December 8, 2018

by Robert Zargaryan

2018 has been a historic year for German-Armenian relations: the visit of Angela Merkel to Yerevan was the first time Bundeskanzler arrived in Armenia. She visited the Genocide Memorial of Tsitsernakaberd following the 2016 adoption by the German Bundestag of the resolution on the Armenian Genocide. After the official meetings both sides confirmed that there is huge potential for boosting economic and cultural cooperation in German- Armenian relations. These days many economists and politicians in Armenia are sharing their vision of the future of relations between these countries.

Political scientist, Director of Yerevan-based Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation Stepan Grigoryan says that the development of the Armenian-German relations will be based on CEPA agreement between the European Union and Armenia. “I am sure, that the agreement will enter into force next year, there is no obstacle,” the expert says.

CEPA (Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement) with Armenia was signed in November 2017. It should be ratified by all the EU member states, and Germany still has not ratified it.

“Within the terms of the agreement Armenia could implement important programs with Germany,” says Stepan Grigoryan. He doesn’t exclude that the Agreement can bring certain progress. “But there is already a mechanism: it includes the trade field, reforms in judicial system, human rights, tourism, science, education. Germany could support all these reforms in Armenia.”

After the visit of Angela Merkel, there remains an important question to answer: what can Armenia offer to Germany? Stepan Grigoryan believes, that first of all Armenia should offer democracy. “It’s important for them: they understand that if Armenia becomes a democratic state,  illegal migration will disappear, they want Armenians to go to Germany, to work, to cooperate with them. The thing is that we are interesting for them in the context of democracy.”

The expert mentions some areas where Germans may need Armenians. “IT, agriculture, but we should work hard to match our standards with those of Germany, that’s not hard, it is a matter of willingness.”

The European Union is the second trade partner of Armenia and the largest  market for export. In September 2018 the EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Switalski said that during the last months export to the EU states has increased twice by GSP+ regime.

In 2013 Armenia was very close to signing the Association Agreement with the EU, but the government changed its mind, and after a few time Armenia joined the Eurasian Economic Union (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia. Moldova was granted observer status in April 2017), which restricted the opportunities for economic cooperation with the EU. After the November 2017 signing of Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) many politicians and experts believed it was similar to the Association Agreement without the economics-related points not contradicting the commitments made to the EaEU.

European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), and especially European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative is a very efficient platform for participating countries (Armenia is one of them) aimed at progress in relations with the EU.

Dr. Cornelius Adebahr, political analyst from Germany, says that ENP is based on European laws, so EU enlargement prospect really exists: “For the European policy people to people contacts, transportation, visa-free regime, supporting business, providing support for education are big ticket items.”

The analyst says that EU membership of the EaP counties is not a topic for the EU’s enlargement policy, since there are frozen territorial conflicts in each of the Eastern Partnership countries: “As long as you have such conflicts, they hold you back from becoming an EU member: some countries want it that way.”

Eastern Partnership was inaugurated in Prague, Czech Republic in 2009 to govern EU’s relationship with post-Soviet union states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). It is an avenue to discuss trade, economic strategy, travel agreements and other issues between the EU and Eastern neighbors.

Thus, being an EaEU member is not an obstacle for Armenia to have close cooperation with the EU, and CEPA is proving that. One of the most discussed topics in Armenia is visa-free regime prospect with the EU. During her August 2018 visit to Armenia Angela Merkel touched upon it as well.

“We understand, that Ukraine and Georgia, which have agreements of association with the EU, are already in visa-free regime. We expect Armenia to have progress on this issue too, and we are going to do everything for that,” said the Chancellor.

She also reaffirmed that Armenia’s cooperation with EaEU, especially with Russia, is not a problem for Europe. “Armenia can be an example of how it is possible to cooperate with Russia and at the same time have good cooperation with the European Union. Of course, there are not many chances. The Eurasian Economic Union, in fact, is a free trade zone. There are surely very good economic opportunities that could be used.”

Chancellor Merkel mentioned that Germany wants to cooperate with Armenia in the digitalization area and highlighted the cooperation in education.

It is clear, that the signing of CEPA has opened new doors to Europe for Armenia, and after its ratification by all the EU member states the cooperation will reach a higher level. First of all, Armenia’s largest trade partner will increase commodity turnover with the country. It cannot be excluded, that in case of normalization of relations between the West and Russia someday, Armenia could become some kind of a bridge between them.

Armenia’s greatest resource is Armenian people, as mentioned many times by Nikol Pashinyan’s government. It is not a coincidence that during Merkel’s visit the Prime Minister of Armenia suggested having a walk in Yerevan so that the Chancellor meets the people. Hence, after all, people to people contacts are very important in relations. This means the negotiations on the visa-free regime should be on the agenda as soon as possible.

zargaryanRobert Zargaryan studied journalism at Yerevan State University. He is a reporter at A1+ online TV channel.  His work in journalism is mainly focused on politics and social issues in Armenia and in the Eastern Europe. Currently he is doing his Master degree in political science at Public Administration Academy of RA.