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Adrienne Warren

Flirting With Disaster? The EaP and The ‘Other’ Eastern Neighbour

Brussels-based policy think-tank, CEPS, has released a report entitled “Putin’s grand design to destroy the EU’s Eastern Partnership and replace it with a disastrous neighbourhood policy of his own.” The report,  released yesterday,  argues that Armenia’s choice to enter Russia’s customs union will have disastrous consequences, and analyses the possible fallacy of Armenia’s justifications for choosing its Eastern ally over the EU. The report also outlines why Russia’s policy towards its neighbours poses more of a threat than a first glance might reveal. Another report issued by the Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw explores the potential role of the V4 countries in contributing to the success of the November Eastern Partnership summit.

Armenia, author: zsoolt, source: Flickr

Armenia, author: zsoolt, source: Flickr

“…The Armenian President chose to deprive his country of the possibility to enter into free trade area agreements with other states, which any economy is free to do unless it is part of a customs union, in which case it becomes bound to a common external tariff,” authors Michael Emerson and Hrant Kostanyan write in the report, continuing “This latter deprivation is particularly serious in Armenia’s case, since Russia’s external tariff is on average rather highly protective. In the process, Sargsyan has also precluded Armenia from pursuing the only plausible strategy to become an open, highly-skilled, small economy.”

Emerson and Kostanyan further elucidate on why the choice of entering the Russian-driven Customs Union was perhaps not the wisest choice, thus excluding agreements with the EU, saying:

“The economic case against joining the Russian customs union is all the greater because nothing in the DCFTA with the EU would have prevented Armenia from entering into a ‘high-quality’, free trade agreement with the Russian-led customs union. Armenia is already party to the matrix of CIS free trade agreements, but many of these do not function well. Rather than join the Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia customs union, why should Armenia not simply negotiate a high-quality free trade agreement with it?”

Of Russia’s motives, the report suggests there is more behind the scenes than merely sealing an economic agreement with Armenia:

“There are other recent developments that may shed light on Russia’s behaviour towards Armenia. On August 13th President Putin made his first visit to Baku in many years, which resulted in contracts for the supply of Russian military hardware to Azerbaijan, amounting to $4 billion. Azerbaijan itself is greatly expanding its military spending on the basis of its oiland gas revenues and one frequently discerns in the country’s political discourse a strong determination to get the settlement it wants over Nagorno-Karabakh, preferably by negotiation, but if necessary, by force.”

The report continues:

“Meanwhile Russia has a military base in Armenia. Thus Russia is conspicuously arming Armenia’s enemy while at the same time pressuring it to join the customs union. The precise terms of the Sargsyan-Putin conversation on this matter are not publicly known but left to the imagination.”

According to Emerson and Kostanyan, Russia’s plan does not stop there, citing other recent events that placed in the greater context could spell trouble for the EU and its Eastern Partnership aspirations:

“But this Armenian story is only a part of a grander Russian campaign to also dissuade Ukraine and Moldova from signing their DCFTAs with the EU. Russia has a long track record of using pseudo technical barriers to trade as instruments of political pressure. On September 11th, Russia changed tactics from threat to action by banning all imports of Moldovan wine. Overnight Russian officials transformed what had been an enjoyable alcoholic beverage into a “health hazard” for the entire Russian population.”

Emerson and Kostanyan continue:

Georgia has suffered similar actions against its wine and sparkling waters at various times in recent years. Currently Ukraine, which routinely is targeted with long customs delays, has been hit with the latest bijou of Russian trade diplomacy: Ukrainian chocolates have suddenly been declared a “health hazard” for the whole of the Russian-Kazakh-Belarus customs union.”


A report issued by the Center for Eastern Studies (Warsaw), EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy (Prague), Hungarian Institute of International Affairs (Budapest) and Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (Bratislava) explores the potential role of the V4 countries in contributing to the success of the November Eastern Partnership summit.

The analysis authored by lexander Duleba, András Rácz, Věra Řiháčková an Rafał Sadowski, “Visegrad 4 the Eastern Partnership: Towards the Vilnius Summit” touches on the importance of the EaP summit, as a benchmark of tangible results for the 4-year old partnership:

“…[The] Vilnius summit represents an opportunity for the EaP in terms of  testing its ability to uphold the EU agenda. The EU member states that support the EaP,  including the V4 countries, desperately need a successful EaP summit in Vilnius in order to keep the EaP high on the EU agenda. The Vilnius summit will be a success providing at least one EaP country has achieved tangible progress in its contractual AA/DCFTA deal with the EU by the time of the summit. The AA/DCFTA is the centerpiece of the EU offer to EaP partner countries. In order to demonstrate and maintain the congruity of its four-year old offer the EU desperately requires evidence that the EaP countries are capable of achieving it. At the  same time, the EaP countries also need the Vilnius summit to be a success.”

The report further pinpoints key areas in which the V4 countries could be instrumental in helping the EaP countries on their “path going forward to the Vilnius summit and beyond.” According to the report, as stated by the Visegrad Declaration:

“V4 was ready to assist countries aspiring to EU membership by sharing and transferring knowledge and experience. In addition they stated that the V4 countries were prepared to use their unique regional and historical experience and contribute to shaping and implementing the European Union’s policies towards the countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe.”

sources: CEPS, Centre for Eastern Studies

Watch this space…

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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