September 12, 2013 - 16:05 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The two-day informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Eastern Neighborhood kicks off in Yerevan Thursday, Sept 12.
The issues on the agenda were not made public, however, the ministers are expected to focus on membership in the Customs Union and creation of a free trade zone with the European Union.
They will also meet with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and give a joint press conference.
Earlier, experts debated the similarity of situations in Armenia and Ukraine.
“On the one hand, both countries are bound with Russia. On the other hand, both are strongly attracted by the European values, or at least say so. In both countries, the public opinion is divided, some standing for close cooperation with Russia and some striving for Europe. Furthermore, both countries are under pressure of Russia and European Union, each trying to tip the scale,” Ukrainian political analyst Mikhail Beletsky said.
According to him, unilateral orientation to the West or Russia can result in serious losses. “For Ukraine, it can be a complete collapse of economy. Armenia can face even a greater loss if Nagorno Karabakh is transferred to a hostile neighbor state. Under the circumstances, Armenia could nothing but strengthen the union with Russia, which is its own real ally in the region,” the expert said.
“As a result, Ukraine and Armenia, although still trying to pursue a two-vector policy, have chosen different paths. Ukraine preferred the European Union as the main direction, with some limited cooperation with the CIS member states while Armenia is headed for Russia. Time will show which of the decision was right,” he said.
Another Ukrainian expert Vladimir Fesenko said that Armenia’s decision on integration into the Customs Union is extremely important, as Ukraine’s position will depend on the results of the talks. “If the agreement between Armenia and Europe is frustrated, the EU will have more stimuli to sign a deal with Kyiv,” he said.
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.
However, 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 the Eurasian Economic Union.
In his speech on Sept 11, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule said that the Russia-led Customs Union membership is not compatible with the DCFTAs which we have negotiated with Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia.
“This is not because of ideological differences; this is not about a clash of economic blocs, or a zero-sum game. This is due to legal impossibilities: for instance, you cannot at the same time lower your customs tariffs as per the DCFTA and increase them as a result of the Customs Union membership,” he said during the European Parliament plenary meeting in Strasbourg in a statement on “the pressure exercised by Russia on countries of the Eastern Partnership.”