September 5, 2013 - 15:54 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Association Agreement (including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area) with Armenia can be compatible with economic cooperation with the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Commission said.
“In July this year, after three and a half years, we finalized the negotiations of the Association Agreement (including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area) with Armenia. This agreement would allow Armenia with the EU´s support, to drive forward a program of comprehensive modernization and reform based upon shared values, political association and economic integration,” the statement says.
“We take note of Armenia's apparent wish to join the Customs Union. We look forward to understanding better from Armenia what their intentions are and how they wish to ensure compatibility between these and the commitments undertaken through the Association Agreement and DCFTA. Once this consultation has been completed, we will draw our conclusions on the way forward. We want to underline once again that AA/DCFTA is a blueprint for reforms beneficial for all and not a zero-sum game and could be compatible with economic cooperation with the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States,” it says.
Armenia completed technical talks on a ‘deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement' (DCFTA) with the EU in July and it was set to be signed at a summit with the EU in late November.
In addition to a free-trade deal, Armenia has been working towards the signing of an association agreement with the EU, a framework agreement on co-operation that is seen as a first step towards political integration with the EU.
During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan said Armenia is ready to join Customs Union, with further plans to be involved in formation of EurAsEC.
Mr. Putin supported the initiative, voicing readiness to assist Armenia in the process. He also noted that Russian Railways may invest 15 billion rubles in development of Armenia's railway network.
The Customs Union was formed in 2010 to include of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia; Kirghizia and Tajikistan later expressed willingness to join the Union.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt described Armenia’s intention as a U-turn in relations with the European Union. “Seems as if Armenia will break talks on free trade agreement with EU and integrate with Russia instead,” he said on his Twitter account.
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.
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.
On November 28-29, the EU's Lithuanian presidency will host the Eastern Partnership Summit, where association agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia are expected to be initialled, and where an EU-Ukraine association agreement is expected to be signed. These agreements are accompanied by Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) with the EU.