On 7 December, 2015, the EU and Armenia launched negotiations on a new overarching framework for deepening their bilateral relations. The negotiations followed the uncertain period created in 2013 when the negotiated EU-Armenia Association Agreement could not be completed following Armenia's decision to join the Eurasian Economic Union.
Presently, the two sides are developing a comprehensive framework agreement covering political and economic cooperation and taking into account Armenia's more recent commitments. On February 15, 2016, Armenia and EU will launch talks on the Trade and Investments Chapter.
There are issues and challenges
Though the new round of talks sees “difficult issues and challenges,” Ambassador Switalski believes the upcoming discussions will run smoothly. “I hope the negotiations will be conducted smoothly and at the end of the road we will arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution,” said Ambassador Switalski.
The new agreement will include the political agenda of the EU-Armenia relations entirely. The strategic purposes EU is pursing are that Armenia can join other integration platforms and parallelly have good relations with EU, the Ambassador told the journalaists at the Media Center hosted meeting.
“We are hopeful the political part of the Association Agreement that embraces the values and partnership regarding justice issues, rule of law and security will be adopted without changes,” said Ambassador Switalski.
The parts of the agreement that define free trade processes will undergo changes since Armenia has chosen to join a different customs area, and “the framework agreement is rather the floor than the ceiling of the partnership.”
Ambassador Switalski mentioned that EU is the largest donor, trade partner and investor in Armenia. “We spend 50 million dollars for the benefit of Armenia's citizens every year.”
There Will Be No Gap
Though ENP Action Plan 2014-2015 is completed and the newly revised Neighborhood priorities are still being specified, the Ambassador believes “no gap will appear” in the relations with Armenia. Europe will opt for a diversified approach for its relations with the countries in the region, taking into account individual needs of every partner country.
“You might know better what issues Armenia has. A few days ago the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) published the final report on Armenia’s 6 December 2015 Constitutional Referendum which concluded that further steps should be taken to improve the situation. The report is another evidence. Take it seriously and do the homework. Armenian people and Armenian Government will benefit if these criticisms are fulfilled. EU will help Armenia, and we do not seek to dictate anything to Armenia,” said the Ambassador.
Ambassador Piotr Switalski prioritizes the improved election processes in Armenia especially in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2017.
“The report by OSCE/ODIHR documents Armenia has to address a number of issues such as the voters’ register, voting process, vote counting, etc. Something is wrong because even the presence of observers does not put an end to bad practice.”
Cooperation, the Ambassador believes, may become the solution. “Thus, we urge all political powers, Government and opposition to start a dialogue to develop and adopt a new electoral code with inclusive processes.”