Armenia’s joining the Customs Union will be a new obstacle in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In the interview with news.am told the leader of “Free Democrats” party, MP Khachatur Kokobelyan.
-Mr. Kokobelyan, after September 3, it seems that Armenia abandoned its complementary policy and was fully involved in the process of Eurasian integration or at least expressed such an intention. Many say that Armenia took the first step towards the elimination of its own independence. Do you consider this statement true or it is exaggerated?
-First, I do not share the opinion that Armenia has ever conducted a complementary policy. And the striking evidence for that is Armenia’s steps in political and economic spheres which show that Armenian authorities have been conducting one-sided Russian oriented policy. I am mentioning this considering Armenia’s membership in the CSTO, our voting in the UN, when we always voted so as Russia wishes, and the fact that Armenia’s strategic objects were exclusively handed over to the various Russian structures as a monopoly. I mean the Railway, the communication channels, the distribution networks, gas sphere that were passed on to the Russian side before September 3.
As to the September 3th’s decision, I really regret that Armenia declared about the drastic change of its policy and not in Yerevan but in Moscow. Once again it was clear that the Armenian authorities were not granted the right of making such a decision and they were not able to keep their positions to the end. Let me remind you that till September 3 our authorities argued that the European Association is beneficial for us, and thereafter they began to state, with the same diligence, that Eurasian integration is preferable.
I strongly disagree with the approach that Armenia, in certain conditions, will have a loss of independence, but if Armenia joins the Customs Union, obviously, it will have the loss of its sovereignty, and both Russian officials and we have repeatedly mentioned this.
It is well known that the Economic Commission of the Customs Union has supranational status, whose decisions are binding for the Member-States. Moreover, the Economic Commission is designed to determine the customs tariffs, which contradicts the Constitution of Armenia. Our Constitution, fortunately, does not allow us to be subjected to other supranational structures, whose decisions are binding inside of our country. In this case we will have the obvious loss of our independence.
Our opponents argue that the European association also implies a loss of independence. I do not share that opinion because the EU Association Agreement provides general standards but not limitations. In other words, this EU Association Agreement provides the minimum standards for human rights protection and the quality of goods and life that we have to ensure in our country. And it would be nonsense projecting this directly to the Customs Union.
– It is also noted that Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union will solve security issues for Armenia.
– That statement is at least illogical.Today’s shots and tensionin Armenia’s borders are witnessing that the Eurasian orientation does not provide us with additional safety guarantees. In fact, Armenia and Russia have signed the Strategic Friendship Treaty, the 3rd point of which states that both Sides should take all measures available to them, so that their opponents have no opportunity to take aggressive actions. However, today Russia is acting in violation of that provision and is selling exclusively the attacking weapons to Azerbaijan. And the statement, in such a situation, that Armenia will have a greater security in the Eurasian process, is at least not serious. Moreover, Moscow cynically announces that the selling of weapons to Azerbaijan is the issue of a mere business. I think that this issue must be addressed also by the Co-Chairs of OSCE MG as it is directly related to the increase of tension in the region.
-What do you think does today’s Armenia has enough freedom to make a step towards European integration without Russia’s approval, or we have already crossed the border after which we completely yielded our rights to exercise our independent steps to Moscow.
Independence is not given but it is gained and maintained. Armenian authorities were and are obligated to protect Armenia’s interests rather than follow Moscow’s commands. It is natural that Russia as a superpower is trying to force Armenia to the decisions that are based on Russia’s own interests, and Armenian authorities are apparently obeying Russian authorities’ decisions. That is why I am saying that it should be formed such an authority in Armenia that would be able to sustain and be guided exclusively by Armenia’s interests.
-Are the current authorities able to resist the Russian pressure?
These authorities are, unfortunately, obeying Russian side’s decisions till today, and September 3th was the proof of that, when in a very short period of time Armenian authorities were forced to announce about their intention to join the Customs Union. As to the loss of independence I do not think that there is no chance for return. Moreover, that chance exists always and Armenian authorities can and should be guided by Armenia’s own interests. Of course, I am not sure that Armenian current authorities will do so.
– What do you think is the reason that a strong political pole that would have protected the system of European values was not formed in Armenia? All parliamentary forces mostly act in Russian field. What is the way out in these circumstances?
There is a wide layer in Armenian society that supports European orientation and protects the system of western values. Moreover, there are progressive circles in Armenian society that literally carry these values. Unlike the opponents of those values, these progressive circles do form the public opinion and therefore they are in a primary position.
As to the parliamentary forces, yes, unfortunately, they support the Eurasian integration. Moreover, often those forces more diligently than the government officials were protecting the Eurasian orientation. But this does not mean that Western orientation is weak in Armenia. Unfortunately, due to Armenian authorities’ wrong policy our country appeared in the spotlight of contradictions between the superpowers where solutions of problems are more difficult.
Georgia and Moldova managed to choose the way of European Association and I am sure that Armenia would have managed to make such a choice too; however, the policy towards that was not conducted correctly. Even in this case, I am confident that the future belongs to European orientation but not the Customs Union. The Eurasian orientation is unpromising and futureless, and the Armenian authorities were forced to such a decision when they desparately gave up under the Russian pressure. I know very few people in politics who can reasonably prove that the Customs Union has perspectives.
–And why the Armenian authorities did not try to resist Russian pressure? Was it because of the lack of their legitimacy?
Not only the legitimacy. Of course, much is spoken that the legitimate authorities would have been able to withstand the external pressure, but we have also seen legitimate authorities that did not even try to resist that pressure. The “Russian empire” is trying to keep its former territories under the control. And in this situation win those countries that are able to get out from Russia’s zone of influence without losses. I am of the opinion that Armenia should have tried and should try to get out from Russia’s influence without losses. If nothing changes, Armenia will become the small part of the weakened and isolated Russian economy. This is enough to understand that we should not join the Customs Union or the Eurasian Union.
– How do you estimate the continuous delay in Armenia’s joining the Custom Union and the Eurasian Economic Union? Is that associated with pure technical problems or it is an attitude towards the Republic of Armenia? If it is an attitude towards the Republic of Armenia what is its message?
I do not consider the technical problems as reasons for that because the problems at this platform are not associated with technical issues. The delay in Armenia’s joining the Custom Union is exclusively associated with Nagorno Karabakh conflict and the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia. The Azerbaijan press is already circulated information that if Russia is able to ensure the return of three districts to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan will discuss the issue of its joining the Eurasian Union. The delay in Armenia’s joining the Custom Union is associated with the Russian-Azerbaijan and Russian-Turkish active political trade.
In my opinion, as long as Moscow has not resolved issues with Azerbaijan, Armenia will not join the Custom Union. The point is that after Armenia’s joining the Custom Union, the trade opportunities between Russia and Azerbaijan will be weakened. For example Armenia as a member of Eurasian Union will be able to exercise its right to the veto and Azerbaijan will remain with few expectations. Until Russia clarifies its relations with Azerbaijan, the issue of Armenia’s joining the Custom Union will not be resolved.
However, if Armenia joins the Custom Union and the Eurasian Economic Union how it will affect the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict both in terms of placing a customs point between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and in terms of further developments in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
I have never shared the opinion that the membership in the Customs Union will be favorable for the Karabakh conflict resolution. On the contrary, it will be a new obstacle in the resolution of that conflict because we are joining the Union that moves to the strict isolation in the today’s global platform, and is subjected to the direct sanctions by the other world forces. It will give us nothing but it can take us also to the isolation. In this case it will be much more difficult to seek and achieve the international recognition of NKR independence. International community will treat us as a representative of a rejected and unaccepted structure. Armenia will not gain economic benefits too.
-Is it possible that placing a customs point between Armenia and Karabakh, Russia wants to deploy its border guards on the border?
I’m more inclined to believe that no customs point will be set up between Armenia and Karabakh. However, it is obvious that one of Russia’s most important tasks is to place Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone that of course is not comply with Armenia’s interests. Armenia must avoid such a situation in every possible way.