News > European Armenians > Welcome to Europe?
Some younger Armenians don't see EU membership in the cards
By Sara Khojoyan
and Siranouish Gevorgyan
Varazdat Ghazaryan is like many young Armenians when asked about the possibility of his country one day becoming part of the expanding European Union - he doesn't see it happening anytime soon.
Armenia is neither in Europe, nor in the East, nor in the West, said the 21-
year-old entry-level sports commentator and football referee. "Armenia is out
of the universe," Ghazaryan said.
After a decade of expansion and growing political and economic integration, the 25-nation EU is now testing the limits of its borders. Turkey began talks on joining last year, triggering widespread debate about whether the majority Muslim country is "European" enough to join its neighbors.
Bulgaria and Romania are in line to be the next EU member states in 2007, while governments in Croatia and Macedonia have their eyes on the EU prize -- a single market for goods, and for younger people, the potential to move freely in the search of education and jobs.
But young Armenians like Ghazaryan don't anticipate seeing the EU's trademark blue flag and ring of gold stars flying over Republic Square anytime soon.
Amalya Mirakhoryan, a 31-year-old secretary, said Armenia has not reached the level of European countries, which she says are more progressive in their politics and lifestyle.
"Once you walk the streets of Yerevan, you understand that we've got nothing to do in the European Union," she said.
Among the younger proponents of EU membership who were interviewed for this story, many shared Mirakhoryan's viewpoint. But others questioned whether the EU can weather some of its own problems, including the defeat last year of the union's constitutional treaty by French and Dutch voters.
"I don't even see any EU in the future, say, in 50 years because the structure's already going down today. And generally speaking, the EU is not
what we should be heading for," says Sona Grigoryan, a 21-year-old student at Yerevan State University's faculty of Oriental studies.
Despite such skepticism, Armenia has moved closer to Europe economically and politically since independence in 1991. The EU has replaced Russia as Armenia's primary trading partner. The nation joined the Council of Europe - a group of 46 member nations that promotes human rights and democracy but is separate from the EU - in 2001, and has since ratified important European human rights agreements.
"Naturally, the fulfillment of CoE commitments imposed on Armenia helps this country to get closer to the EU," says Bojana Urumova, the Council of Europe Secretary General Special Representative in Armenia. "The political and democratic criteria for membership are the same in both organizations."
If Armenia has gotten closer to the "Copenhagen criteria" of democracy and human rights by ratifying the European conventions on human rights and the
prevention of torture, the economy falls short of EU standards.
"To become a member, Armenia must have a competitive economy and create a healthy competition field for economic activity," said Tatoul Manaseryan, an economist and a deputy of the National Assembly. "In this regard political will is necessary in order to pass from clan economy to healthy competitive trade relations."
Manaseryan said that if Armenia is able to realize its scientific potential and make use of the economic capabilities of the Armenian Diaspora, then the nation could meet the EU's economic criteria.
But talk of European cooperation and its patchwork of agreements and institutions confuse some younger Armenians.
"And I thought we're in there already," said Zhanna Gevorgyan, a 19-year-old student at the State Linguistic University who expressed surprise when explained that the EU and the Council of Europe are different structures.
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