YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian government hopes that its forthcoming new accord with the European Union will be as similar to their scrapped Association Agreement as possible, First Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonian said on Friday.
“I’m saying ‘as possible’ because as we all know, we have assumed certain membership obligations to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) which make it impossible to revive all provisions of the previously negotiated Associated Agreement,” he told reporters.
Melkonian said Armenian officials are now “sifting through” that draft agreement and “crossing out” its provisions that are not compatible with Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led EEU. Those primarily include clauses related to free trade, he said.
The official was confident that many other economic provisions can be incorporated into the deal over which the government and the executive European Commission will start official negotiations soon. They have to do with protection of competition and investments, services, government transparency, customs administration and joint “mechanisms” for economic arbitration, he said.
“We have decided, in principle, that those areas will be part of the forthcoming agreement,” added Melkonian.
Armenian and EU officials identified approximate areas to be covered by the new agreement during a “scoping exercise” that was completed in March. This led the European Commission to ask EU member states for a “mandate” to open formal talks with Yerevan. EU leaders welcomed that development during last week’s summit in Riga.
Speaking ahead of the summit, a senior EU official confirmed that the planned deal with Armenia will contain a “substantial trade and investment chapter.” But like Melkonian, the official said that it will not regulate import duties in bilateral trade because of Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led bloc.
The Association Agreement envisaged the creation of a “deep and comprehensive free trade area” between the EU and Armenia. It was all but finalized just weeks before President Serzh Sarkisian announced his unexpected decision to seek EEU membership.