During a Q & A session organized by the "Region" Research Center, Hetq spoke with Erika Lerner, a Czech member of the Association of the European Center of Meetings between East and West.
Given Armenia’s stated decision to enter the Customs Union, what are Europe’s political expectations from the Caucasus and Armenia, in particular?
The government of Armenia has taken a decision based on interests that it can receive in this or that case. It appears that Russia was able to give Armenia more than the European Union. We can’t verify this because we don’t have information as to the reasons influencing President Sargsyan to take the decision he did.
It’s quite strange that he did not attempt to explain his decision in any speeches to the people. I don’t even remember any such speech. We also observed that Sargsyan doesn’t like to have dealings with the press. During his term as president, we only know of 3-4 press interviews and a few statements made to visitors during meetings. That’s to say there is no tradition in Armenia of presidential TV or radio appearances or press interviews. There were unmet expectations.
Now, perhaps, the EU simply wishes to diplomatically show the Armenian authorities that their decision was wrong. No one will punish Armenia. The EU is presently engulfed in the problems of Moldova and Ukraine and is satisfied with cooperation with Georgia.
Thus, perhaps the most severe punishment will be a lack of interest by the EU regarding Armenia. For us it’s the opposite; what is Armenia proposing to Brussels? What bonus can Armenia promise and give in exchange for gaining entry into the democratic European family.
What role do you believe the Customs Union will play in our region? What was the motivation behind its creation?
The aim of any customs union is to facilitate the introduction of overall foreign economic activity within the confines of its members. More or less the same that was envisaged in the case of the Eastern Partnership which, however, never was realized in your region for evident reasons and due to history.
The Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is no exception. Free trade and open markets provides countries the chance to develop better.
As we know, during the tenure of Georgian President Saakashvili, customs union projects among Georgia and Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, were never achieved. Now, after Georgia entered the EU’s sphere of economic supervision, there are two projects that can serve as alternatives to the Customs Union in the region; customs unions between Turkey and Azerbaijan, and Between Armenia and Iran.
Who, in your opinion, is behind what is taking place in Ukraine today? What are the likely developments stemming from events now underway in the EuroMaidan?
The only one responsible for what is taking place today in Ukraine is that country’s president and his entourage. Knowing the prevailing attitudes in his country, which is on the brink of splitting due to his policies, it will only take a spark to set off an explosion. He’s flamed the fires to such an extent that we are now talking about victims in the EuroMaidan.
Today, (the interview took place on Jan, 25 – MM), Yanukovych is making concessions. He has offered the opposition the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister and has agreed to free those arrested. It’s difficult to say what has lead Yanukovych to take the situation to the brink like this.