Mediamax.am: Linas Linkevicius: Priority should be visa-free regime, October 9, 2018
Mediamax’s exclusive interview with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevicius
A year ago Armenia and EU signed the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). After joining the Eurasian Economic Union Armenia was unable to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, but can we say that CEPA is also ambitious document and able to offer a lot to Armenia?
Any document can be ambitious if backed by motivation, by efforts, and it is up to Armenia to make the new agreement efficient. It will never replace the Association and Free Trade Agreement, obviously, but how to preserve what was invested, what was done, is again up to Armenia. We in European Union try to adjust every position to make sure our partners feel comfortable, so we won’t expose them to something they don’t like.
There are a lot of things to do in regards not only to this agreement. In my view, priority should be visa-free regime, because for people it is important to see tangible results, not statistics or something else, to feel that they are free to travel. I know that from our own experience. When we opened borders, young students could travel and study, find jobs – it was a big deal, really, a revolution.
I would focus on these issues that are not covered by the agreement you mentioned. It will not replace the depth of our possible cooperation some five years ago, but it’s what we have today.
Lithuania as a member of the European Union will be more than happy to assist or cooperate in the areas of interest for Armenia. It is up to Armenia to choose how close, how fast and how deep they want to get to the European “kitchen”.
When Armenia was negotiating the Association and Free Trade Agreement with the EU, there was an idea of having a Donors’ Conference. Do you think if Armenia comes forward with a similar idea, it will be possible now?
It is difficult to say. I think Armenia should take care of the home affairs now, because we see a lot of tension and instability – this is my personal view. So, before coming with initiatives and ideas of cooperation, it is better to streamline the internal situation. But again, it is up to Armenia’s leadership to do whatever they will decide is useful. We in European Union will be more than happy to assist in the areas of interest.
Armenian PM insists on holding early parliamentary elections in December. Do you think it is possible to adopt a new Electoral Code and hold snap elections just in two months?
I am not in a position to comment on internal affairs or peculiarities of Constitution. I will just say that if someone gets credibility from the public, and it looks like that is the case regarding the current Prime Minister, he should be given the leverages for action. If he isn’t, it is very difficult to discuss any developments.
How the situation will be settled is up to the institutions, the constitutional arrangements, and we wish for it to be settled as soon as possible, because time is also important. It is a very important factor. You can’t live endlessly in this stalemate situation and we wish that you will solve it as soon as it is possible.
There was a lot of speculation in Armenia on whether the EU was enthusiastic enough about the Armenian revolution. Do you think there is a sense in discussing the level of enthusiasm of the European Union?
It’s not about enthusiasm, it’s just about a pragmatic, practical approach. It is up to Armenia to decide how deep and fast they want to cooperate with other institutions, including the European Union. There were statements, as I understood, that there shouldn’t be major changes, so if the situation stays the same as it was before, the cooperation will be at the level chosen by Armenia.
If we consider a broader context, unfortunately, we can see that the contradictions between the West and Russia are growing. Armenia has good relations with the West and allied relations with Russia. Do you think current situation will allow to keep the balance or sooner or later Armenia will have to “make the choice”?
Choices should be made anytime. It has to do with interests. If everything goes smoothly and Armenia is able to implement interests and make own decisions, it’s fine, but if there are obstacles and external influence, that would create tension. That would be the answer to your question. Are you able to do what you want to do or it’s not so easy? It was the same in our [Lithuanian] case, by the way.
We will never imply anything from our side, but we can tell our story. Our story also has to do with this external influence, and we decided to stick to the institutions which, in our view, are stable and democratic, respect the rule of law. We feel safer in that environment. It was our decision, our choice. It is up to every country to make the choice as well.
Are you happy with the current state of bilateral relations between Armenia and Lithuania?
The relations are very positive, but at the same time, very modest. Areas of cooperation are not terribly rich. We really can do more. That is one of the things I’m going to discuss with my Armenian colleagues. There are many fields, which are not yet touched, so this menu exists and we have to make decisions.
Ara Tadevosyan talked to Linas Linkevicius