Strengthening EU-Armenia Relations

APRI Armenia, in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Yerevan Office—South Caucasus Region, conducted a short research project in late 2023 to look at current and evolving factors in the relationship between the European Union and Armenia. Following a comprehensive desk research, APRI Armenia interviewed Armenian officials, EU diplomats in Armenia, and civil society representatives from both Yerevan and Brussels. Coincidentally, this project was made in parallel with the EU fact finding mission in charge of exploring opportunities to enhance and strengthen EU-Armenia relations across all dimensions.

In addition to outlining mutual expectations of Armenia and the European Union and examining the potential for the relationship’s future development, the report offers policy-oriented recommendations on how to strengthen EU–Armenia relations.

The key findings are as follows:

  • The CEPA is a fitting framework for strengthening EU–Armenia relations. The Eastern Partnership, however, must be reformed to remain relevant. While the comprehensive nature of the Agreement holds promise for strong cooperation in influencing various domains, such as the economy, and in helping drive domestic reforms, substantial efforts are still required for its adequate implementation. In contrast, the Eastern Partnership, designed to foster EU’s cooperation with its Eastern bloc, faces challenges, particularly amid the growing divergences in the bilateral relations between the EU and the Partner countries. 
  • Armenia still struggles with the effective implementation of domestic reforms, particularly in the areas of governance, the rule of law, and the judiciary. Based on Georgia’s experience with democratic backsliding, the EU could set higher standards for the Armenian government’s reform agenda set out in the CEPA, emphasizing expectations for civic reforms. Armenian civil society can also play a greater role in supporting the effective delivery of these reforms. 
  • Strengthening EU-Armenia relations can only go so far if the EU does not address what triggered the recent impetus, namely Azerbaijan’s repeated aggressions against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.  By introducing conditionality into its relations with Azerbaijan, the EU can strategically exert its influence and urge Azerbaijan to prioritize dialogue over actions that have significant political and economic consequences. 
  • The complex web of political and economic relations with and between the regional actors plays a role in shaping the overall EU–Armenia relationship. Armenia’s foreign policy has traditionally been influenced by its strategic alliance with Russia and influences the
  • EU–Armenia relationship to some extent. Simultaneously, the European Union’s engagement with Baku also affects the effectiveness of strengthening EU–Armenia relations. 

The European Union and Armenia must articulate a coherent foreign policy vision. The EU’s ambition to uphold the principles of good governance, democracy, and human rights while ensuring stability, conflict resolution, and economic prosperity faces the challenge of reconciling fundamental principles with short-term needs. At the same time, Armenia needs to take more agency in the engagement with the EU and identify the areas that would benefit most from EU engagement.

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