The EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), initialled in March 2017, presents a fresh start for the deepening of relations between the two parties in the wake of Armenia’s abortive Association Agreement and related Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Despite a difficult and complicated context, both the EU and Armenia have demonstrated the necessary political will to negotiate a new compromise agreement that takes into account Armenia’s commitments and limitations as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). CEPA retains a considerable amount of content from the sacrificed Association Agreement, as seen in the areas of political dialogue, justice and freedom, and even security. The new agreement also includes a substantial amount of the EU acquis in legally binding provisions across a range of sectoral areas of cooperation, although the effectiveness of CEPA’s essential degree of conditionality remains an open question. The issues most affected by Armenia’s EAEU membership are core trade policy elements and the consequential loss of any DCFTA. CEPA may be viewed in EU policy terms as an example of ‘differentiation’ and greater flexibility, as advocated by the 2015 European Neighbourhood Policy review, although this was prompted by Russian force majeure. The ultimate impact of CEPA remains a test of implementation, which still poses undeniable challenges for Armenia.
Hrant Kostanyan is a Researcher at CEPS and an Adjunct Professor at Vesalius College. Richard Giragosian is Director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC), an independent think tank in Armenia.