Armenia politics: Quick View - Government approves EU partnership agreement
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On December 28th the government approved the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed with the EU at the Eastern Partnership summit in November.
The CEPA is a less far-reaching alternative to the EU-Armenia Association Agreement that was nearly finalised in 2013. The Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, scuppered that deal with his unexpected decision to have Armenia join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a Russian-led trade bloc. The CEPA, which is more than 350 pages long, still contains the main political provisions of the Association Agreement, namely intensifying Armenia-EU foreign and security policy co-operation and calling for the "strengthening of democracy and of political, economic and institutional stability" in Armenia.
The agreement's economic sections are far lengthier and more specific. Armenia is to "gradually approximate its economic and financial regulations and policies" to those of the EU. This covers sectors such as business regulation, agriculture, transport, environment, consumer protection and energy. The agreement also has detailed provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights and mutual recognition of patents.
Owing to Armenia's EEU membership, the CEPA does not provide for a free-trade regime with the EU. It does, however, stipulate that the parties will seek to ease non-tariff barriers to trade such as technical regulations, and licensing and labelling requirements. Armenia has long had privileged access to the EU market through the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+). The EU collects no import duties from 3,300 types of Armenian products, and applies reduced tariffs to 3,900 other goods.
This, coupled with the fact that the CEPA does not commit the EU to additional assistance to Armenia, means that the agreement's short-term impact on the Armenian economy will be minimal. As Armenian officials have made clear, policy harmonisation envisaged by the CEPA cannot run counter to Armenia's EEU membership obligations, which probably explains why Russia has not officially opposed the agreement. The CEPA is mainly significant for geopolitical reasons, a milestone in Armenia's strategy of complementing its alliance with Russia with closer ties with the EU.
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