EEU Debate in Parliament: Protesters outside, few lawmakers inside challenge Membership Treaty

EEU Debate in Parliament: Protesters outside, few lawmakers inside challenge Membership Treaty

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While lawmakers are discussing the treaty on Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) this week, dozens of citizens have been gathering in front of the Parliament building demanding that MPs vote against the ‘Putin’ agreement, otherwise ‘that stamp will always be on their forehead’.

European Choice initiative member, journalist Gayane Arustamyan warned the MPs hurrying to the National Assembly that “with one vote they are selling their motherland and the citizens’ freedom.”

“You should feel ashamed, you are MPs and you have to present the people’s interests,” she said.

Those against the treaty said that it will simply rob Armenia of its sovereignty, and those who vote for it are “traitors of the nation”.

Despite the criticism in front of the Parliament building, the legislators continued discussions over the EEU agreement inside the building.

Deputy Minister of Finance Suren Karayan addressed the list of goods that are expected to become more expensive after Armenia’s entry into the EEU, saying that 60-70 percent of them have not been imported to Armenia for the last 10 years. He advised giving preference to locally produced goods – i.e. goods of the EEU market, at the same time mentioning that customs duties for some accessories, perfumes and furniture will grow.

In response to all this, opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan, making predictions, said: “It turns out that now we, our women, our people will start using ‘Traynoy odekolon’, or cucumber perfume, or ‘Krasnaya Moskva’”. He referred to the rare brands of perfume available in the USSR.

Some MPs relate the recent instability in the exchange market to Armenia’s integration with the EEU, however the official denied any link, saying that they are not in the EEU yet and, therefore, it is wrong to link the current exchange rate fluctuations to it.

“The fact that the Armenian economy is closely integrated with the economies of other [future] EEU member countries does not depend on the circumstance of whether we join the EEU or not. That is our reality now, a fact that exists. Joining the EEU, we are simply creating more advantages for our entrepreneurs. Simultaneously we will try to withstand the international economic challenges,” he said.

In response to opposition MP Khachatur Kokobelyan’s question on whether Armenia will be eligible to sign free trade agreements with non-EEU member states, for example with China or Iran, the deputy finance minister said that according to the EEU treaty, all member-states must realize a joint, coordinated trade policy. If after joining the EEU Armenia feels the need or advisability of signing an agreement with a third country, there are mechanisms for that too, he added.

“Armenia can raise that issue before the EEU and together with all EEU states sign a free trade agreement with that third country. If an EEU member state signs a free trade agreement with a third country without coordinating it with the others, then the idea of the EEU or any other economic union is disrupted,” he said.

During the discussion in the chamber opposition Heritage faction member Zaruhi Postanjyan was distributing fliers against EEU membership prepared by National Self-Determination Union (NSDU) chairman Paruyr Hayrikyan, a prominent Soviet-era dissident.

Hayrikyan was among those who gathered outside the parliament building to protest against the ratification of the treaty. He said he regretted that some of the people he was friends with in the past had changed their beliefs and now support joining the “sinking Russian ship”.

“They do not get bad, life makes them bad. A person with elementary morality cannot vote for this outrageous thing,” he said.

Political analyst Styopa Safaryan thinks that the Parliament, due to its pro-government majority and most of the opposition factions, will certainly vote in favor of the treaty. He charged that the country’s political class has become “a tool for auctioning off Armenia’s independence”.

Representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and most opposition groups do not agree with the views that accession to the EEU imperils Armenia’s independence. Before being submitted to the Parliament for consideration, the treaty passed through the Constitutional Court that confirmed its constitutionality.