Comments by Sergey Sargsyan to ArmInfo news agency
A pragmatic decision to join the EurAsEC will complicate Armenia’s strategic course for Euro-integration, which is possible in the distant perspective.
Prolongation of the talks on Russia’s membership in the WTO has intensified its activity in development of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), uniting Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine are observers there. EurAsEC, which was founded in October 2000, aims at establishment of the free trade regime among member states, common customs tariff and consolidation of positions in the process of joining the WTO. Despite the objective criticism, EurAsEC is now the most developed effective regional association on the post-Soviet territory.
One of the main results of the informal summit of the member states of the organization in August 15-17 was the decision to establish the Customs Union by Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan with adoption of a concrete program to prepare a package of necessary documents. The other member states may join it in the future – upon accepting appropriate legal-treaty obligations. Participation of the EurAsEC member states in two customs unions at the same time – within the WTO and EurAsEC – is quite possible on the basis of mechanisms designed to compensate the losses.
Another result of the summit is the decision to prepare the project “The Concepts of Formation of the Common Energy Market of the EurAsEC States” on the level of the heads of Governments. It seems that the highest economic effect, at least in the medium-term perspective, will be felt by member states of the organization thanks to unification of the transport tariffs and the prices for production by natural monopolists, first of all, their oil and gas. Joining of Uzbekistan to EurAsEC this January and resumption of talks on Ukraine’s membership in the organization allow to say that it is just EurAsEC that will become the CIS’s successor. And after the probable union into one structure with the Organization of Collective Security Treaty (OCST), which has quite serious grounds, formation of the structure of this new international military, political and economic organization will be finalized.
Moscow’s and (Kazakhstan’s) interest in the existence of such organization, including for strengthening their positions with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, while oil and gas prices are high, will result in creation of economic preferences within the EurAsEC, much higher than within the bilateral partner inter-state agreements; and it is very relevant in the conditions of expected radical increase of the price for their exported gas. So Russia is starting to fulfill very intensively its integration project on the post-Soviet area with a substantial military and political component, backed up with real economic intervention.
In this situation Armenia, which up to the present has managed to keep different levels of cooperation with OCST and EurAsEC, will have a choice: either to confirm its membership in the new organization, or to leave it. The observer status, which Armenia now has within the EurAsEC, will be nothing but a declaration of intentions in that new and rigid structure without any practical reward. One of the basic points, directly touching upon the military component of the Armenian security, will be the loss of the possibility for purchasing Russian arms and military equipment by internal Russian prices, i.e. much lower prices.
On the other hand, the pragmatic decision to join the EurAsEC will complicate Armenia’s strategic course for the Euro-integration, and in the distant perspective – the EU membership. In this situation the Armenian diplomacy should try to show its whole professionalism in order to find the “golden mean” in new conditions of the “Russian” and “European” integration projects and to preserve Armenia’s adherence to its complementarism policy.
August 23, 2006