Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan held talks on long-term economic cooperation with Russia in St. Petersburg as President Serzh Sargsyan was visiting France, with Armenia-EU relations high on the agenda of his meetings.
PM Sargsyan, who also co-chairs the Armenian-Russian interstate commission on economic cooperation, on Tuesday signed an agreement regarding economic relations between Armenia and Russia until 2020. During the press conference after the signing ceremony, however, no start of specific programs or Russia’s agreement “to lend money” was announced.
While the head of the Armenian government was making statements to the effect that membership in the Customs Union is a conscious choice of Armenia, President Sargsyan continued his visit to Europe to deal with the fallout of his decision to join the Moscow-led bloc and prevent Armenian- European relations from fading away and the source of funding from becoming shallow.
Paying a working visit to France President Sargsyan met with his French counterpart Francois Hollande. The two discussed the prospects of cooperation between Armenia and the EU and agreed that everything should be done to keep the pace and quality of cooperation and the continuation of the reform process in Armenia. President Hollande assured Sargsyan that France would continue to support the promotion of the European agenda in Armenia. This is stated in the official report on the meeting.
Several days before that, British Ambassador to Armenia Jonathan Aves urged the Armenian government to flesh out exactly how they are going to continue the relationship with Europe, if it should not run counter to Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union.
Perhaps President Sargsyan will propose a specific format in Strasbourg where the PACE is due to meet for a session and where the Armenian leader is due to speak. Armenia is completing the Presidency of the Council of Europe, and it is taking place against the background of Yerevan’s failure to sign an Association Agreement with Brussels and a tough European Parliament resolution on Russian pressure. However, official Yerevan still hopes to participate in the Vilnius summit of EU Eastern Partnership and sign at least some sort of document. It is important from the financial point of view.
Experts note that the main purpose of Yerevan is to secure extended financial assistance from Europe. It is not without reason that in Yerevan officials speak with European partners mostly about the readiness to continue reforms for which Europe has paid already for several years. The head of the Yerevan office of the EU Traian Hristea also suggested that the EU will continue to promote democracy and reform in Armenia in future.
However, the “paramount” goal of Sargsyan is to secure a donor conference that Europe has promised to convene after Armenia initials the Association Agreement. Armenia needs money that neither Europe nor Russia appear to be lending just yet. And Sargsyan is trying “to hold on to both hippos”, even after announcing the choice of only one of them.