An Armenian delegation was in Germany on January 15-17 for a discussion on visa liberalization between the EU and Armenia.
According to the press release, the German side commended effective cooperation based on legal documents on readmission, highlighting the high level of mutual confidence and the readiness to move towards the legitimate expectations of Armenia.
After signing the EU-Armenia framework agreement in November 2017 the issue of visa liberalization started being listed among the key issues of the legal and political agenda with the EU.
This is the so-called biggest European “bonus” for Armenia, which means that it will take lasting effort, time. Still under the former government, ahead of the signing of the framework agreement, speaking about the process of visa liberalization in a seminar in Yerevan the Head of the EU Delegation in Armenia Peter Switalski stated that Armenia has a lot of homework to do.
The issue of visa liberalization is not directly related to the framework agreement with the EU which is in the stage of ratification and must go through the parliaments of the EU member states. A significant part of this agreement, however, is already effective
At the same time, in regard to the “homework”, Armenia took a leap in April-May 2018 which currently gives Yerevan an additional argument to speak to the EU with more confidence. At the same time, the EU gives Armenia an additional argument to make substantive decisions to start negotiations.
In this sense, Germany’s role as an EU leader is rather big. In this context, it is notable that after the outcome of the early parliamentary election in Armenia the German chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first ones, if not the first, to congratulate Nikol Pashinyan, expressing hope for an early meeting. Yesterday it became known that Nikol Pashinyan has been invited by the German chancellor to visit Germany on January 31.
The new government of Armenia must try, along with the framework agreement, to intensify the conversation about the visa liberalization on the European agenda, which is an important political and economic factor for Armenia.
For the EU, this is maybe a small issue, especially that evaluations of outcomes of visa liberalization with Ukraine and Georgia are not equivocal. On the other hand, however, for years there was a problem with the effectiveness of the European policy because the phenomena and issues were measured in a standardized way, whereas there should be a specific approach to each country.
The previous stage of crisis for the Eastern Partnership the start of which could be considered 2012-2013 has perhaps given the EU a reason and opportunity to review the issues of effectiveness. After all, the crisis stage which lasted several years occurred due to not being ready for effective work in separate directions.
A few days ago it was announced that with the support of the World Bank the EU plans to invest 13 billion euro in infrastructures of six Eastern Partnership member states in the upcoming ten years. It is envisaged to spend over 700 million euro for Armenia. Such intention of the EU prompts that Eastern Partnership remains important for Brussels because the crisis period was followed by questions whether the program will continue.
At the same time, it is interesting that a new stage of economic support seems to start and this toolkit comes forth. Moreover, the acceleration of negotiations with Yerevan on visa liberalization may fit in this context rather harmoniously. It will be a substantive step towards the new situation in Armenia, showing that the EU is not fossilized and there is a difference in attitudes and approaches towards the previous system and the new situation.
After all, this is important as a signal addressed to the society in Armenia, as an old and important partner in democratic reforms in Armenia. Does the EU have a need to demonstrate to the Armenian public with a specific action that it has assessed and is ready to do more for more? After all, the Armenian society did much more in April-May.