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EU's Fuele Says No Armenia Deals To Be Signed In Vilnius

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stephan Fuele (left) and Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian in Yerevan on September 13.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said Armenia cannot sign association and free trade agreements with the European Union while also belonging to a Russia-led Customs Union.

Fuele made the statement on September 13 in Yerevan, where he was attending an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU's Eastern Partnership member states.

Fuele also said it was not possible for Armenia to sign an Association Agreement with the 28-member bloc without an accompanying Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area treaty.

"They are two parts of one treaty," he said. "There are clear links between those two parts; you can't separate just one at the expense of the other."

Change Of Plans

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 is still ready to engage with Armenia "beyond" the association and free trade agreements.

"I came to listen to the ambitions and wishes and preferences of our Armenian colleagues," Fuele said. "And if they would wish to see this new legal framework, which would move us beyond the existing partnership and cooperation agreement, we will be very happy to engage in this process."

'Undue Pressure'

Fuele also warned Russia against pressuring other Eastern Partnership members into joining the Customs Union or the proposed Eurasian Union rather the sign agreements with the EU.

"The development of the Eurasian Union project must respect our partners' sovereign decisions," he said. "Any threats from Russia aiming at the possible signing of agreements with the European Union are unacceptable. The European Union will support and stand by those who are subject to undue pressure."

The six member states of the EU's Eastern Partnership are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.