BRUSSELS (RFE/RL) — The European Union and Armenia signed an agreement aimed at significantly deepening their relations at a ceremony in Brussels on Friday held on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership Summit.
Signatures to the document entitled the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) were put by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
The signing ceremony took place in the presence of European Council President Donald Tusk and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.
In her remarks after the signing of the document Mogherini said that the CEPA “is based on our common commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law.”
“This agreement is the first of this kind that is concluded with a party that is also a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. It will now be very important to implement it,” the EU’s foreign policy chief said.
Nalbandian, for his part, described the “wide-ranging and ambitious document” as “our joint endeavor that opens a new chapter in the bilateral relations between the Republic of Armenia and the European Union.”
“The Agreement establishes a solid legal basis for strengthening the political dialogue, broadening the scope of economic and sectoral cooperation, creating a framework for new opportunities in trade and investments and increased mobility for the benefit of our citizens,” the top Armenian diplomat said.
According to Nalbandian, “it is important that the Agreement reaffirms the stated commitment of the European Union to support the efforts and approaches of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the norms and principles of international law, in particular, non-use of force or threat of force, equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and territorial integrity.”
“Armenia is determined to further develop and strengthen a comprehensive cooperation with the EU in all areas of mutual interest based on this Agreement,” Nalbandian stressed.
Officials in both Brussels and Yerevan have stressed the agreement does not impinge upon Armenia’s close relations with Russia, which leads the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The EEU includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.
Russian pressure is believed to have scuttled a broader Association Agreement that Armenia and the EU had nearly finalized in 2013. Yerevan precluded completion of that deal when President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly announced the decision to join the EEU just three months before the Association Agreement was set to be inked.
Speaking at a news conference after the summit, European Council President Donald Tusk praised the Eastern Partnership program.
“This is not a geopolitical beauty contest between Russia and the EU, but a real partnership between sovereign countries without political, economic, and military threats and coercion between the EU and our partners,” he said.
The ceremony became one of the focal points of the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit that brought together the leaders of six Eastern European and South Caucasus nations in the Belgian capital on November 24.