EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele says Brussels is still eager to pursue deeper ties with Yerevan even if Armenia goes ahead with plans to join a Russian-led Customs Union.
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Fuele restated the EU position that Armenia could not sign association and free-trade agreements with the European Union while also belonging to the Customs Union.
He was speaking on September 13 in Yerevan after an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU's Eastern Partnership member states.
"The Association Treaty is no longer on the table because of Armenia's decision. So let's talk about their ambitions, and their vision for another way to put the relationship higher, including a new legal framework for our relationship," Fuele said.
Expectations had originally been high that Armenia would move ahead with the EU trade agreements at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November.
But those hopes were dashed when Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, in a surprise move, announced last week that he wanted his country to join the Russia-led Customs Union, which currently includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Fuele confirmed that no deals will now be signed with Armenia in Vilnius. But he said Brussels was not abandoning Armenia, including civil society there.
"I talked today also with civil society groups, the National Platform, and I made it very clear that, the fact that Armenia is turning from the Association Agreement to the Customs Union does not mean that the European agenda, European values, and European principles, will disappear. It does not mean that, what the civil society has achieved to promote the European agenda, and fundamental rights, that that will disappear. We will be strongly represented here in Armenia and supporting civil society," Fuele said.
Fuele also said Russia had nothing to fear from the EU's Eastern Partnership program.
"I am saying very clearly that association agreements are good for our partners, and are good for the neighbors of our partners. I'm saying clearly that association agreements are substantive, and a very clear contribution of the European Union member states to the creation, in the future, of a free trade union from Lisbon to Vladivostok," Fuele stated.
But Fuele also warned Russia against pressuring other Eastern Partnership members into joining the Customs Union or the proposed Eurasian Union rather than sign agreements with the EU.
"The partners, we assured that if they become the subject of undue pressure because of their exercising the free choice, they can count on the solidarity [of the EU]. Solidarity is not an empty word in the European Union," Fuele said.
The six member states of the EU's Eastern Partnership are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.