September 4, 2013 - 18:40 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton expects Armenia to explain the decision to join the Russia-initiated Customs Union.
"We expect clarifications from Armenia, and then we will be able to assess the consequences this move may have," Ashton’s spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said in Brussels.
Linas Linkevicius, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Armenia “has blocked its chances of signing a free trade deal with the European Union by choosing to join the Russia-led union.”
“We respect any choice of countries but they cannot enter both organizations at the same time because of different tariff requirements,” he said.
In a separate statement, Linkevicius and seven other ministers from Nordic and Baltic countries warned against Russian pressure on post-Soviet states. “Any economic threat or political pressure directed against Eastern partners because of their European aspirations and engagement with the EU is unacceptable,” they said.
Gunnar Hökmark MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament responsible for neighbourhood policies said that Armenia is turning away from Europe. "By saying yes to a Customs Union with Russia, Armenia is saying yes to more dependence on the Putin regime and No to a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. With this step, the prospects for democracy will be weakened and the risk of increased Russian influence over its neighbors will increase," he stated.
Alexey Malashenko, the co-chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center's Religion, Society, and Security Program, says Armenia’s decision was quite expected, given the country’s strategic partnership with Russia and the Nagorno Karabakh process. “With Armenia’s joining the Customs Union, the status quo in the region will not change. Europe will not be criticizing Yerevan for a long time,” he supposes.
In short, expectations for a better development of events have failed, with no chance to improve unless Middle East is in turmoil. Besides, the strikes on Syria may cause more tension at the contact line between Karabakh and Azerbaijan.
Under the circumstances, Armenia would rather ‘be friends’ with Russia than with the EU, whose 28 can’t reach a consensus.