Costly EU dream of Armenia
Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov.21
By Fuad Aslanov – Trend:
This Friday promises to be hot for Armenia, as it may realize its dream of coming closer to the European Union. Armenia is hopeful at last to sign the Association Agreement with the EU at the summit of the Eastern Partnership in Brussels on November 24.
Yerevan’s previous plans to ink long-dreamed agreement foiled after the country opted to join the Eurasian Economic Union following the Moscow meeting of the heads of state of Russia and Armenia.
Such change in position is quite particular to a country like Armenia, which is not an important player in the international arena and lacks of political leverage. The country lives in a constant dependence on Russia, thus acting as an outpost in the South Caucasus. Obviously, Yerevan tries to reduce this bondage by getting closer to the European Union.
This dependence is evidenced by the recent incident when a camera crew from Ukraine, who got to the ‘black list’ of Russia, has been denied entry to Armenia. In this regard, it will be interesting to watch how Yerevan is going combine its obligations before Moscow and Brussels after signing the long-awaited agreement with the EU.
It is also noteworthy that Russia and EU’s interests collide in many paragraph of the agreement. For instance, Armenia is committed to close the notorious Metsamor nuclear power plant, which is indicated as outdated and dangerous for the regional safety.
For years, many environmental experts have assessed this plant as the main threat to the regional environment and people’s lives. However, the plant that outlived its usefulness still continues its operation as the Armenian government refuses to close it despite the constant calls from international organizations.
Unfortunately for Armenia, the part of the EU agreement concerning the nuclear safety notes the importance of compliance with high level standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and specifically the need for closure of the Metsamor NPP. Meanwhile, the plant can be regarded as a joint project of Armenia and Russia as some time ago Moscow provided Yerevan with a loan worth $300 million for the reconstruction of the nuclear power plant by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, which has also been carrying out preventive works at the plant.
Anyway, Armenia is likely to sign the agreement with the EU as the closing Metsamor NPP is not an issue compared to the problems that the country faces in its economy by force of troubles in relations with its neighbors. The main trouble is, of course, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan. Due to the conflict, Armenia has neither economic relations nor transport links with Azerbaijan and neighboring Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan’s fair position on the issue. Moreover, Armenia has difficulties in relations with Georgia.
The conflicts with neighbors and illegal territorial claims impede the country to join any regional project and gain any benefits, and therefore Armenia decides to connect with the EU in order to revive its dead economy.
Another benefit Yerevan aims to get from the agreement is the visa-free regime with the European Union. But the Armenian government probably does not realize how this can be harmful for the country. The thing is, thousands of Armenians, who are frankly tired of living a poor and difficult life in their country, will get more opportunities to leave their motherland forever.
Given the bitter life in Armenia one can easily assume how acutely the demographic situation will deteriorate in the post-Soviet nation after getting the visa-free regime. This goes against the silly dreams of Armenian authorities, who want to increase the poor country’s population by more than a million by 2040.
Now Armenia is close to fulfill its old dream on getting closer to the EU, but the country will probably pay dearly for this ambition.