Key EU-Armenia Talks Slated For December

(RFE/RL) – Armenia and the European Union will open early next month official negotiations on a new agreement to deepen their political and economic relations, Deputy Foreign Minister Karen Nazarian said on Thursday.

“We expect to start official negotiations in early December,” Nazarian told journalists. He was careful not to speak of any time frames for their conclusion.

“Right now we are discussing the format [of the negotiations.] It’s hard to predict any time frames now. Everything depends on the intensity and content of the negotiations.”

The deal is expected to contain many provisions of an Association Agreement which Armenia and the EU were close to finalizing two years ago. The agreement was abandoned after Armenia unexpectedly decided to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

The EU-Armenia Cooperation Committee discussed preparations for the upcoming talks when it held a regular session in Yerevan on Wednesday. One of its co-chairs, Gunnar Wiegand, said the two sides are aiming for an accord that will have a “very wide scope and good depth.”

Nazarian also said that Yerevan and Brussels will start discussing in January an “action plan” that should lead to the eventual abolition of the EU’s Schengen visa requirements for Armenian nationals.

The EU expressed readiness for visa liberalization in a joint declaration with Armenia and several other ex-Soviet states that was adopted at a May 2015 summit in Riga. The declaration says that such a process is contingent on the “full implementation” of an EU-Armenia agreement on “readmission” of illegal immigrants.

The readmission agreement was signed in April 2013 shortly after the EU eased some of its stringent visa rules for Armenians.

The EU has also continued to provide annual financial assistance to Armenia after President Serzh Sarkisian’s 2013 policy U-turn. Deputy Finance Minister Pavel Safarian said on Thursday that it will total 37 million euros ($41 million) in 2016.

Photo Caption: The Armenian and European Union flags displayed during negotiations in Yerevan on November 4, 2015

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