BRUSSELS—The EU’s Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, has opened up the possibility of the European Union and Armenia signing an association agreement without its free-trade component.
Speaking on Jan. 20 after a meeting in Brussels with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, Hahn said that “the EU should make best possible use of the already existing association agreement which we negotiated and safeguarded for future reference.”
“It needs to be adjusted in order to reflect the new context but the substance of its political part I hope should be kept,” the Commissioner said.
The Cooperation Council between the European Union and the Republic of Armenia held its fifteenth meeting on Jan. 20. The European Union and Armenia confirmed their joint commitment to enhance and deepen their cooperation in all areas possible and compatible with Armenia’s new international obligations, namely its membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.
The Cooperation Council reviewed recent political and social reforms in Armenia. The EU took note of progress achieved in implementing these reforms, while at the same time encouraging Armenia to accelerate reforms in specific areas, notably democracy and the rule of law, anti-corruption, human rights and fundamental freedoms, constitutional and judicial reform. Particular attention was drawn to the need for reform of the electoral system, to the need to assure media freedom, and to the important role of civil society.
Both sides assessed the potential scope and legal basis for future EU-Armenia relations. They continued to examine which areas of potential bilateral cooperation are compatible with Armenia’s participation in the Eurasian Economic Union and addressed the possible legal basis for future EU-Armenia contractual relations.
The EU confirmed its continued support for Armenia’s reform efforts, including implementation of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements, and encouraged Armenia to make best use of the assistance it receives to this end from the EU. For 2014-2017 this will amount to between 140 and 170 million euros, focused on private sector development, public administration and justice sector reform.
The EU and Armenia also reviewed activities undertaken during the past year in the context of the Eastern Partnership. They underlined the importance of effective joint actions in view of the 2015 Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, and recalled the objectives, instruments and actions set out in the Eastern Partnership Road Map.
The Cooperation Council addressed regional issues and prospects for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. On the latter, the EU reaffirmed that the status quo is unacceptable and the priority it attaches to the early peaceful settlement of this conflict. The EU reiterated its willingness to support peace building activities and its readiness to provide reconstruction and rehabilitation support to the regions affected by the conflict, once a peace deal is struck. Both sides reiterated their support for the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. Referring to the unprecedented level of tensions last year, the EU underlined that the security situation along the borders between Artsakh and Azerbaijan and between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains a matter of serious concern. The EU called on both sides to respect the ceasefire, exercise restraint and intensify efforts towards peace.