Alexei Overchuk

Moscow Warns Yerevan Over EU Membership Bid

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenia will lose tariff-free access to the Russian market and other economic privileges granted by Moscow if it seeks to join the European Union, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk indicated on Tuesday, June 25.

Overchuk issued the warning as he addressed an international expert forum in Moscow just days after the Armenian government revived talk of an EU membership bid amid a continuing deterioration of Russian-Armenian relations.

A senior Armenian pro-government lawmaker, Arman Yeghoyan, said on Friday, June 21, that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his political team are “seriously considering” making such a bid because they believe accession to the EU would benefit the Armenian economy. Yeghoyan spoke as he chaired a parliamentary hearing on the issue initiated by pro-Western fringe groups supporting Pashinyan. They urged his government to hold a referendum on EU membership within the next three months.

“There is a well-known half-joke that Nikol Vovaevich [Pashinyan] made in one of his interviews,” the Sputnik news agency quoted Overchuk as saying. “Answering a question about when he would join the EU if he were to choose, Pashinyan joked ‘this year.’ Discussions are also underway regarding holding a referendum on joining the EU.”

“Of course, speaking about Armenia, it is impossible, it would be wrong to turn, so to speak, a blind eye to the fact that today the political vector of this country is leaning more and more towards the West,” he went on , according to another Russian news agency, TASS. “You also need to understand that the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) are incompatible things.

“And the benefits that a country receives from proximity to Russia must also be perceived as the price we pay for our security and strategic depth. So the arrival of some extra-regional players there would, of course, have consequences.”

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“We don’t do gifts here,” added the Russian vice-premier, who also co-heads a Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation together with his Armenian opposite number, Mher Grigoyan.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin likewise warned last week of the economic cost of Armenia’s further drift to the West. Pashinyan’s government has frozen its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization under Western pressure, Galuzin claimed, adding that Western powers will also demand the South Caucasus country’s withdrawal from the EEU, a Russian-led trade bloc. That would lead to a “loss of the main [export] market for Armenian business,” he said.

Last year, Russia accounted for over 35 percent of Armenia’s foreign trade, compared with the EU’s 13 percent share. It absorbed 40 percent of Armenian exports worth $8.4 billion.

Armenian exports to Russia have skyrocketed since 2022, with local entrepreneurs taking advantage of Western sanctions against Moscow to re-export Western goods to the Russian market. These and other cash inflows from Russia have been the main driving force behind a significant increase in Armenia’s GDP recorded in 2022 and 2023.

Russia is also Armenia’s main supplier of natural gas. The price of Russian gas for the country has long been set well below international market-based levels.

In a nonbinding resolution adopted on March 13, the European Parliament seemed to encourage Yerevan to apply for EU membership. However, none of the bloc’s 27 member states have voiced support for such a prospect.

 

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