After this statement, Armenia's integration policy changed by 180 degrees. Before this, Armenia had been negotiating over the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union for 3 years and it was expected that in autumn 2013, this agreement would be signed. However, after the abrupt change in the country's foreign policy, Armenian found itself in the Eurasian Economic Union, established on the initiative of Russia.
Most of experts expressed opinions that Serzh Sargsyan made such a decision under the harsh pressures of Russia, which questioned the ability of Armenia to make sovereign decisions in the field of foreign policy. With a strange coincidence on September 3, 2017, Armenia refused to participate in the NATO "Agile Spirit 2017" military exercises held in Georgia without any reason and unexpectedly. Armenia had approved its participation for a long time.
The speakers of Media Center’s discussion, entitled “Developments and Changes 4 years after the Statement on Joining the Customs Union”, considered this step of Armenia to be the consequence of Russia's pressure, as it happened in 2013, September 3.
Ara Papyan, Chairman of “Modus Vivendi” Centre and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, thinks that refusing participating in military exercises without any reason first strikes Armenia's reputation.
“Even in interpersonal relationships, breaking agreements is not well-accepted, especially in inter-state relations. I also think that there has been an external pressure in making such a decision.”
Tevan Poghosyan, Chairman of “International Center for Human Development”, says that Armenia loses another opportunity to develop due to the interests of others.
“It was the loss of a chance that would help Armenia to develop and strengthen, and at the same time become stronger in order to able to withstand other pressures and the problem of external pressures was probably in that case,” Poghosyan said.
Areg Galstyan, PhD, Columnist and Expert at Forbes, The National Interest and The American Thinker, refused to participate in military exercises in Georgia due to the aggravation of Russian-American relations.
“Today when there is no actual negotiation process between Moscow and Washington, and in this case, the deterioration of the Russian-American relations leaves less chance for Armenia to maneuver. Armenia has made a decision to remain in the geopolitical sphere of Russia and, naturally, Moscow has started to speak more harshly and consistently with its allies and partners, feeling pressure from Washington,” Galstyan said.
Touching upon the results of Armenia's accession to the EAEU, the speakers agreed that Armenia had lost more than it won.
Ara Papian suggests to pay attention to the economic indices for making an opinion on the losses and achievements of the membership to EAEU.
“By joining the Eurasian Economic Union, in 2013, we had GDP of 11.61 billion drams, in 2016 we had 10.55 billion, the gross domestic product was reduced by more than than 1 billion. The external turnover amounted to 5.69 billion in 2013, in 2016 - 5.07 billion. State debt comprised $ 4.6 billion in 2013 and 5.9 billion in 2016,” Ara Papian said, adding, “It is possible to make some manipulations and find positive results in some places. One of the main temptations to join the Customs Union was huge investments that would have to be made. In 2013, we the external investments amounted to 597 million AMD, in 2016 it was 170 million, 3 times less.”
Tevan Poghosyan thinks that by imposing Armenia's membership in EAEU, Russia has attempted to influence Ukraine's decision to sign an agreement with the EU.
“At that time nobody knew exactly what will be the final decision of Ukraine. Was Armenia the goal of the Russian pressure, or was Armenia a "successful" experience to see what Russia can do, what it can offer and change people's viewpoints in one night?” Poghosyan said.
Talking about the losses, the expert notes that they are not only economic.
“Losses were also political in terms of socialization, institutional and camping. Let me once again mention that we lost the opportunity to develop, modernize and reform. The Association Agreement with the European Union was all that.”
Expert Areg Galstyan thinks having joined the Customs Union, Armenia has made a bad civilization choice, which, in its turn, has presented the negative results.
“In the 21st century, you have to decide with whom do you have the common interests – with France, Kyrgyzstan, Germany or Kazakhstan? We should see which directions to move right, who is closer to us. The economy is not just the markets and the money but the future, the development that is there. In this case, the main problem is that Armenia goes not in the way of progress but on the path of regression,” Galstyan said.
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