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How Armenia managed to join EAEU without breaking up with EU: president

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. Photo: president.am

The foreign policy pursued by Armenia provides opportunities for a simultaneous cooperation both with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the European Union (EU), Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced on February 17 during the "Inside or Out: Countries between Russia and Europe" discussion on the margins of the Munich Security Conference.

According to Sargsyan, Armenia is constantly striving to cooperate with the forces that have already achieved great success in modernization and can contribute to development of the country. "This policy facilitates Armenia's cooperation with both the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the European Union (EU)," the Armenian president said, adding that modernization is an ongoing process which enables to keep up with the times.

He also informed about negotiations on establishing a new transit corridor between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. The corridor, according to Sargsyan, will pass through the territory of Armenia. "We are negotiating with all interested parties. I hope that in case of success, the circle of its beneficiaries will be wider than the list of countries involved in the negotiation process. I think that the cooperation of the EAEU member states and the EU, in both bilateral and multilateral formats, is in line with our common interests and contributes to economic progress," Sargsyan said, the presidential press service reported.

The Armenian leader named reasons for the republic's joining the EAEU, dispelling doubts that Yerevan's decision was a result of external pressure. "Armenia joined the EAEU with a clear understanding that this will support development of the economy, the future of the country. And the expectations were justified," the president said. As he pointed out, the Eurasian vector did not hamper Yerevan's cooperation with Brussels, especially in the areas of institutional reforms and modernization.

"The cooperation with the European Union has risen to a new level after signing an agreement on a comprehensive and expanded partnership (in November 2017 in Brussels - EADaily)," Sargsyan said. At the same time, he recalled that in 2013, it was not Armenia who refused to sign the Association Agreement with the EU; the process was broken down due to the tough position of Brussels.

"When we started negotiations with the EU, our Russian partners, our allies knew about it. At the same time, our European colleagues were aware that we were negotiating to join the Eurasian Economic Union, the then Customs Union (Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus - EADaily). We saw such an opportunity. However, when the "and-and" principle was replaced by the "or-or" principle, we could not sign such an agreement," the president explained.

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It is noteworthy that back in 2014, Serzh Sargsyan indirectly acknowledged that the decision on Armenia's accession to the Customs Union (then at the EAEU) was taken suddenly in Moscow, where in September 2013 he announced about the "Eurasian U-turn" of Yerevan. Speaking to the Armenian community at the Armenian Embassy in Prague and answering a question about the reasons why the decision on joining the EAEU was adopted without a referendum and clarifying the position of the Armenian diaspora, Sargsyan replied: "I cannot ask opinions of all in one night, whether you read or not the agreement on free trade with the European Union and what conditions it contains."

Moreover, before that, he had repeatedly stated that no one was calling for Armenia in the Customs Union. So, in March 2013, when the country was still preparing to sign an Association Agreement with the EU at the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit, Serzh Sargsyan, at a meeting with journalists, called not to believe that "the Russians force us to become members of the Customs Union". "There is no such thing," he stressed, adding that the members of the Customs Union do not yet have intention of attracting someone else to the union. "At least as far as we are concerned, I have not seen such a desire. I cannot say that just for saying, I'm not making it up, but talking about negotiations, about reality," the president said.

On September 3 of the same year in Moscow, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sargsyan signed a document confirming Armenia's desire to join the Customs Union and participate in the process of creating the Eurasian Economic Union.

Now at the Munich Security Conference, the Armenian leader claims that not Armenia refused to sign the Association Agreement, but the EU did not want to sign it. "We even offered to sign only the political part of the agreement (without the DCFTA - Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU - EADaily). But our European partners said no. And only some weeks later a similar agreement was signed with Ukraine. We are well aware of the opportunities of Armenia and Ukraine, the role of Armenia and Ukraine, but still it was strange," he stressed, while thanking his European colleagues for continuing the process of European integration of Armenia.

"Thank God, the EU decided to follow a diversified approach (in working with the countries of the Eastern Partnership - EADaily). As part of this approach, new negotiations began with the EU, and finally a new agreement was signed. Once again, I want to note here that we did not conduct secret negotiations with anyone, and did not make decisions under someone's pressure. Our historical experience demonstrates that attempts to extract only temporary benefits from conflicts turn into a great tragedy in the end. We went through such a tragedy, and we do not want it to be repeated," the president concluded.

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