MINSK, Belarus (A.W.)—Armenia signed documents of accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) on Oct. 10, joining Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in the union, more than a year after first announcing intentions to join.
President Serge Sarkisian “thanked the heads of states of the member countries for the political support of the process of accession, and assured that Armenia will show a high sense of responsibility towards its membership in the Eurasian Economic Union,” reported the president’s website. “The president expressed the hope that the heads of EEU member countries will facilitate the ratification of that agreement in their national parliaments by the end of this year so that Armenia starts working beginning January 1 next year.”
Armenia was expected to join the union in May, but two of the three member states, Belarus and Kazakhstan, reportedly created hurdles. In his speech in Minsk, Sarkisian said, “We had difficulties in the negotiation phase but owing to our political will, professional approach and the readiness to look for the best decisions, we were able to cut it short and consider the interests of all the parties engaged.”
In his opening remarks at the meeting in Minsk, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that “Armenia is ready for working in the Eurasian Economic Union on an equal footing with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.” He added, “In a relatively short space of time, starting in autumn 2013, our Armenian friends have brought their economic regulations into line with our common standards and their national laws into line with our organization’s rules.”
Putin expressed hope “to see positive macroeconomic effects in the first year or two following Armenia’s accession.” He noted that trade between Armenia and the three members of the EEU “is growing fast as it is and has been adding up to ten percent every year. Removing trade and administrative barriers will, I hope, only further consolidate this trend. Other key indicators such as GDP, consumer demand, real incomes, and employment should also improve.”
Critics have argued that Putin’s expectations of growth might not be very realistic. The sanctions following Russia’s showdown with the West over Ukraine have impacted Armenia negatively, some say.
Sarkisian’s announcement in Moscow in August 2013 to join the EEU came as a surprise to even some of his closest political allies. After all, Armenia had been for years in negotiations with the European Union to join the Free Trade Zone.
Some opposition parties had spoken against the move, while others, particularly the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, were less recalcitrant. “We can assume that the main reason for this unexpected decision by the Armenian President while in Moscow was the security of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh. This is a responsibility related to the foundations of our nation and state,” the ARF had said in a statement in August 2013.