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German MEP Regrets Armenia's Customs Union Move

Chairman of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Elmar Brok (file photo)
After Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian announced that his country was going to join the Moscow-led Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak spoke to Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament and chairman of its Foreign Affairs Committee, about how he thinks the move will affect Yerevan's relations with the EU.

RFE/RL: What is your immediate reaction to the decision of Armenia to join the customs union?

Elmar Brok: I am very sorry for that. I discussed it with the Armenian president, too. We know that Armenia is under incredible pressure from Russia because of the difficult situation towards Azerbaijan and [the disputed territory of] Nagorno-Karabakh. There is all this pressure. A small country like Armenia was blackmailed to make such a decision. I feel very sorry because it is legally -- because of certain conditions -- not possible to be a full member both of the customs union and have an association agreement and free-trade-area agreement with the European Union.

RFE/RL: What will the EU's relationship with Armenia look like in the future?

Brok: There will be a relationship as we have with every country but not a relationship with a European perspective.

RFE/RL: There have been some arguments already that the EU let Armenia down and that this is the reason why Armenia opted for the customs union instead. What do you think about this?

Brok: I think that is a propaganda argument [for their] own population. We were ready to negotiate an agreement with them and go forward with that in Vilnius and that was very clear...the reason [behind this development] is the blackmailing pressure by Russia.

RFE/RL: Do you think there is any chance that Armenia will change its mind in the run-up to Vilnius?

Brok: I hope so as we will talk to them. I had in the last years several discussions with the president, and because of this discussion with the Armenian president I can only imagine that this pressure by Russia has played a role in that. If we have chance to open that is very much important that Nagorno-Karabakh should be solved in a way and [so] that such a small country can find a solution with Azerbaijan on that question in order to overcome the problems in the region. The European Union, which has not done it till now, should take much more interest in the solution of such a frozen conflict.