Mediamax’s interview with Dr. Nicu Popescu, Senior Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS)
Q: How deep is EU’s disappointment in Armenia’s September 2013 decision, and do you think there were different reactions in the European capitals and in the European Commission?
A: Everyone in the EU wanted a closer relationship with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. There is no doubt about it. Also, the EU free trade area was designed in a way as to be compatible with the free trade area with Russia and other post-Soviet states. So, in this sense, the Association Agreement was compatible with the existing trading relationship between Russia and other post-Soviet states. We also have an example of a country – Serbia – which has free trade area with Russia and with European Union simultaneously. So it’s possible, and what Europe used to offer Armenia was not at the expense of Armenia’s relationship with Russia.
At the same time Russia’s Customs Union was designed in a way that limits the right of Customs Union member state to develop their own trading relationship because under the Customs Union they give up the sovereign right to decide what their tariffs are for, let’s say, German cars.
So it is the Customs Union, which created this situation of incompatibility, and it was also quite obvious that Armenia preferred the Association Agreement. Armenia has been getting signals from Russia well before September 2013. It was clear that Armenia wanted to sign the Association Agreement but of course at the last moment Russian preferences prevailed.
I wouldn’t say that people were really shocked. I think quite a lot of people were surprised not so much by the fact that Armenia gave up on Association Agreement but rather that Armenia advanced so far in discussing Association with the European Union.
But apparently, everyone also understands that it was done not because Armenia wants or likes this or that geo-political entity but because of its security situation, which has developed around Armenia. Having said this, there is also an understanding that Armenia was pressed not to have Association, and Armenia depends on Russia for security, but Armenia is also a player in security terms and neither Armenia, nor Azerbaijan have done their best to solve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. And this security dependence Armenia has on Russia is also at least partly a result of policy choices Armenia has made over the last 20 years. […]
See the full interview © Mediamax