Recalling the experience of 2013 when President Serzh Sargsyan refused to sign the agreement with the European Union within the framework of the Eastern Partnership at the last moment and prefered to become a part of Russia's dominant Customs Union, many people in Armenia are concerned that the same can be repeated in 2017.
To discuss new possibilities for building a future with the EU and to talk about the prospects in that context, representatives of civil society from Ukraine, Poland and Moldova attended the discussion “The Future of Eastern Partnership: Challenges and Perspectives” held by Media Center on September 25. The speakers were Stepan Grigoryan, Director of the Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation, Karolina Zbitnevska, Chief Editor of EURACTIV Poland, Irina Sushko, Head of "Europe without Borders" Ukrainian NGO, Yulian Rosu, Expert of the Institute for European Policy and Reform (IPRE) in Moldova.
Touching upon the concerns that Armenia can refuse the signing of the agreement at the last moment under Russia's pressure, Stepan Grigoryan mentioned that though such concerns are based on the experience of the past but this time it is unlikely that Armenia will refuse the signing.
“I hope Armenia will sign the agreement with the European Union, as last week, at the UN General Assembly session, the Armenian President said that we would sign. After all, I think we have no place to retreat.”
Karolina Zbitnevska, Chief Editor of EURACTIV Poland that is considered to be one of the architects of the Eastern Partnership, touched upon the advantages of the Eastern Partnership and the privileges that states obtain after signing the Association Agreement with the European Union.
“In addition to the benefits of this free visa regime, which provides citizens with free travel, there is also an opportunity for citizens to enjoy telephone access without the roaming in the entire region. This will enable our citizens to speak more, cooperate with each other, and travel more in the future. There are also opportunities for cooperation and exchanges, as well as opportunities for cooperation between Armenia and Georgia in the field of free exchange and energy.”
Yulian Rosu presented the positive outcome for his country after signing an agreement with the EU.
“The free visa regime has contributed to the fact that our citizens visit the EU countries to see their relatives. There are satisfactory statistics on export. 67% of Moldovan exports are in the EU countries. We also feel a positive impact on the reforms that have been implemented within the framework of the Association Agreement.”
Irina Sushko, talking about the Ukrainian experience of the European Union, noted that though the process was not smooth but the achievements for Ukraine are obvious.
“Due to different programs, such as the Eastern Partnership mentioned today, and others, we have been able to achieve certain standards that have led to some progress in Ukraine, of course not in all fields, but in many areas. We can confidently say that Armenia also has such an opportunity. Today it was talked about what the Eastern Partnership offers, I can confidently say that these 6 countries have different levels of interest in integrating into the EU, but the point where our interests can coincide is the field of free movement.”
The latter also noticed that there is much role for the civil society to make reforms in the country, they can keep the focus of attention on the reforms and pressure the state authorities to take steps in that direction.
“A number of anti-corruption bodies have been created today. I cannot say that they work very effectively but the base on which they work should be very high quality. Today, the question is how much of Ukraine's political elites are ready not only to imitate reforms but actually make them. The authorities are not always ready to go to the end but only because civil society is active in our country and thanks to the EU's assistance, we, in any case, lead us to that problem.”
Derenik Malkhasyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”
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