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The EU and Armenia

Submitted by on 01 May 2011 – 11:58

Viktor Yengibaryan, President, Council of the International European Movement in Armenia

The Eastern Partnership Agreement was concluded between the European Union and Armenia, Georgia Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine and Belorussia in Prague in May 2009.


The Eastern Partnership, as proposed by the European Commission in December 2008 and endorsed by the European Council in March this year will complete the EU’s foreign policy towards Eastern Europe and South Caucasus through the development of a specific Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Successive enlargements of the EU brought these countries closer to the EU and led to increased political ties. The EU’s and these countries’ energy security are interlinked while the EU has a growing responsibility to the partners to help them address the socio-economic challenges they face and support their aspirations for closer ties, not least in the light of unresolved regional conflicts. The Eastern Partnership will be developed in parallel with bilateral cooperation between the EU and third countries, including the EU’s Strategic Partnership with Russia.

The Eastern Partnership offers deeper bilateral relations and launches a new multilateral framework for cooperation, according to partners’ needs and ambitions, i.e.:

  • New Association Agreements (for those partners that have made sufficient progress towards democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and principles of market economy, sustainable development and good governance)
  • Better economic integration with the EU (with the objective of establishing deep and comprehensive Free Trade Areas), as well as free trade among the partners themselves, with a longer term goal to develop a Neighbourhood Economic Community
  • Increased mobility through visa facilitation and readmission agreements (with gradual steps towards full visa liberalisation as a long term goal on a case by case basis provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place)
  • Strengthened energy security cooperation, including through support to investment in infrastructure, better regulation, energy efficiency and more efficient early warning systems to prevent disruption of supply
  • Improved administrative capacity of partner countries through jointly decided Comprehensive Institution-Building Programmes, financed by the EU
  • Specific programmes addressing economic and social development in the partner countries, aimed at reducing disparities of wealth between regions which can undermine stability; additional financial support of € 350 million for the period till 2013, plus the redeployment of €250 million bringing the total for the implementation of the policy to €600 million

One innovative component of the Eastern Partnership is a multilateral track consisting of four platforms which will bring the Eastern Partners together to exchange experience and information on issues like:

  • Democracy, good governance and stability
  • Economic integration and convergence with EU policies
  • Energy security
  • Contacts between people

The platforms will be providing a framework in which common challenges can be addressed through seminars to improve understanding of EU legislation and standards, sharing of experience, and where appropriate, development of joint activities. Work on setting up these platforms is to begin in June with a first meeting of the platform on democracy, good governance and stability.

Five high profile initiatives (flagship initiatives) in the framework of the multilateral track will serve the countries’ interests and at the same time our own:

  • Border management programme
  • Integration of electricity markets, energy efficiency and renewables
  • An SME facility
  • Southern corridor
  • Response to disasters

Further information is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/eastern/index_en.htm

The EU and Armenia

The European Neighborhood Policy as well as the Eastern Partnership from the European perspective has two main geopolitical interests; i.e. support for the economic development of the beneficiary countries and an increase in political predictability.

In fact these two major groups of the EU interests coincide with Armenia’s main interests.

For its economic development, Armenia has a unique opportunity for taking the path that Eastern European EU member states and EU candidate states passed and continue to pass. On the other hand, the European Union provides technical support, thanks to which Armenia has an opportunity to transpose the experience of those countries in the Armenian legal framework and implement institutional reforms. Armenia is on the way to sign the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements. These Agreements are also unique and will lead to significant changes in both the internal life of Armenia and in its relations with the EU. Free movement of people, goods, capital and services may become the ground for the development of economy, education, science, social, healthcare and a number of other systems in Armenia.

From the perspective of political predictability, the European Union seeks to mobilize its support in two main domains. Development of democracy, human rights and freedoms unfortunately are still on the agenda of the EU-Armenia relations. The European Union seeks to solve these issues in the nearest future through co-operation with state institutions and civil society organizations.

The European Union is rather inactive from the perspective of settlement of regional conflicts. After the war between Nagorno Kharabakh and Azerbaijan, Armenia took the role of guarantor of the security of Nagorno Kharabakh and is currently negotiating with Azerbaijan to establish peace. The negotiations are officially conducted through the Minsk Group chaired by Russia, USA and France. Although the European Union stresses its impartial position through political announcements, various resolutions and individual contacts with the officials, however, it avoids or cannot take measures to find real solutions. It would be desirable that the EU follows the example of the USA and provides financial support to Nagorno Kharabakh and takes a greater role in the negotiations process. On the other hand, the EU should include the people of Nagorno Karabakh in its projects, for example the Civil Society Forum of Eastern Partnership.