The most important and promising development for Armenia throughout the 2015 year, probably, was the launch of negotiations over the new Armenia-EU agreement on December 7th last year. The negotiations continued during the entire 2016, and surely, everyone is interested to learn what was achieved and done so far and what still lies ahead. Perhaps the most informed person and official who may be asked about these questions, is the EU Chief negotiator who conducts the negotiations with Armenia.
Currently that official is Mr. Luc Devigne, who assumed the office of the Deputy Managing Director for Europe/Central Asia and the position of Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia and OSCE at European External Action Service earlier in April this year. Still in the past Mr. Devigne has already negotiated with Armenia the DCFTA part of the Association Agreement, while the political parts were the responsibility of the EU Chief negotiator, who then was Mr. Gunnar Wiegand.
Thus Mr. Devigne combines now both missions – he has negotiated with Armenia the trade sections and now he negotiates the political issues, and we are utmost thankful to him for granting this interview to Hraparak daily.
- Mr. Devigne, thank you very much for the possibility of this interview. And just the questions that interests everyone - how would you assess the ongoing negotiations upon the Armenia-EU new agreement? I was told in an interview in early 2016 that the parties expected some 8 rounds of negotiations to be held during the year. Now only the 6th round is mentioned for December, so are we behind the schedule? Or it’s not about the quantity of rounds, but the content of negotiated issues - then where do we stand in the sense of content, are there some agreement sections already done and what basically lies ahead?
- The negotiations are well on track. At the end of October, we have had a fruitful 6th round of negotiations on the political parts of the agreement and concluded the 4th round related to its trade parts. Parallel negotiations on the cooperation in various other sectors are also progressing well via video-conferences, the latest being held on 23rd October and related to the anti-fraud cooperation. We put quality ahead of speed and, without venturing into mentioning a concrete date for their conclusion, I would say that we are rather close to this goal.
- Are there kind of political problems in those negotiations? Why am I asking this - because back in June kind of controversy became public between the EU Delegation and Armenian MFA. Ambassador Switalsky told there are some problems (including of political nature) in those negotiations, and the Armenian side denied it. To my knowledge one of the political problems was the wish of the Armenian side to mention somehow its commitments before the Eurasian economic union in the new EU-Armenia agreement. Is that issue dropped out now?
- I would not refer to problems but rather to sometimes divergent positions on various issues, a fact which is natural in negotiations. We do not have any problem with the membership of Armenia of EEU. Of course, this deprives Armenia of concluding a trade agreement with preferences independently of the EEU, as is the case in all customs unions. However, we made it clear from the very beginning that it is for Armenia to take into account its new obligations arising out of its accession to the EEU; this is an assessment to be made primarily by the Armenian negotiators. The obligations of the parties must be known at the moment of concluding the agreement.
- As surely you know the Armenia will hold parliamentary elections in April, and further new government will be formed. Just in term of time is it likely that the new post-election Armenian government will conclude the negotiations with EU and sign the agreement accordingly?
- In negotiations you may know exactly when you start but cannot predict 100 % the date of their conclusion and the signature of the agreement. It very much depends on the Armenian government's will to finalise the negotiations. The agreement can be initialled quickly after the end of the negotiations.
- Sir, turning to the larger issues on European continent, how do you assess the probability and expedience of putting new sanctions on Russia in response to its savage behavior and mass bombardments in Aleppo? Nonetheless the Russia tries every way to play down the effect of already imposed sanctions for Crimea and Ukraine and there are even EU voices telling the sanctions didn’t impact much the Kremlin foreign policy, still doesn’t the rhetoric and the anger of Russian FM Lavrov against the new sanctions largely indicate the opposite?
- The EU had no choice but to impose restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and to Russia's actions in destabilising eastern Ukraine. To be noted however, that unlike Russia's multiple embargoes on EU or other trading partners' products, the EU has not prohibited any Russian product, except arms and related material, to be imported in the EU. Separately, the EU has imposed restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria. With regard to Russia's role in Syria, both the Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council on 17 June and of the European Council on 20-21 October were clear: should the current atrocities continue, the EU is considering all available options. Any decision to impose, amend, lift or prolong the restrictive measures is a decision for the Council to take.
- Thank you very much, Sir.