EDITORIAL: Armenia and the Eurasian Economic Union

The Eurasian Economic Union (the “EEU”) is a ploy by Russian President Vladimir Putin to vaguely mimic the European Union – in the sense that it will create an economic union and harness improved geopolitical cooperation within the new ‘bloc’ to rival that of our European neighbours. In short, Armenia will join a union with a combined population of 170 million people and a GDP of $2.7 trillion; providing a guarantee of free transit of goods, services, capital and workers. The EEU was established by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia via a treaty signed on 29 May 2014, and will officially go into effect on 1 January 2015 following the ratification of the treaty by the states’ respective parliaments.

Armenia is on course to join the union via a treaty signed on July 11, with President Serzh Sarkisian previously stating in September 2013:

“It is a rational decision stemming from the national interests of Armenia. This decision does not constitute a refusal to continue our dialogue with European structures. We intend to continue these reforms in the future.”

However, in effect, Armenia has destroyed its own once-promising chances of European Union integration, to the dismay of opposition leaders and diasporan members alike. EU officials have reaffirmed that EEU is “not compatible” with Armenia’s plans to initiate an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union at a November summit in Vilnius. It is safe to say that Putin is creating a pseudo-Soviet bloc, and President Sarkisian is willingly subjecting Armenia to it.

On the surface, analysts unfamiliar with the way investing in the region works would praise Eurasian integration. The Eurasian Development Bank would allegedly finance the necessary infrastructure, and consequently invest in other development opportunities in Armenia. However, if the situation were to stay the same, this investment would go straight into the pockets of our ‘beloved’ oligarchs – the same ones which impose taxes on foreign (usually diasporan Armenian) investors – who would use the wealth for their own interests. These are the same business owners who report low revenues to dodge taxes; despite owning all industry, manufacture and consumable good factories. This effectively thieves the Armenian population from money that could have been used to improve their healthcare and education, as well as the general upkeep of our homeland. Extortion and corruption is rife in Armenia – throwing more money at it is clearly not the solution. Instead, the political transparency and business regulation (of which are primordial if Armenia is to ever progress), necessitated by European Union integration, is.

Another pertinent issue is that the bureaucratic structure and logistical format of the EEU is still unknown; a serious lack of political transparency emanating from talks between the Russians and the Armenian Cabinet. Although Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are also strong contenders to join the union, Putin has envisaged the EEU to contain all ex-Soviet states (excluding those of which who are now in the EU).  Officials of the union are rumoured to be representative in terms of population proportion; meaning that, in its current format, officials would be 84% Russian, 10% Kazakh, and 6% Belarusian. This would ensure that Armenia, with its miniscule domestic population, would remain a minnow with its national-interests scarcely accounted for.

Eurasian integration would also inevitably lead to open borders with Azerbaijan, a country whose head of state, President Ilham Aliyev, recently declared war with Armenia via social media site, Twitter. This follows months of continued aggression towards civilians and soldiers of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the sniping of Aram Grigoryan, Karen Galstyan and farmer Arvid Danielyan. These atrocities have gone unpunished, leading to skirmishes between local militia – with personnel indoctrinated from birth to hate Armenia and Armenians, and Armenian folk defending their homes and livelihoods. Again, this is another major issue in the structure of the EEU – the defence of our people – that the Armenian foreign minister, Edward Nalbandian, must uphold if he is to serve national interests.

Even as it is now, Armenia lacks anonymity in the sense that its economic health largely depends on the investment of its Eastern (Iran) and Western (Russia, Europe and the UCA) counterparts. Would signing off more legal, political and economic sovereignty to a supra-national body be beneficial to the Armenian population? Or would it remain similar to the status quo: a political and fiscal agenda appeasing the wishes of the Armenian oligarchs.

— Emin Moskofian

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