YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Sarkisian on Tuesday described the European Union as a model of regional integration and reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to deepening ties with the 28-nation bloc through a new treaty.
Sarkisian visited the EU Delegation in Yerevan to congratulate its head, Piotr Switalski, and other employees on Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity in Europe that starts on May 9. The date marks the anniversary of a historic 1950 speech by then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in which he laid out his vision of European integration.
“During this short historical period of time, the idea of a united European family has stood the test of time, proved its viability and exposed the advantages of peoples’ peaceful co-existence,” Sarkisian said at an ensuing meeting with Switalski.
“In essence, the EU’s moral authority now goes well beyond its geographical borders,” he told the European diplomat, according to his press office.
Sarkisian also said that Armenia’s relations with the EU have become “more active” in recent years. “Our negotiations on a comprehensive Armenia-EU legal document are going on successfully and we hope that it will be signed within a reasonable period of time, which will further stimulate our cooperation,” he said.
The Armenian President referred to a new political and economic deal which is supposed to serve as a less ambitious alternative to an Association Agreement negotiated by Yerevan and Brussels in the summer of 2013. Sarkisian precluded the signing of that far-reaching agreement with his unexpected decision in September 2013 to seek Armenia’s accession a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states.
The new accord is expected to contain many political and even economic provisions of the cancelled Association Agreement. But it will have no free trade-related component due to Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.
Negotiations on the alternative deal were officially launched by the EU’s foreign and security policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Brussels in December 2015. Switalski expressed hope in January that they will be concluded by the end of 2016.
According to Armenian government data, the EU accounted for nearly 26 percent of Armenia’s foreign trade and remained its leading export market in 2015.