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Political analyst: Armenia’s accession to Customs Union questionable

Armenia’s accession to the Russia-led Customs Union is questionable in near future, in view of some serious procedure-related issues, the Caucasus Institute director said.

“I doubt about Armenia’s joining the CU any time soon, or at all, for that matter. I’m not even sure if the CU will exist in 5 years,” Alexander Iskandaryan told a news conference in Yerevan.

As the political analyst noted, the CU is a project which took a long time to develop, as well as “tons of documents,” which renders Armenia’s joining the Union impossible in near future.

“The CU member states have different economic interests. For instance, Kazakhstan and Russia must keep their economies closed while Belarus and Armenia should do the opposite. Accession to the Union can’t be simple,” he said/

According to the expert, the Union’s internal problems might exacerbate in near future, distracting its attention from Armenia.

“With political will, Armenia might eventually gain the CU membership. However, full membership is not yet a possibility,” Novosti-Armenia quoted the expert as saying.

A draft resolution on Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union and unified economic zone was approved at the Minsk-hosted Eurasian Economic Council meeting.

Also submitted and confirmed were applications on Armenia’s participation in Eurasian integration and cooperation memorandum with Eurasian Economic Commission.

Armenia completed technical talks on a ‘deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement' (DCFTA) with the EU in July and it was set to be signed at a summit with the EU in late November. In addition to a free-trade deal, Armenia has been working towards the signing of an association agreement with the EU, a framework agreement on co-operation that is seen as a first step towards political integration with the EU.

However, during a Sept 3 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian leader Sargsyan said Armenia is ready to join Customs Union, with further plans to be involved in formation of the Eurasian Economic Union. Mr. Putin supported the initiative, vowing procedural assistance to Armenia.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt described Armenia’s intention as a U-turn in relations with the European Union. “Seems as if Armenia will break talks on free trade agreement with EU and integrate with Russia instead,” he said.

Linas Linkevicius, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Armenia “has blocked its chances of signing a free trade deal with the European Union by choosing to join the Russia-led union.” “We respect any choice of countries but they cannot enter both organizations at the same time because of different tariff requirements,” he said.

However, Armenian leadership continues expression intention to expand ties with the EU, which won't contradict Armenia's CU membership.

"Armenia will take part in the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius and is ready to sign the Association Agreement," President Serzh Sargsyan said at the October 2 PACE session.

"No Armenia-EU document is being readied to be signed at a Vilnius summit," the spokesperson of the EU Commissioner Stefan Fule said. “We’re trying to find routes for further cooperation with Armenia, based on the existing achievements,” Peter Stano said.