Sic!: Armenian precedent and lessons to be learned for President Dodon

Not long ago, President Igor Dodon started to show interest in the experience of Armenia. The fact that it became a member of the Eurasian Union in May 2014 didn’t stop the South-Caucasian country from negotiating a new Agreement with the EU. The “here and there” policy seems to have smiled on President Dodon too in the recent past. In a new Sic! article, author Dionis Cenusa wonders “How viable is and, more important, what lessons can be learned from this model?”.

Initialed in March 2017 and signed during the Eastern Partnership Summit of this November, the new Comprehensive and Extended Partnership Agreement borrows practically all the components of the Association Agreement that was abandoned by Armenian President Serj Sargsyan in 2013 under the pressure of Russia. Even the political dialogue and dialogue on justice remain in force, alongside sector economic cooperation. All the provisions that remind about foreign trade, which is the dimension of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, weren’t included in the document yet. Armenia’s experience of combing the Eurasian course with the European one was appreciated by Moldova’s President, who described it as an “interesting model for Moldova”. While in Yerevan in November 2017, Igor Dodon showed interest in the way in which Armenia transposes the European legislation and, simultaneously, takes part in the Eurasian Economic Union.

The article says the Armenian model is very useful to Russia because it not only keeps the suitable geopolitical architecture, but also ensures access to European funds for building infrastructure etc. in the region, which the Russian authorities do not really have or do not want to allocate. Sure that the reforms inspired by the EU usually fail in the region, Moscow accepts the Armenian model as a geopolitical experiment. Russia’s indulgence to the Armenian model is an open invitation for the pro-Russian leaders of the region, including Igor Dodon.

Since Armenia joined the Eurasian Economic Union, the Russian-Armenian commercial relations have been non-uniform.

According to statistics, the trade balance between the two countries, even if they normalized in 2016, witnessed a massive shock in 2015, when Armenia’s participation in the Eurasian Union was activated. On the other hand, Armenia’s commercial flows to the EU were stable and increase continuously. This points to a larger absorption capacity and growing consumption in Europe.

The results of the trade between Armenia and Russia, which witnesses fluctuations, reveal very usable foundations. On the one hand, owing to destructive geopolitical activity, Russia attracts external sanctions (interference in Ukraine), which affect internal macro-economic indicators (stability of the ruble, purchasing power) and expand to the countries connected to the Russian market by commercial flows and remittances. On the other hand, the Russian economy suffers from structural deficiencies that derive from its massive dependence on incomes from sales of hydrocarbons, whose prices fell almost twice in 2013-2015. So, the entry into the Eurasian Economic Union, projected by President Dodon and already tested by Armenia, brings particular benefits, but these are excessively vulnerable to external shocks.

Moreover, the moods inside Armenian society are not really in favor of Russia even after three years of the entry into the Eurasian Economic Union, where there are also other countries loyal to Moscow. A poll published this autumn shows that about 50% of the respondents consider the impact of the entry into the Eurasian organization is negative. Approximately 40% regard the coming closer to Russia as an obstacle to better relations with the EU, which are supported by over 80% of the respondents. Even after three years of the abandonment of the Association Agreement with the EU in September 2013, most of the Armenians continue to disapprove of this gesture.

The author concludes that by joining the Eurasian Union in 2014 and by signing the Comprehensive Agreement with the EU recently, Armenia shows that it wants to moderate the Russian influence. The three years of participation in the Eurasian organization, towards which it was pushed by Russia in 2013, stimulated Yerevan to reinvent, together with the EU, a new Agreement that also envisions the transposition of the European legislation and rapprochement with the EU in different areas (transport, regional development, infrastructure, etc.). According to him, combining the participation in the Eurasian Union with the development of a more profound dialogue with the EU, Armenia created an attractive precedent for EaP countries with influent pro-Russian forces, like Moldova. At the same time, these hybrid geopolitical combinations seem not to bother Russia, which, on the contrary, sees benefits in the geopolitical experiment of Armenia because they enable to combine the Eurasian project with investments from the EU for different vital needs in the region for which Moscow does not want or cannot allot money.

The Armenian precedent is yet a good lesson for countries like Moldova, where the pro-Russian forces want to review the agreements with the EU. These lessons can be classed into three sets. All these lessons should be studied very attentively by President Igor Dodon and other exponents of the pro-Russian forces from the country before promoting again the idea of joining the Eurasian Economic Union.

Sic! is a fact-checking, synthesis and analysis project implemented by IPN with support from Soros Foundation Moldova and the Black Sea Trust.

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