Tailor-made cooperation? Armenia’s new partnership agreement with the EU

15 February 2018
Benyamin Poghosyan (Executive Director, Political Science Association of Armenia)

At the latest Eastern Partnership Summit on 24 November 2017, Armenia and the EU signed a new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). It represents a second chance for Armenia to deepen ties with the EU, after the four-year relationship limbo that followed Armenia’s surprise rejection of an Association Agreement in 2013.

The new agreement is the first example of the EU’s new differentiated approach towards the EaP countries, and for Armenia, an opportunity to revive its preferred multi-vector foreign policy. While the new agreement excludes free trade provisions, which would contradict Armenia’s commitment to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), it creates opportunities to improve the investment climate, strengthen sectoral cooperation and help diversify Armenia’s economy. Success will, nevertheless, depend on a number of factors:

  •  A genuine commitment of Armenia’s leaders to implement the agreement. The country has a very patchy track record when it comes to reforms. More efforts will have to be made to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, to fight against corruption, and to ensure free competition in an economy that has been historically controlled by powerful oligarchs or Moscow.
  • The engagement of the local civil society to act as a watchdog, which will be pivotal to exert pressure on the government if the latter breaks its promises.
  • The EU’s continued support to Armenia's civil society organisations, which will help them to contribute to sound policymaking, to improve accountability and monitor CEPA’s implementation.
  • The EU’s ability to better communicate the benefits of cooperation with the EU to the Armenian people and counter Russian-led disinformation campaigns.
  • The EU following through on the conditionality of its financial assistance. It should be made clear that EU support is inextricably linked to the implementation of reforms. Yerevan received EUR 140-170 million from the European Neighbourhood instrument in 2014-17. Given the economic troubles and the country’s growing national debt (approximately USD 6.5 billion in 2017), securing continued EU financial assistance for the coming years is crucial for the government.
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