Leaving EAEU: slogan or political policy?

Leaving EAEU: slogan or political policy?

Edmon Marukyan, a member of the National Assembly’s “Yelq” faction recently made a proposal: to start the process of Armenia’s withdrawal from the Eurasian Economic Union.

At the same time, the Armenian society is still fresh about the Russian officials’ response to the question, whether why licenses issued by the EEU member Republic of Armenia are not recognized in Russia, while in the case of Belarus and Kyrgyzstan there are no problems. We, Armenians, were given a response that the reason was that Armenia had not recognized Russian as “official language” unlike Belarus and Kyrgyzstan: “recognize, and you will be licensed”.

The Armenian society, the official Yerevan and the political arena gave a timely and adequate response, whether what they think about this next obscene proposal, including the extensive use of Russian rich folklore, and during Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan’s visit to Moscow, the press reported that the issue would “be discussed and resolved”.

MP Marukyan’s statement and Moscow’s driver-language obstinacy seem to be linked in public perceptions, and an impression was created that the first derived from the second. Consequently, it turns out that if, for example, Moscow “respects” Armenia and puts it on the same level with Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, then Marukyan’s proposal will lose its sharpness and relevance. Of course, the question goes farther and is conditioned by more justifiable reasons, however, if it’s not clear for the public how far and for what reasons it will turn out that the question is conditioned only by driver licenses and nothing more. Especially, when choosing the current National Assembly, the “Yelq” bloc did not say anything about the prospects of Armenia’s accession to the EAEU, nor the current state of the Armenia-Russia relations at all.

Consequently, a quite natural question can arise: is this a mere slogan or a clearly outlined political policy? If only a slogan, then it’s unlikely that Mr. Marukyan and his fellow party members will not imagine that after the announcement it will turn into a burning chip and will be forgotten, as well as can “burn” the entire political capital that has been fixed as a result of parliamentary elections. Therefore, this option can be put aside as incredible if we are guided by rational categories. And if this is the start of a political policy, it must be admitted that it is far from being formulated, as some important elements remain unformulated and unformed.

It is quite rational why Armenia should leave the Eurasian Economic Union: there is no Europe, no Asia, no economy, no union, plus, unprecedented sanctions, accepting which is a suicide itself. Only the “tomato-cucumber-brandy” issues are solved in that EAEU, as noted in the RPA, and other issues do not only remain unsolved but by joining the EEU, Armenia has been deprived of the opportunity and right to establish a free trade regime with other world economy entities. And the new Armenia-EU agreement, which should be signed in Brussels in November, if new “Moscow force majeure situations” do not occur suddenly, does not imply free trade regime with Armenia, as “it contradicts our commitments in the EAEU”. Despite all this, the signing of this agreement is the most important strategic step of Yerevan this year, and it is still unclear what new destabilization will Moscow make against this until November.

In contrast, for example, Georgia has free trade agreements with the EU, with the CIS, the European Free Trade Association, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, as well as with China, very low customs duties are applied to trade with Georgia in the United States, Japan and Canada. Besides, free trade regime is applied in trade with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia (The evidence of how it is used in case of Armenia, is Tavush rallies on Armenia-Georgia interstate highway, when Armenian customs officers were trying to “convince” people to pay for several watermelons purchased in Georgia, as if it’s the “requirement of the new EAEU rules”.

Ukraine also has advanced in this regard, signing 16 free trade agreements with 45 countries, including Canada, with a number of Balkan countries not yet a member of the EU, besides the EU, making the volume of exports only to the EU 8.2 billion US dollars (it’s only the data of the first half of 2017).

And Armenia, as it turns out, for the development of economic relations with Iran and the full implementation of the free trade zone of Meghri, is “waiting” for Russia to permit EAEU-Iran free trade regime (even if we provisionally assume that Iran will agree to it without hesitation).

It has been repeatedly stated that exclusive rights granted to Gazprom and Rosneft are the only obstacle to Armenia to use its opportunities to ensure the transit of Iranian gas to Georgia, to have access to Iranian and Arab oil market.

And what if it is possible to do it all by staying in the EAEU, and indeed, the EEU is such a good and free structure that does not hamper Armenia’s free trade regime with others, and no one is aware of that? As various state officials try to persuade us, that the EEU “does not hinder us to develop our relations …”, and instead multipoint you can specify any subject, this is what our high-ranking officials tell us.

Life shows that this has nothing to do with the reality. And the logic suggests that if we leave the EAEU tomorrow and limit ourselves to that, not trying to find alternatives, thinking that nothing will change anyway, we will find ourselves in a mere “attic” state. In addition, the problem of unresolved security and unresolved conflict, closely and organically linked to foreign, and foreign economic policies.

Therefore, this tremendous complex of necessary political steps, including the EAEU issue, is wider and deeper and is not limited to an economic component. Its implementation requires state, governmental powers, and levers and, of course, the support of the masses of informed citizens. So far, as we can see, there is none of them. In spite of this, official Yerevan, in its relations with Iran, China, and the European Union has taken important and concrete steps in the economic level, besides, several government officials state that “markets will be diversified” to avoid the impact of sanctions applied against Russia. Participating in NATO exercises in Romania and Georgia, a very important step was taken in the level of security and defence policy diversification. It is very important to maintain and bring this tendency to its logical and legal end, which, of course, is far from being such, and great difficulties and trials are expected on that path, the overcoming of which will require the overexertion of the power and intellect of the state and society.

“Yelq” states, that there are no strategic disagreements within the bloc about the withdrawal from the EAEU. It is a positive background, necessary, but not enough, to make it clear, whether the “Yelq” is ready to take the responsibility to formulate and form the social order of bringing this whole complex of problems into life, forcing the government to serve the interests of the state and society with steps adequate to the changing realities.

Ruben MEHRABYAN

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