Armenia and the European Union


Armenia and the European Union

Armenia and the European Union have maintained positive relations over the years.

Background

Armenia, a Christian nation located at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, has deep cultural and historical connections with Europe, including an old and extensive diaspora.

The first nation to adopt Christianity in the year 301, Armenia has been part of the Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires as well as the Soviet Union. Armenians especially played a major role in the Byzantine Empire, serving as both military and political figures. Heraclius, Leo V, Basil I, Romanos I, and John I Tzimiskes are examples of Byzantine emperors who were of full or partial Armenian extraction.

When Armenia was overrun by the Seljuk Turks during the Middle Ages, Armenian refugees fled to the coast of the eastern Mediterranean Sea and established the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.hy icon Poghosyan, S.; Katvalyan, M.; Grigoryan, G. et al. "Cilician Armenia" (Կիլիկյան Հայաստան). Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia. vol. v. Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1979, 406-428] Cilician Armenia served key ally of the European Crusaders and the Lusignan dynasty of France intermarried with the Hetoumid Cilician royal family. In the 14th century, Cilician Armenia finally fell to the Mameluks and King Levon V fled to Paris where he died in 1393 after calling in vain for another Crusade. It was not until the 19th century, with the successful Tsarist Russian conquest of eastern Armenia, that Armenia was reunited with European civilization.

Armenia-EU relations

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) (signed in 1996 and in force since 1999) serves as the legal framework for EU-Armenia bilateral relations. Since 2004, Armenia and the other South Caucasus states have been part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, encouraging closer ties between Armenia and the EU. An ENP Action Plan for Armenia was published on 2 March 2005, "highlighting areas in which bilateral cooperation could feasibly and valuably be strengthened." The plan sets "jointly defined priorities in selected areas for the next five years." In November 2005, formal consultations on the Action Plan were opened in Yerevan and as of 2008 are ongoing. [ [http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/armenia/intro/index.htm Armenia and the EU] ]

Opinions

There is a lot of interest in Armenia eventually joining the European Union, especially among several prominent Armenian politicianscite news
title=Interview with RA National Assembly Speaker Artur Baghdasaryan
publisher=ArmInfo News Agency
date=2005-09-26
url=http://www.arminfo.am/political-issue22.html
accessdate=2007-06-25
] and the general public in Armenia.cite news
title=Poll Finds Strong Support For Armenian Entry Into EU
publisher=Radio Free Europe
author=Saghabalian, Anna
date=2005-01-07
url=http://www.rferl.org/reports/caucasus-report/2005/01/1-070105.asp
accessdate=2007-06-25
] However, former President Robert Kocharyan, has said he will keep Armenia tied to Russia and the CSTO for now, remaining partners, not members of the EU and NATO. [cite news
title=Armenia Not to Join NATO, EU: President
publisher=ChinaView
date=2006-04-24
url=http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-04/24/content_4468385.htm
accessdate=2007-06-25
] It is unclear what position President Serzh Sargsyan will take on the issue.

Several Armenian officials have expressed the desire for their country to eventually join the European Union. Some even predict that it will make an official bid for membership in a few years. [cite news
title=Armenia: Armenia's Chances of EU Membership Assessed
publisher=IPR Strategic Business Information Database
date=July 2003
url=http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_go1493/is_200307/ai_n9111910
accessdate=2007-06-25
]

According to Artur Baghdasarian, head of the Rule of Law party and former speaker of the Azgayin Zhoghov, Armenian membership in the European Union "should be one of the key priorities" of the country's "present and future foreign policy." Baghdasarian believes that "EU membership will open new avenues for Armenia to move to a new geopolitical milieu as well as a new economic environment." He also added that it "will enable Armenia to have access to a completely new security system." EU membership is on the agenda of many political parties in Armenia including the pro-Western Heritage party. [ [http://www.heritage.am/documents/proclamation.htm Heritage Party Proclamation] ]

Public opinion in Armenia suggests that membership would be welcomed, with 64% out of a sample of 2,000 being in favour and only 11.8% being against. Another poll conducted in the Armenian capital Yerevan suggested that "as many as 72% of city residents believe, with varying degrees of conviction, that their country's future lies with the EU rather than the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)." Still, more than two-thirds of the country's population believes that Armenia will not be ready to join the EU until at least 2015. A 2007 opinion poll indicated an increase in Armenian EU interest with 80% of the Armenian public favoring eventual membership. [ [http://www.huliq.com/27382/armenia-says-not-aiming-for-nato-eu-membership Armenia Says Not Aiming For NATO, EU Membership] ]

Torben Holtze, head of the European Commission's representation in Armenia and Georgia and Ambassador of the European Union with residence in Tbilisi, stated recently: "As a matter of principle, Armenia is a European country and like other European states it has the right to be a EU member provided it meets necessary standards and criteria."cite web |last=Juergen-Zahorka |first=Hans |accessdate=December 23 |accessyear=2006 |url=http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/PDF/Armenia%20ante%20portas.pdf |title=How Armenia Could Approach the European Union |publisher=LIBERTAS - Europaeisches Institut GmbH] On 12 January 2002, the European Parliament noted that Armenia and Georgia may enter the EU in the future. However, on 9 November 2005, the European Commission in a new strategy paper suggested that the current enlargement agenda (Croatia and in the future the other ex-Yugoslavian countries) could block the possibility of a future accession of Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. Commissioner Olli Rehn said that the EU should avoid overexpansion, adding that the current enlargement agenda is already quite full. [ [http://euobserver.com/9/20289 EUobserver article] (subscription only)]

Present situation

Armenia is still in conflict over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh with neighbouring Azerbaijan, which owns the territory "de jure". During the 1990s, the majority Armenian region declared their independence after holding a referendum and engaged in a full-scale war against Azerbaijan with Armenian aid. Since 1994, a ceasefire has been in place, but tensions remain very high. Azerbaijan refuses to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh at any level and thus Armenia represents the region in the peace negotiations. Bako Sahakyan, the current president of Nagorno-Karabakh, pledged to seek full independence of the region, using the example that international recognition of Kosovo as an independent state would pave the way for acceptance of Nagorno-Karabakh's sovereignty. [ [http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/20/europe/EU-GEN-Armenia-Azerbaijan-Nagorno-Karabakh-Vote.php Bako Saakian wins presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh - Herald Tribune] ]

Despite suffering an eathquake in 1988 and a blockade by neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan over Karabakh, the Armenian economy has one of the world's fastest growth rates. However, this comes off a low base and many years of near-continuous recession. [cite news
title=IMF Heaps More Praise On Armenia
publisher=ArmeniaLiberty, Radio Free Europe
author=Markarian, Atom
date=2006-06-19
url=http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2006/06/78236A02-837E-4301-ADD0-54D8AB01BA56.ASP
accessdate=2007-06-25
] In the 2006 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Armenia ranked 93rd of 163 countries. [cite web|url=http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2006|title=Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2006] Armenia ranked 80th on the 2006 UNDP Human Development Index, the highest among the Transcaucasian republics. [cite web |url=http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/data_sheets/cty_ds_ARM.html|title=2007/2008 Reports - Armenia|publisher=UNDP] In the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom, Armenia ranked 28th, ahead of a number of EU members such as Austria, France, Portugal and Italy. [cite web |url=http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/|title=Index of Economic Freedom 2008|publisher=The Heritage Foundation]

The Metsamor nuclear power plant, which is situated some 40km west of Yerevan, is built on top of an active seismic zone and is a matter of negotiation between Armenia and the EU. Towards the end of 2007, Armenia approved a plan to shut down the Metsamor plant in compliance with the New European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan. [cite news
title=2007 Review: Foreign policy and the pursuit of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
publisher=ArmeniaNow.com
date=2008-01-11
url=http://armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&AID=2704&CID=2669&IID=&lng=eng
accessdate=2008-01-16
]

References

ee also

*Enlargement of the European Union
*Foreign relations of the European Union
*Georgia and the European Union
*Moldova and the European Union
*Ukraine and the European Union

External links

* [http://www.insideeurope.org/ InsideEurope.org]
* [http://www.aeplac.am/ AEPLAC: Armenian-European Policy And Legal Advice Centre]
* [http://www.delarm.ec.europa.eu/ The European Commission's Delegation to Armenia]
* [http://www.armembassy.be Diplomatic Missions of the Republic of Armenia in Brussels]


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