficial for all and not a zero-sum game and could be compatible with economic cooperation with the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States,” the statement said.