‘Aravot’ interviewee is the article writer of “Jamestown” foundation, political scientist, Armen Grigoryan
– Mr. Grigoryan, on October 2, European Commissioner on European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn negotiated with the authorities of the Republic of Armenia and the announcements which were voiced by both the Armenian side and the Commissioner are encouraging, they give us grounds to suppose there are no obstacles at the moment to sign Armenia-EU agreement, indeed. What impressions did you get from the visit? What do the sides discuss in this phase? Is there a concern in place, holding that Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between Armenia and the EU will not be signed at the last moment?
– I have mentioned on several occasions and I remain of the same opinion: I consider expressing optimism ungrounded before the signing of the agreement, and afterwards – the verification. The concerns about not signing can disappear only that time. Exactly 6 weeks before September 3, 2013, the negotiations on Association and Free Trade Agreements were over, the atmosphere was optimistic, moreover, some officials – including Tigran Sargsyan and Shavarsh Kocharyan, were expressing their confidence about the upcoming signing, also were announcing assuredly about the impossibility of becoming a member of the Customs Union – considering it “to say goodbye to the sovereignty.”
Thus, there is already no need for the discussion of the draft agreement, in essence. It remains to wait for whether Armenia is able to implement the limited responsibilities defined by the agreement – at least draw nearer to civilized countries to some extent, or whether it will change its decision during a night again – linking its destiny to the sporadic dictatorships (Russia, Belorussia, Azerbaijan) left in Europe and their Middle East partners ultimately.
– Johannes Hahn has mentioned in his exclusive interview to “Aravot”: “The mutual operations towards modernization of Armenia’s economy will be of the utmost priority”, and that “Armenia has a massive potential for economic development.” The arrow of these messages points at the authorities. However, if Armenia remains at the current economic level, how will it develop in the condition of Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement signed? That is, will control mechanisms be created by the EU?
– The economic potential of Armenia is limited by first and foremost the oligarchic system and the absence of competition. Armenia-EU agreement is not a guarantee for a reform. It is impossible not to mention that regardless of the Russian dictate, the attitude of the Armenian political elite towards the rapprochement with the EU is not honest. It is not a secret to the Europeans as well: as mentioned within the analysis published by Laure Delcour and Katarina Volchuk in 2015: “in the circumstance of the absence of competition, political system under the domination of oligarchs will not survive in case of implementing the reforms required from Armenia”, also: “the EU standards on human rights, rule of law and government quality are not favorable to the incumbent authorities.”
From the other perspective, Hrant Kostanyan has mentioned in particular, that the opportunities to contribute to the reforms are limited because of the weakness of the EU. Thus, even if any control mechanism is in place, it will be limited mainly by non-control of the expenses made by the means provided by the EU, although it is not a big obstacle to the authority of Armenia: this witness the formal struggle against corruption and other famous facts. Eventually, in Armenia a condition of a vital importance for systemic reforms lacks, it is – the existence of politically self-sufficient forces, which, being for Europeanization and reforms, will put pressure on the authorities.
– “Armenia’s membership to the Eurasian Economic Union will not have an influence on a lot of other fields which are controlled by the new agreement, for example – cooperation in the field of a better control for entrepreneurs. And in any case, Armenia already makes use of EU’s GSP+ system of trade privileges, whereby the majority of the Armenian export to the EU is released from customs duty. Armenia to EU export has increased by 12% in 2015 and by 10% in 2016”, explains Johannes Hahn in exclusive interview to “Aravot”. Can we state that in the condition of signing the Armenia-EU agreement Armenian entrepreneurs will be able to operate within EU market and Armenia’s membership to the EAEU will automatically become insignificant, nonetheless?
-Armenian entrepreneurs assuredly can operate within EU market if keeping sanitary and other standards. Nevertheless, some do not maintain the will to keep them and give preference to the “common business-culture” with Russia. EAEU membership is senseless, anyways: at economic level, in essence, it was conditioned by the interests of tomato and apricot exporters bearing “common business-culture”, at political level – by the status of Russian favorite and thereby – the will to preserve the authority. Moreover, EAEU membership is detrimental: the residents of Armenia will feel the regular evidence of the mentioned again 3 months later, when EAEU joint customs duty enter into force and the prices of around 800 types of products, a lot of food types encompassed, will grow, inducing a chain reaction of increase of the prices of other goods and services similarly.