YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian parliament on Wednesday unanimously ratified a landmark agreement aimed at deepening Armenia’s political and economic relations with the European Union.
The move paves the way for the implementation of many provisions of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) even before it is ratified by the EU’s member states and legislative body, the European Parliament.
The CEPA was signed by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Brussels last November. It commits the Armenian authorities to carrying out political reforms that will democratize the country’s political system and boost human rights protection. The authorities must also gradually “approximate” Armenian economic laws and regulations to those of the EU.
“Everything possible must be done for effectively implementing the agreement and correctly taking all opportunities presented by it,” Armen Ashotian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, wrote on his Facebook page after the parliament vote.“We will keep working in all directions for the sake of those common commitments which we undertook with the signing of this agreement with the EU.”
Speaking during Tuesday’s parliament debate on the CEPA’s ratification, Ashotian called for an equal treatment by the EU of all former Soviet republics included in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program. “You can’t divide Eastern Partnership between ‘beloved children’ and second-class adopted ones,” he said.
“Yes, this agreement is not an Association Agreement. But its political section almost completely repeats [that of] the Association Agreement,” added the pro-government lawmaker.
Armenia was close to concluding an Association Agreement with the EU when President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly announced in September 2013 his decision to seek membership in a Russian-led trade bloc. The EU responded by abandoning the planned agreement. It subsequently agreed to negotiate a less far-reaching deal with Yerevan not containing free trade-related provisions.
During Tuesday’s parliament debate, opposition lawmakers questioned the authorities’ willingness to honor their reform commitments envisaged by the CEPA. “This agreement can be put into practice only if the authorities have the courage to break their own backbone,” claimed Naira Zohrabian of the Tsarukian Bloc.
Artak Zeynalian, a deputy from the Yelk bloc, said the Sarkisian administration has reneged on many pledges. “This is why people are skeptical about the implementation of this agreement,” he said.