Armenia's abrupt move towards the EU...

18.06.24 15:03

While distancing itself from Russia and making a statement about a possible withdrawal from the CSTO, Armenia simultaneously embarked on a course of "European integration" and accession to the EU. On 17 June 2024, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan announced the start of negotiations on a new partnership programme with the European Union. He stated that it was important to continue joint intensive efforts with the EU as negotiations on a new partnership programme commenced. In a subsequent social media post, he wrote, "This time, we had a useful exchange of views with EU ambassadors accredited in Armenia." This was after a meeting with ambassadors of EU member states and the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan.


Mirzoyan also identified key priorities in Armenian-EU relations, including the current Belgian presidency and the imminent Hungarian presidency of the bloc, regional issues, and the peace agenda in the South Caucasus. Given the fact that relations between Armenia and Hungary cannot be described as amicable, given Hungary's consistent advocacy of the de-occupation of Azerbaijan's Karabakh, the Armenian authorities intend to "kick-start European integration" early, before the EU presidency is taken over by Hungary.


Although Ararat Mirzoyan has not yet explicitly advocated for Armenia's integration with the EU in his public statements, a number of politicians in Yerevan have expressed a more assertive stance. It has been reported that at the extraordinary session of the Parliamentary Commission on European Integration on Monday, June 17, 2024, it was decided to initiate the preparation of a referendum on Armenia's application for EU membership.


It is noteworthy that Armenian parliamentarians have embarked on the "EU membership course" at a time when the Kremlin-backed Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan of Tavush, who is supported by the Kremlin, is orchestrating his activities in the streets and squares of Yerevan. Bagrat Galstanyan's demands are not for European integration but for the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan's government. It appears that the "EU accession course" will be a welcome distraction for "pro-Western" Armenians, allowing them to overlook the activities of Galstanyan. Consequently, the authorities have accelerated the process of rapprochement with the EU, even suggesting that Armenia could be accepted into the European Union as soon as it submits an application.


On June 21, 2024, the National Assembly of Armenia will convene to consider a proposal for a referendum on the matter of submitting an application for Armenia's membership in the European Union.


The proposal to organise a referendum was put forth by the "Platform of Democratic Forces," which comprises the "Republic" party (chaired by Aram Sargsyan), the "In the Name of the Republic" party (Arman Babajanyan), the Christian Democratic Party (Levon Shirinyan), and the European Party of Armenia (headed by Tigran Khzmalyan, who was recently prevented from entering the territory of Georgia). All four politicians are known in Armenia not only for their pro-Westernism but also for their ardent Russophobia, and Tigran Khzmalyan is also known for his Georgianophobia.


In 2021, Tigran Khzmalyan gave an interview that was perceived as scandalous. In it, he stated that his father was "from the Armenians of Tbilisi" and that "100 years ago, the whole of Tbilisi was an Armenian city." He also asserted that Georgians began to "Georgianize" Tbilisi. The fact that "Armenia's European integration" is supported by such vehemently anti-Georgian figures as Khzmalyan makes us circumspect about the potential for Armenian nationalists to alter their stance on European integration in light of the change in the country's geopolitical alignment. Their hostile attitude towards Georgia is unlikely to change as a result of the change in the country's geopolitical alignment.


It is noteworthy that, concurrently with the Armenian government's intensified efforts towards European integration, the Armenian diaspora in Georgia is engaged in a concerted campaign to portray Georgia in a negative light before the EU and to impede the process of Georgia's accession to the EU. It is not implausible that the plans of Armenian nationalists, who have shifted their allegiance from Russia to Europe, may include persuading Armenia to join the EU before Turkey (which has been a candidate for EU membership since 1999) and Georgia (which became a candidate for EU membership last year).


In both Turkey and Georgia, there is a growing awareness that the status of an EU candidate and the promise of membership are often used as a means of exerting pressure and manipulation on sovereign states by Brussels and leading EU countries, with France in particular being a notable example. Given that France supports Armenia's territorial claims to its neighbours, Yerevan's accelerated European integration may potentially lead to the emergence of new regional conflicts and problems.


Alexandre Zaqariadze

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