Thursday

1st Sep 2016

Armenia to join Russia trade bloc, surprises EU

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has said he wants to join a trade and political union with Russia instead of an EU alternative.

The decision was announced in a statement on the Kremlin's website during his visit to Moscow to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (3 September).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Sargsyan (l) in Moscow with Putin on Tuesday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

The Kremlin communique said: "The presidents reaffirmed the focus of the Russian federation and the Republic of Armenia on the further development of economic integration in the Eurasian territory … In this context, Mr Sargsyan said Armenia had decided to join the Customs Union and take the necessary practical steps to subsequently participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union."

Sargsyan, before flying back to Yerevan, confirmed the news.

But he added, in a statement on his own website, that he still wants good EU relations.

"This decision is not a rejection of our dialogue with the European institutions. During recent years, Armenia, with the support of European partners held a number of important institutional reforms. And today's Armenia, in this sense, is considerably a more effective and competitive state than years ago. We intend to continue these reforms also in the future," he said.

The news came as a surprise to EU officials.

The EU has concluded negotiations on a political association and free trade pact with Armenia and expected to initial it at an EU summit with former Soviet states in Vilnius in November.

If Armenia does become a full member of the Russian-led customs bloc, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan, it cannot sign the EU pact at the same time.

But Sargsyan might be trying to cherry pick bits of the Russian offer which are compatible with the EU deal.

EU diplomats in Yerevan held crisis meetings on Tuesday evening to get an insight into events.

A European Commission spokesman told this website: "We are consulting closely with our Armenian partners. When we have all the information, we will, of course, examine all the potential implications of what was announced today."

Sargsyan's u-turn was made in the context of tricky developments on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russia is Armenia's main security guarantor in its frozen conflict with Azerbaijan over the breakaway territory.

It has a military base in Armenia itself.

But in June this year Russia began delivery of some $1 billion of tanks, artillery and rocket launchers to Azerbaijan.

Russia in recent weeks has also threatened Moldova and Ukraine, two other former Soviet states which are seeking deeper ties with the EU.

It told Moldova that if it inks an EU deal in Vilnius it will cut trade relations and make it harder to solve its conflict with the breakaway territory of Transniestria.

It told Ukraine it will take "protective measures" on trade.

Putin has said he wants all former Soviet republics, except the Baltic states, which are EU members, to join his customs bloc.

He plans to transform it into a political union, the Eurasian Union, in 2015.

"There is a saying in Russia: It takes a long time to saddle a horse, but no time at all to make it gallop," a Russian diplomat told EUobserver, referring to the pace of progress on Russia's Eurasian plan.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EBECBright Engineering Students Designed the Future, Today at the BEST Competition
  2. Access NowInternet wins! Net Neutrality Victory in EU
  3. EuridThe 2016 .eu Web Awards is a Chance to Make Dreams Come True so Vote Today !
  4. Nordic CouncilNordic-Baltic Co-operation Vital in Turbulent Times
  5. GoogleBrussels: Home of Beer, Fries, Chocolate and Google’s Policy Team - follow @GoogleBrussels
  6. HuaweiSeeds for the Future Programme to Bring Students to China for ICT Training
  7. EFASpain is Not a Democratic State. EFA Expresses Solidarity to A. Otegi and EH Bildu
  8. UNICEFBoko Haram Violence in Lake Chad Region Leaves Children Displaced and Trapped
  9. HuaweiMaking Cities Smarter and Safer
  10. GoogleHow Google Makes Connections More Secure For Users
  11. EGBAThe EU Court of Justice Applies Proportionality in Assessing Gambling Laws
  12. World VisionThe EU and Member States Must Not Use Overseas Aid for Promoting EU Interests

Latest News

  1. Verheugen went off-script in VW cheat testimony
  2. Poland may remove constitutional judges
  3. Spain's Rajoy faces uphill battle to win MPs' support
  4. Russia and Turkey restart talks on EU gas pipeline
  5. MEPs call for reconciliation with Turkey
  6. Egypt blames EU-Turkey deal for refugee spike
  7. EU dithering aggravated refugee crisis, Merkel says
  8. Verheugen did not think VW cheating was morally possible