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THE EUROPEAN UNION ON THE AGENDA OF ARMENIA'S FOREIGN POLICY: HISTORICAL REVIEW

by Suren Minasyan

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INTRODUCTION


The early 1990s were marked by the decay of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. On the way to a free-market economy, the republics of former socialist camp faced the choice of foreign political and economic priorities. If the Eastern European and Baltic countries had a potential stable partner in the West on behalf of the European Union (the “EU”), the remaining countries of the former Soviet Union united around the newly independent Russian Federation forming the Commonwealth of Independent States on the basis of the historical, geographical, linguistic and economic experiences of those countries.

However, since the 1990s an effective cooperation has developed between the EU and post-Soviet countries both in bilateral and multilateral dimensions. Initially, the partnership was carried out under the Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (the “TACIS”) programme, then under European Neighborhood Policy (the “ENP”) and Eastern Partnership (the “EaP”) initiatives.

Among these countries, the Republic of Armenia has managed to establish a stable partnership with the EU, which can be considered a unique case of effective cooperation with two different integration unions.


TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO THE COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES


What is the goal or finalité of the cooperation between the EU and partner countries? If some of those countries intend to establish a balanced partnership with different integration unions, others strive to deepen the Europeanisation with the prospect of joining the EU․

EU cooperation with the former Soviet countries started in 1991 with the introduction of the TACIS programme, under of which technical assistance was provided to the twelve members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as Mongolia. The assistance was provided on a grant basis and intended to help those countries on their transition to market-oriented economies. “The objective of the programme [was] to help individual states to develop effectively-functioning market economies based on private ownership and initiative, and to encourage the development of pluralistic democratic societies.” [1] The objectives and enforcement mechanisms of TACIS were essentially similar to those of Poland and Hungary Assistance for the Restructuring of the Economy (the “PHARE”) programme. However, the TACIS differed from PHARE in a number of aspects. Particularly, the scope of TACIS mostly covered new independent states which were geographically far from the EU borders.

Although for more than a decade the TACIS was the main institutional basis for providing EU assistance to those countries, it was not able to provide enough flexibility and differentiation for each country․ As a result, the TACIS was replaced by the ENP, through of which the EU intended to establish a privileged relationship with its neighbours, ensuring a mutual commitment to common values underlying the creation of the EU. It is worth noting that the launch of the ENP provided some partner countries with a status of neighbour.

EU-Armenian relations entered a qualitatively new stage in 1996 by signing the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (the “PCA”) between the European Communities and their Member States, on one hand, and the Republic of Armenia on the other hand. The following objectives were set for the bilateral partnership by the PCA:


i. to provide an appropriate framework for the political dialogue between the Parties allowing the development of political relations,

ii. to support the Republic of Armenia's efforts to consolidate its democracy and to develop its economy and to complete the transition into a market economy,

iii. to promote trade and investment and harmonious economic relations between the Parties and so to foster their sustainable economic development,

iv. to provide a basis for legislative, economic, social, financial, civil scientific, technological and cultural cooperation [2].


It should be emphasized that the PCA was the main institutional document of EU-Armenian cooperation for about 20 years and the signing of the PCA was really a crucial step towards fixing the perspective of integration into the European family. Respect for democracy, norms of international law, human rights, market economy principles in line with the foreign and domestic policies of the Republic of Armenia and the EU occupied a key place in the activities of the PCA.


EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY AND EASTERN PARTNERSHIP


In June 2004, Armenia became a stakeholder of the ENP, within the frames of which a country report and an action plan were approved for Armenia in November 2006. “The EU Armenia Action Plan is a political document laying out the strategic objectives of the cooperation between Armenia and the EU… Its implementation will help fulfil the provisions in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), build ties in new areas, and will encourage and support Armenia’s objective of further integration into European economic and social structures” [3].

The implementation of the EU-Armenia Action plan was aimed at the harmonization of the legislation of the Republic of Armenia, legal norms, standards with EU standards, economic integration, social harmonization, poverty reduction, protection of the environment, promoting the long-term implementation of sustainable development. That plan would later enable Armenia to achieve a higher level of integration into European socio-economic institutions, to ensure the implementation of the preconditions set by the PCA. The action plan set out eight areas in which the implementation of reforms is considered a priority in line with the scope of the PCA:


i. Strengthening of democratic structures, of the rule of law, including reform of the judiciary and combat of fraud and corruption;

ii. Strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, in compliance with international commitments of Armenia (PCA, CoE, OSCE, UN);

iii. Encourage further economic development, enhance poverty reduction efforts and social cohesion, thereby contributing to the long term objective of sustainable development, including the protection of the environment;

iv. Further improvement of investment climate and strengthening of private sector-led growth

v. Further convergence of economic legislation and administrative practices

vi. Development of an energy strategy, including an early decommissioning of the Medzamor Nuclear Power Plant (MNPP)

vii. Contribute to a peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict;

viii. Enhanced efforts in the field of regional cooperation [3].


Though a wide range of measures has been implemented and the ENP Annual Progress Reports have recorded the relative achievements of the political authorities in the above-mentioned areas, it is indisputable that there is still a need for a number of reforms in all socio-economic spheres. At least, no significant progress has been made in the sixth and seventh priority areas. However, it's appropriate to emphasize the EU’s unique role both in the localization of the European value system of democracy and in terms of annual funding for sectoral reforms. Thus, since 2007, a total of EUR 437 million in grant funding has been provided to Armenia within the framework of the annual EU-Armenia Action Plans. To compare, this amount of allocation is about 13 percent of the RA 2020 gross budget in terms of income․

In 2009, Armenia, along with five other post-Soviet countries – Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, became a beneficiary of the EaP initiative. “The main goal of the Eastern Partnership is to create the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the European Union and interested partner countries” [4]. Initially, the EaP initiative outlined four thematic platforms to be included in the new Association Agreements – (i) Democracy, good governance and stability, (ii) Economic integration and convergence with EU sectoral policies, (iii) Energy security and (iv) Contacts between people.

In general, The EaP initiative was aimed at resolving the ENP controversy and restoring its legitimacy. By launching the EaP the EU sought “to support democratic and market-oriented reforms in partner countries, consolidate their statehood and bring them closer to the EU” [5].


COMPREHENSIVE AND ENHANCED PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT AND FUTURE OF EU-ARMENIA RELATIONS


EU-Armenian relations de facto deepened in 2010 by starting the negotiations on the Association Agreement. The agreement, which would also include the “Deep and comprehensive free trade area agreement” and replace the PCA, would be a turning point in Armenia-EU bilateral relations. Preparations for the signing of the Association Agreement were carried out in a rather short time and the agreement was planned to be signed in 2013․ However, a few days before the signing, the Armenian side announced its initiative to join the Eurasian Customs Union, which made the creation of a deep and comprehensive free trade area with EU incompatible with Armenia’s commitments to join another Customs Union. Though a month later Armenia announced its readiness to sign the Association Agreement without a DCFTA component, the proposal was unequivocally rejected by the EU with a view to further regulating the cooperation with Armenia.


Despite the failed attempt to sign the Association Agreement, Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, announced the EU’s readiness to sign a revised version of the Association Agreement without a DCFTA in January, 2015. The process of concluding a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (the “CEPA”) was officially launched in 2015, and as a result of 9 rounds of negotiations, the agreement was signed on November 24 2017, within the framework of the 5th EaP Summit held in Brussels. Though the agreement has not yet been ratified by three EU member states (Austria, Spain and Portugal), it has become temporarily and partially (80 percent) effective since June 1, 2018.


The conclusion of the CEPA was key in all EU-Armenian relations and it covers all areas of bilateral cooperation, except for free trade and defense issues. The CEPA is a comprehensive and ambitious bilateral agreement involving political, economic, sectoral cooperation. It is aimed at strengthening the framework of dialogue on all areas of mutual interest, promoting the development of close relations between the parties, promoting democracy, political, economic and institutional stability, and establishing expanded trade cooperation. By signing the CEPA, both Armenian and European sides “reiterate their commitment to the principles of a free-market economy, sustainable development, regional cooperation and effective multilateralism” [6].

The European Union has been and remains one of the most important partners of the Republic of Armenia. That bilateral cooperation has significantly contributed to the development of Armenia’s socio-economic environment by providing not only gratuitous financial assistance, but also supporting the modernization of state structures and empowerment of the private sector. Currently, the priority of bilateral cooperation with the EU is to ensure the ratification and full implementation of the CEPA, as well as the proper implementation of the measures envisaged by the CEPA implementation roadmap, aligning all strategies with the CEPA provisions. The existence of the CEPA is a strong basis for increasing the volume of EU financial assistance under Single Support Frameworks and other instruments as well, taking into account the fact of a new, higher level of European integration conditioned by the conclusion of the CEPA.



REFERENCES

[1] EC Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States and Georgia: The TACIS Programme; available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/MEMO_92_54;

[2] Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (the “PCA”) between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Armenia, of the other part; available at: https://www.fdfa.be/sites/default/files/atoms/files/131_Agreement%20in%20English.pdf;

[3] EU/Armenia ENP Action Plan; available at: https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/armenia_enp_ap_final_en.pdf;

[4] Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit, Prague, 7 May 2009, available at: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/31797/2009_eap_declaration.pdf;

[5] Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Strong Civil Society Pillar – major objective of the EU Eastern Partnership Policy 4th meeting of the PERC (Pan-European Regional Council) Executive Committee Brussels, European Economic and Social Committee 8 March 2010, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_10_78;

[6] Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Armenia, of the other part; available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:22018A0126(01).


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