Tigran Ghalumyan

Armenia and the EU: A Promising Partnership or a Match Made in Brussels?

Posted on Posted in Analyses, EU & NATO

By Tigran Ghalumyan, Analyst KEDISA






EU’s dealings with Armenia hinge on the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), inked on November 24, 2017, and activated on March 31, 2021.[1] In this agreement, the European Union and Armenia outlined their commitment to working together for the benefit of their citizens, contributing to the strengthening of democracy, as well as political, economic, and institutional stability. Both sides are dedicated to promoting and maintaining regional and international peace and stability, as well as strengthening cooperation in the areas of freedom, security, and justice, aiming  to reinforce the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.[2]

Since gaining independence, Armenia has received substantial financial assistance from the European Union for its development programs.[3] The development of a partnership with the European Union has become a vital component of Armenia’s foreign policy, and it has played a significant role in implementing reforms in various sectors of Armenia’s economy, justice, and public administration.[4]

Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine the role of the European Union in Armenia. The paper will be structured as follows: the first section will look into the historical development of the EU-Armenia partnership, followed by an analysis of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement in the second section. The third section, in turn, explores the various areas of cooperation between Armenia and the EU, followed by the fourth section which reflects on the findings and concludes the paper. By examining the role of the European Union in Armenia, this paper aims to shed light on the significance of the partnership and its contributions to Armenia’s development and democratic consolidation.

The History of EU-Armenia Cooperation

Relations between Armenia and the European Union began to intensify in the 1990s,  when the role of the South Caucasus increased in the EU’s foreign policy.[5] During this period, negotiations for an official legislative framework also began. Until recently, relations between Armenia and the European Union have been governed by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the European Communities and its Member States, which was signed on 22 April 1996 and became effective on 1 July 1999.[6] The agreement has served as a basis for political, economic, financial, legislative, social, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation for about two decades. As a result of the deepening of relations and the gradual change of the regional situation, the Partnership-Cooperation Agreement has not been sufficient as a legal framework for the further development of EU-Armenia relations since the mid-2000s.[7]

Armenia has been part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) since 2004,[8] under which the EU provides financial assistance to neighbouring countries to implement governmental and economic reforms.[9] The ENP Action Plan, formally adopted in Brussels on 14 November 2006, has so far complemented the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. However, these two documents are not enough to fully normalise the developing Armenia-EU relations since they have limitations in scope, trade and economic integration, and addressing political and institutional reforms. A more comprehensive approach is needed to deepen cooperation and address these areas effectively.

Armenia has been a member of the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative since 2009. As of July 2010, negotiations on the Armenia-EU Association Agreement began, and in July 2012, negotiations on the Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Area began, which is part of the association agreement.[10] In June 2013, the negotiations were successfully completed, but the agreement was not signed, because on the September 3rd of the same year, then-president of the Republic of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, effectively withdrew from the EU association process when he announced the accession of of Armenia in the Eurasian Economic Union.[11]

Nevertheless, in 2015 the EU and Armenia started negotiations on a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement.[12] This key agreement, which will be further discussed in the next section, provides for closer cooperation in areas such as security, energy, transport, environment, education, science, human rights and trade. One year later, in 2016, , negotiations on the  EU-Armenia Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement were opened .[13] This agreement, which was signed on November 15, 2021 and entered into administrative application in January 2023, envisions a reduction in air ticket tariffs and a harmonisation of the European and Armenian airspace.[14]

Regarding trade, Armenian exports have been using the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) since 2006 and the GSP + preferential system since 2014, which allows them to export 6,200 types of products to the EU with zero or reduced customs duties.[15] In return, Armenia commits to implement the requirements of 27 major international conventions for the protection of human rights, sustainable development, and good governance.[16]

As of January 1, 2022, the EU GSP+ scheme has ceased to operate for Armenia.[17] The reason is the regulation that was adopted in 2012 by the European Union. According to this regulation, if for three consecutive years the World Bank classifies a country using GSP+ as an above middle- or higher-income country, then the country is deprived of the preferential trade regime established by Brussels.[18] At the same time, the state is given a transitional period of one year during which it continues to use GSP+. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 the World Bank has classified Armenia as a high-income per capita GDP economy. This change in status means that Armenia can no longer benefit from the preferential trade regime offered by the EU’s GSP+ scheme as of January 1, 2022.[19]

Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement

The Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement represents a significant boost in relations between the European Union and Armenia. It encompasses various areas, including politics, economics, and trade, aiming to strengthen ties. The agreement is a crucial step toward greater EU engagement in the South Caucasus region.[20]

This comprehensive deal covers extensive cooperation in economics, trade, and politics, serving as a foundation for deeper EU-Armenia relations. It fosters political dialogue, cooperation across sectors, and peace and security on the European continent. The agreement also upholds EU standards on democracy, justice, and human rights, addressing areas like transport, energy, health, environment, and climate change. Additionally, it focuses on democratic reforms, legal cooperation, rule of law, anti-money laundering, and combating organised crime and corruption.[21]

In terms of trade, the agreement commits to improving conditions for EU-Armenia trade, considering Armenia’s Eurasian Economic Union membership. It encourages more trade in goods and services between Armenia and the EU, promoting economic growth and job creation. Notably, 96% of Armenian products can access the EU single market without tariffs, and the EU is Armenia’s primary export market as of 2020. The agreement also facilitates enhanced mobility for EU citizens and Armenians, with negotiations underway for visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Armenian citizens.[22]

For the effective implementation of the agreement, at the initiative of the Interagency Coordinating Committee of the Republic of Armenia-European Union, a roadmap was drawn up for the implementation of the provisions of the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. It consists of more than 300 events related to various fields such as education, science, health, social protection, infrastructure, economy, environment, etc. In addition, the CEPA established an institutional framework to facilitate their partnership.

At the apex of this framework lies the Republic of Armenia-EU Partnership Council, which serves as the highest political body responsible for supervising and evaluating the agreement’s implementation. In addition to the Partnership Council, the agreement also establishes the Partnership Committee and the Trade Partnership Committee, which play integral roles in ensuring effective collaboration. Moreover, the agreement provides for the creation of Partnership Subcommittees, further enhancing cooperation in specific areas of mutual interest. Collectively, these institutions work together to foster a strong and productive partnership between the EU and Armenia.

Fields of Cooperation

The EU and Armenia cooperate across various sectors. This section not only highlights some key areas but also provides an analysis of the significance and impact of their collaboration in these areas. By delving into specific initiatives and outcomes, it aims to showcase the effectiveness and long-term implications of EU-Armenia cooperation.


  • Democracy

The EU’s support for democratic governance reforms in Armenia has played a vital role in strengthening institutions, promoting transparency, and advancing political participation. By focusing on private sector development, public administration, and legislative reforms, the EU has effectively contributed to Armenia’s progress in these areas. The financial assistance provided, such as grants for electoral legislation improvement and anti-corruption strategies, has fostered a more accountable and inclusive democratic system.


  • Economy

The EU’s status as Armenia’s largest export market has been instrumental in driving economic growth and expanding trade opportunities. This mutually beneficial partnership has resulted in increased exports from Armenia to the EU, creating jobs and fostering sustainable development. The substantial grants extended by the EU to Armenian enterprises have not only provided financial support but have also facilitated capacity building and innovation, enhancing Armenia’s competitiveness in the global market.


  • Education, Science, and Other Sectors

The EU’s Horizon 2020 program has served as a catalyst for research and innovation in Armenia, enabling knowledge transfer, skill development, and international collaboration. By renovating vocational schools and providing humanitarian aid, the EU has demonstrated its commitment to strengthening the educational infrastructure and addressing societal needs in Armenia. This support not only contributes to human development but also promotes social cohesion and resilience.


  • Immigration and Visa Facilitation

The Republic of Armenia Visa Facilitation agreement signed with the EU has streamlined immigration procedures, facilitating travel and people-to-people exchanges. This cooperation not only promotes cultural understanding but also fosters economic opportunities by facilitating business interactions and promoting tourism. It serves as an example of how simplified visa procedures can enhance cooperation and connectivity between regions.


  • Human Rights Dialogue

The annual human rights dialogue meetings between Armenia and the EU provide a platform for open and constructive discussions on human rights issues. Through these exchanges, both parties can share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned, fostering mutual understanding and promoting human rights norms. This dialogue contributes to the advancement of human rights standards in Armenia and provides a framework for addressing challenges effectively.


  • Eastern Partnership

The Eastern Partnership serves as an important platform for regional cooperation, emphasising shared values, economic integration, and institutional strengthening. By focusing on issues such as government institutions, economic development, energy efficiency, and mobility, the EU and Armenia collaborate with other partner countries to foster regional stability, sustainable development, and enhanced people-to-people contacts. This broader framework enables synergies and collective action to address common challenges effectively.


  • Parliamentary Cooperation

The active parliamentary cooperation between Armenia and the EU reinforces democratic processes and enhances legislative capacities. Through annual committee meetings, both sides can exchange ideas, align legislative frameworks, and promote democratic norms and practices. This cooperation strengthens the democratic institutions in Armenia and promotes dialogue and understanding between the Armenian Parliament and the EU institutions.[23]

The EU’s Perspective on Cooperation With Armenia

The EU and Armenia are making good progress towards deepening cooperation under the Partnership. The EU is a champion of reform in Armenia and, after Armenia’s accession to the European Economic Community, the EU not only did not reduce support for the implementation of reforms. On the contrary, for the period 2014–2020, it expressed its readiness to increase the level of aid to Armenia.[24]

The EU views the region as a transport hub-the South Caucasus is a region at the crossroads between Europe and Central Asia, bordering the wider Middle East and a growing number of countries that are active in the region, politically and economically, starting with Russia but also Turkey, China, Iran and others. The South Caucasus is important for the EU, in terms of transport corridors connecting the EU with Asia and for the diversification of the EU’s energy resources (External Action, 2021).

Moreover, the accession of Armenia to the EU is of great importance in terms of the adoption of European standards in the political and economic spheres and the development of these spheres. This was also one of the principal reasons for announcing the relationship with the EU as one of the main priorities of  Armenia’s foreign policy. Until now, progress in the aforementioned areas has been developed due to the projects implemented by the EU.


In conclusion, the partnership between Armenia and the European Union (EU) has been significant in promoting democratic reforms, economic development, and regional stability. The EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, which entered into force in 2021, has provided a comprehensive framework for cooperation in various sectors.

The historical development of EU-Armenia relations, starting from the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in 1996 to the current agreement, reflects the deepening of ties and the need for a more comprehensive approach. The EU has been a key supporter of Armenia’s development programs, providing financial assistance and contributing to democratic consolidation, human rights protection, and institutional stability.

The partnership encompasses various areas of cooperation, including democracy, economy, education, science, immigration, human rights, and regional collaboration through the Eastern Partnership initiative. These collaborations have yielded positive outcomes such as strengthened democratic institutions, increased trade opportunities, enhanced educational infrastructure, simplified visa procedures, and human rights advancements.

The EU views Armenia as a crucial partner for regional connections, transport routes, energy variety, and the incorporation of European norms in politics and economics. The EU is dedicated to aiding Armenia’s reforms and is prepared to enhance its support.

Overall, the EU-Armenia partnership holds promise and has contributed significantly to Armenia’s development and democratic progress. By working together, both sides can continue to foster regional stability, economic growth, and people-to-people exchanges for mutual benefit.


[1] European External Action Service (EEAS). “The EU and Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement enters into force”, February 28, 2021. https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/eu-and-armenia-comprehensive-and-enhanced-partnership-agreement-enters-force_en

[2] European External Action Service (EEAS). “European Union and Armenia,” https://www.eeas.europa.eu/armenia/european-union-and-armenia_en?s=216.

[3] Ibid.; Karen Azaryen, “The Role of the GSP in EU-Armenia Cooperation,” GSP Hub, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://gsphub.eu/news/story-gsp-armenia.

[4] EU Neighbours East, “Factsheet: EU and Armenia,” EU Neighbours East, November 14, 2021, https://euneighbourseast.eu/news/publications/eu-armenia-relations-factsheet/.

[5] Elkhan Nuriyev, “EU Policy in the South Caucasus: A view from Azerbaijan,” Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), July 2007,  http://aei.pitt.edu/7544/1/272.pdf.

[6] Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Armenia, of the other part, OJ L 239/3, September 9, 1999, 1-34.

[7] Vahagn Ghazaryan, “Towards Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum.” Eurasia Partnership Foundation, 2011. https://epfarmenia.am/document/Barriers-to-external-trade-in-Armenia.

[8] Mikayel Hovhannisyan and Julya Sahakyan, “Adopting Experience of Bilateral EU-Moldova and EU-Georgia Civil Society Platforms to Armenia Report on Armenia,” Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://eap-csf.eu/wp-content/uploads/Armenia_EaP-re-granting-project-report.pdf.

[9] European External Action Service (EEAS), “European Neighbourhood Policy,” European External Action Service, July 21, 2021, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/european-neighbourhood-policy_en.

[10] European Commission, “EU and Armenia Agree Trade Deal,” European Commission, July 24, 2013, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_13_740.

[11] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, “International Organisations: Eurasian Economic Union,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://www.mfa.am/en/international-organisations/6.

[12] European Council, “EU relations with Armenia,” European Council, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eastern-partnership/armenia/.

[13] European External Action Service (EEAS), “EU-Armenia talks on Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement kick off in Yerevan,” April 27, 2017, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/node/25160_en.

[14] EU Neighbours East, “Common Aviation Area Agreement between EU and Armenia enters into administrative application,” EU Neighbours East, January 30, 2023, https://euneighbourseast.eu/news/latest-news/common-aviation-area-agreement-caaa-between-eu-and-armenia-enters-into-force/.

[15] Karen Azaryen, “The Role of the GSP in EU-Armenia Cooperation,” GSP Hub, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://gsphub.eu/news/story-gsp-armenia.; Repat Armenia, “Armenia’s Trade Agreements,” Repat Armenia, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://repatarmenia.org/repatriate/practical-information/business/armenia-s-trade-agreements.

[16] Karen Azaryen, “The Role of the GSP in EU-Armenia Cooperation,” GSP Hub, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://gsphub.eu/news/story-gsp-armenia.

[17] European Commission, “Armenia leaves GSP scheme by 01/01/2022,” European Commission, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://trade.ec.europa.eu/access-to-markets/en/news/armenia-leaves-gsp-scheme-01012022#:~:text=As%20from%201%20January%202022,in%202018%2C%202019%20and%202021.

[18] Regulation (EU) No 978/2012 of the European Parliament and the Council of 25 October 2012 applying a scheme of generalised tariff preferences and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 732/2008, OJ L 303/1, October 21, 2012, 1-82.

[19] Radio Liberty Armenian Service. “Հունվարի 1-ից Հայաստանի համար կդադարի գործել եվրամիության GSP+ ռեժիմը.” Radio Liberty. November 15, 2021,  https://www.azatutyun.am/a/31562606.html.; European Commission, “Armenia leaves GSP scheme by 01/01/2022,” European Commission, [Accessed August 17, 2023] https://trade.ec.europa.eu/access-to-markets/en/news/armenia-leaves-gsp-scheme-01012022#:~:text=As%20from%201%20January%202022,in%202018%2C%202019%20and%202021.

[20] European External Action Service (EEAS), “The EU and Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement enters into force,” EEAS, February 28, 2021, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/eu-and-armenia-comprehensive-and-enhanced-partnership-agreement-enters-force_en.

[21] Council Decision 2021/270, 25 January 2021.

[22] European Commission, “EU trade relations with Armenia.”,Brussels, 2021,

[23] EU NEIGHBOURS. “Factsheet: EU and Armenia.” EU NEIGHBOURS east. December 9, 2021, https://euneighbourseast.eu/news-and-stories/publications/eu-armenia-relations-factsheet.; Union of Informed Citizens. “Brief Notes about EU-Armenia Relations.” Union of Informed Citizens, February 24, 2021, https://uic.am/3932.

[24] European Council. “EU-Armenia Relations in the Context of the Eastern Partnership.” https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eastern-partnership/armenia/.