YEREVAN — Raising more questions about Armenia’s accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has announced the cancellation of a summit of ex-Soviet states which was due to discuss Yerevan’s membership bid.
“There was an agreement that the presidents will meet on July 3. But the meeting will not take place,” Abrahamian told reporters late on Thursday.
He did not clarify whether the meeting was due to involve the presidents of only Armenia and Russia or also the EEU’s two other member states: Belarus and Kazakhstan. The EEU’s most recent summit took place on May 29 and the leaders of three ex-Soviet states announced no plans to meet again this summer.
Abrahamian stressed the importance of the July 3 meeting last week when he commented on an increasingly obvious delay in Armenia’s accession process which President Serzh Sarkisian had hoped to complete this spring. “Things will be clear after the July 3 meeting,” the premier said on June 26.
“We don’t know the reasons [for the delay] but … we have fulfilled all of our obligations,” Abrahamian told reporters on Thursday. At the same time he expressed confidence that Armenia will join the EEU “before the end of this year.” “I see no political problems,” he said in reference to mounting speculation that Moscow is currently not interested in the quick signing of an accession treaty with Yerevan despite having forced the latter to abandon an Association Agreement with the European Union last year.
Abrahamian further announced that he will meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on July 11 to discuss this and other issues of mutual interest. “We will have an answer on my return,” he said. “I also know that the presidents of Armenia and Russia will meet in the future.”
Politicians and experts point to a number of possible reasons for the difficulties on the way of Armenia’s Eurasian integration. For instance, Prosperous Armenia Party MP Mikael Melkumyan mentions failure to agree on the issue of customs exemptions on 900 basic types of commodities. Duties on these goods were to rise after Armenia’s entry into the Russian-led trade bloc, which would have caused a socio-economic collapse in the country.
Others point to Russia’s failed plan for a simultaneous integration of Armenia and Azerbaijan into the Eurasian Union. For example, member of the opposition Heritage party Stepan Safaryan links Armenia’s “insurmountable difficulties” with Eurasian integration to the Karabakh problem. Experts say that Russia intended to introduce Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) peacekeeping forces into Karabakh and, by dividing Karabakh, attract Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Union.
Armenia’s neighbor Georgia also showed a tough stance. It is through this country that Armenia has the only path towards Russia. Despite the June visit by President Serzh Sargsyan and the warm welcome that he got in Tbilisi, Georgia categorically refused to authorize a customs duty-free transit of goods to Russia from Armenia and back. This means that attempts to secure a land link between Armenia and the EaEU have also failed.