November 14, 2023 - 16:02 AMT
Armenia seeking EU visa liberalization talks in the near future

Armenia is seeking to start visa liberalization negotiations with the European Union in the near future, a senior official in Yerevan said on Tuesday.

Commenting on the November 13 decision by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council “to explore an option for visa liberalization for Armenia,” Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that he thinks talks on the matter will start “in the coming months.”

Hovannisian said he considered it positive that no EU member state had opposed the start of the process.

“It was difficult to ensure that consensus among all countries, but it was a very positive development,” the senior diplomat said.

Dialogue on visa liberalization would not commence for years because of one or two EU member states, whose names are not disclosed by the parties.

Neither Yerevan nor the European Union explain what has changed during this time that these countries are no longer against the commencement of the process.

Besides agreeing to activate discussions on visa liberalization with Armenia, the EU foreign ministers on Monday also approved a proposal to expand the border-monitoring mission deployed in Armenia.

The EU mission currently consisting of 100 or so observers and experts was launched at the request of the Armenian government in late 2022 with the stated aim of preventing or reducing ceasefire violations along the border with Azerbaijan. Russia, Armenia’s increasingly estranged ally, has opposed it from the outset, saying that it is part of broader U.S. and European Union efforts to drive Moscow out of the South Caucasus.

The Azerbaijani takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh in September this year has raised more fears in Yerevan that Azerbaijan will invade Armenia to open a land corridor to its Nakhichevan exclave. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian urged Western powers to prevent Baku from “provoking a new war in the region” when he addressed the European Parliament in October.

The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council also approved a proposal to explore possible support to Armenia under the European Peace Facility.

The European Peace Facility is an instrument by which Brussels provides the means to increase the defense capacity of countries that are not members of the bloc, prevent conflicts, and strengthen peace. It is through this facility that Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova have received aid from the European Union.

The decisions of the EU foreign ministers are to be put on the table of the European Commission in due time. The commission should then present proposals to implement them. The decisions of the European Commission, in turn, must be ratified by the 27 EU member states.