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Due to economic reasons, Europe losing ground in the East.

Vladimir Putin (Russia), Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy (EU) met in Brussels 21-12-2012

Vladimir Putin (Russia), Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy (EU) met in Brussels 21-12-2012

Armenia’s decision to join a Russian-led customs union has thrown EU plans to forge closer ties with the Caucasus republic into disarray.

 

The EU plans to conclude association agreements with several ex-Soviet states in November, but Armenia is unlikely to be among them.

 

Such agreements are seen as key steps on the path to eventual EU membership.

 

Armenia’s move has fuelled Western anxiety that Russia wants to exert control over ex-Soviet states.

 

The European Commission is asking Armenia to clarify its position. Armenia had been preparing to initial the agreement with the EU in November, after more than two years of negotiations.

 

The Commission says the agreement is “not a zero-sum game” – that is, not simply a choice between Russia or the EU.

 

A statement from EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said “we take note of Armenia’s apparent wish to join the customs union.

 

The EU association agreements go beyond measures to ease trade – they also entail commitments to respect democratic standards and carry out institutional reforms, which are not part of Russia’s customs union.

 

For years the EU has been pursuing a new “Eastern Partnership” with Moscow’s former Soviet allies, but now this is almost out of reach for Europe, due to the economic crisis, its socio-political weakness, even the lack of reaction of Europe when Russia invaded Georgia.

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

Moscow and Brussels are each trying to convince Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to join their respective trade blocs, and Russia has imposed trade bans and threatened gas supply cuts to try to halt their neighbors’ EU integration.

Addressing these tensions, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU would not countenance efforts to stop eastern European countries seeking closer ties with the 28-nation European Union.

“We cannot accept any attempt to limit these countries’ own sovereign choices,” Barroso said in his annual state of the union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “We cannot turn our back on them,” he said.