Discussion: The European Union can help Armenia reduce its dependence on Russia
JAMnews held a discussion on the op-ed that it had previously published: EU-Armenia relations after Velvet Revolution – why no breakthrough has occurred․
The discussion included the article’s author Vahan Unanyan, the director of the Modus Viveni Centre Ara Papyan, and political scientist Armenak Minasyants. We summarised the main points below.
he government of Armenia and the EU are so far getting to know each other, thinks Vahan Unanyan.
There are no significant changes on the sides’ agendas. The assistance that is forthcoming from the EU was envisioned before the revolution that brought this government to power earlier this year:
“It is hard to say whether the relationship between Armenia and the EU are developing in a positive or negative direction. The situation is rather static today. The EU welcomed the events in Armenia with enthusiasm, but no concrete steps have been made to add to the rhetoric at the highest levels,” Unanyan said.
One of the reasons for the static relations could be the new authorities’ proclamations. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, stated time and again that Armenia won’t be reversing its foreign policy course.
Accordingly, European decision makers also do not see fit a radical change in their approach to Armenia.
he director of the Modus Vivendi Centre, Ara Papyan, does not think that five months are enough for serious change to take place. The expert notes that any financial assistance decisions made by the EU will reflect in their annual budget once confirmed, which will not happen until next year.
“I am certain that our relations will continue to develop. The assistance to Armenia will grow. Large European companies have begun to take a keener interest in Armenia. Europeans are people of reason. They believe in deeds, not words. But deeds take time and taking consistent steps,” Papyan argued.
Much depends on the upcoming early parliamentary elections in Armenia, Papyan believes:
“Attracting investors is not the only thing we are losing out on as we wait for the elections. The EU’s financial aid is not increasing either. But this is natural; it would be surprising if it did, considering that Russia is our strategic partner. That would be impossible. You are either their [the EU] ally and receive their money or you’re Russia’s ally and you get your money from Russia. We cannot expect significant changes if we are constantly talking about not making changes in our foreign policy.”
The expert notes that Yerevan’s rhetoric will change soon. There is a necessity to develop economic relations with the European Union as the country’s security is not limited to the protection of its borders.
n turn, the political scientist Armenak Minasyants argues that the EU’s statements about the necessity for countering corruption and reforming the judicial system fall in line with the policies of the current Armenian government.
This can play a big role in the development of relations between the sides.
“The EU’s rhetoric is changing. It is prepared to assist Armenia to judicial sector reform. Meetings in certain sectors are taking place. Activity is on the up, especially in recent weeks,” Minasyants said.
ll the experts agreed that the EU can take measures to help decrease Armenia’s dependence on Russia.
However, Papyan posits that it is Armenia that must take practical steps:
“Russia sees its neighbours as either vassals or enemies. It does not have allies. I see readiness on the side of the EU, but much depends on us. Moreover, Armenia should propose regional projects connected with Georgia and Iran.”