Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union (CU) bears witness to further integration in the post-Soviet space. It was announced on September 3, in Moscow by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in negotiations with Putin. The Armenian leader said Yerevan will take necessary practical steps towards joining the CU, and will subsequently participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC).
According to Putin, Yerevan’s involvement in Eurasian integration structures will give a powerful impetus to the mutually beneficial economic cooperation. He stressed that Russia upholds Yerevan’s decision to join the Customs Union, participate in the formation of the EEC, which fully meets Armenia’s national interests and does not constitute a renunciation of the dialogue with Europe, and will fully support this process.
It has to be said that in Armenia there were opponents of the country’s joining the Customs Union. Their positions were substantiated by the fact that this step would prevent Yerevan’s tentative cooperation with the European Union, economic and political ties with the West. President Sargsyan had to overcome strong resistance of opponents not only among the opposition forces, but also in the government. But Sargsyan has succeeded in finding cogent arguments to reason his position which is that for the country its economic, political and military cooperation with Moscow prevails, so it is necessary to join the Customs Union.
By the way, recall that Russia is Armenia’s most important trade and economic partner. About 1,300 Russian companies operates here. They make up more than 25% of all joint ventures with the participation of foreign capital and are engaged in gas, nuclear, telecommunications and financial sectors. For the first 5 months of this year, the bilateral trade between Russia and Armenia increased by 13% compared to the same period last year. High results have been achieved in the investment sector. The volume of Russian accumulated investments is more than $3 billion, almost half of all foreign investments in the national economy.
Considering the fact that for the economy of this mountainous country the transport issue is of particular importance, RZD (Russian Railways) intends to invest 15 billion rubles in the development of Armenian Railways. So the deepening of economic cooperation with Russia, including in the framework of the Customs Union is a vital necessity for Armenia devoid of its own natural energy resources. An important factor determining Yerevan’s attachment to Moscow, is also the presence of a Russian military base in the country’s territory, which plays an important role in ensuring the security of the country. It is worth recalling also about the very complicated mediating role that Russia has assumed in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations on the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
So Armenia is vitally interested in deepening ties with Russia and joining the Customs Union. But what Armenia’s appearance among its members will gives the Customs Union?
Firstly, the integration space extension always promises also new opportunities. Aside from that, it is an example for those former Soviet republics, which so far are only watching on what is happening and take their time to join the CU, not wanting to tie their hands. Although the benefits of joining the Customs Union are indeed doubtless, and Yerevan was able to fully appreciate them.
Armenia will be the first of the Transcaucasian republics to join the CU, which will not go unnoticed. Given that the Transcaucasia is a major economic and political region, and Armenia borders Iran and Turkey (opening the way to the Middle and Near East), we can talk about the obvious advantage for the Customs Union, co-opting additional members by Armenia. In prospect, Armenia will be included also in the Eurasian Economic Union.
It is difficult to make any predictions now, but it is entirely possible that Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union will bring Baku and Tbilisi to think about the suitability of such a decision in the near future also for themselves. It does not at all interfere with possible cooperation with the West; trade bridges may be built both with the West and the East – it is obvious.
Turning to the voiced by Serzh Sargsyan decision on Armenia’s accession the Customs Union, it remains to add that now Yerevan is now to perform one technical procedure - apply with the same request to the leadership of the three founding members of the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan). Of course, there is no doubt that it will be satisfied.