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‘Is There Life After Vilnius?’ EU Ambassador, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Notably Absent from Discussion

The topic "Is there life after Vilnius?" was discussed at the third meeting of a series of events dedicated to EU-Armenia relations following the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius late last month.

Despite an invitation from the organizer, Open Society Foundations – Armenia, head of the EU Delegation to Armenia Traian Hristea and RA Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan did not attend the meeting.

Executive Director of Open Society Foundations – Armenia Larisa Minasyan, in her opening speech, mentioned that the invited officials have not arrived and have not sent other delegates from their institutions. If there are representatives from state agencies present, she said, they can identify themselves and participate in the discussion so that it won't be very one-sided and heard won't be only the opinion of civil society members.

Nevertheless, because of the guests' absence, the agenda was changed and representatives of invited NGOs, Asparez Journalists' Club President Levon Barseghyan and head of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor Artur Sakunts, addressed the participants.

Levon Barseghyan first commented on the absence of Armenian officials, suggesting they didn't come because they're busy with the matter of Armenia's membership to the Customs Union.

Then he recalled that during the Vilnius Summit from Nov. 28–29, Armenia and the EU signed only a statement, "a paltry document." Barseghyan also compared Armenian and Ukrainian societies' reactions to the news of not signing the EU Association Agreement, saying that resistance to the Ukrainian authorities' decision was greater since the political opposition there is financially independent, and the Ukrainian diaspora has a clear position and wants to see Ukraine in the European Union.

Human rights activist Artur Sakunts, in turn, said that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan unilaterally made the decision to join the Customs Union, which doesn't reflect the opinion of the Armenian public. "In 22 years, unfortunately, we have not been able to get out of the domain of the Second Republic — we have the same problems and the same influence from Russia," he said.

Lithuanian Ambassador to Armenia Erikas Petrikas, present at the meeting, however, was more optimistic. He said that life does not end with Vilnius, and Riga (where the next summit will be held) will come after. The Lithuanian ambassador said it's not as if the work carried out between Armenia and the EU ahead of the Vilnius Summit was fruitless.