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Michael Kambeck: free trade agreement with Armenia important to EU

PanArmenian.Net, Armenia

Michael Kambeck: free trade agreement with Armenia important to EU

24 September 2011

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Warsaw-hosted Eastern Partnership summit is a good signal for Armenia in terms of visa facilitation and free trade agreement negotiations with EU, according to the Secretary General of European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA) non-governmental organisation.

As Dr. Michael Kambeck stated in a conversation with a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter, that although long overdue, negotiations for visa facilitation are a step to visa free regime.

“In Warsaw, the negotiating parties will outline the roadmap for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. I view it as a positive sign, capable of changing so many things, including an enormous amount of business laws. The whole way the market functions will be much more organized according to European standards. I think this project is really exciting and Armenia deserves it; it will be really good for Armenia and also Europe.”

When asked to describe the advantages cooperation with Armenia will pose to Europe, Dr. Kambeck explained, “Armenia is a small country, but its not the size of the market that matters here; it’s a so-called bridge market, from Armenia you can go to lots of other markets, which otherwise are much more difficult to explore.”

“As to opinion that Armenia-EU cooperation might be directed against Russia, or speaking against being a strategic ally with Russia and be economic partner of the EU, quite frankly, Russia and the EU could have had their free trade agreements a long time ago. They’re just too big to agree on everything, and they will not manage for quite some time. And they don’t need it so much because each one is big enough in itself. Since this is going to take an endless amount of time, till Russia and the EU themselves can do this, why not go through Armenia. People speak the language, they have the contacts, they know how to do this, but they’ll do it according to new standards and they will be the bridge for European business and also for Russians to go into Europe. So its good for everyone and in the middle sits Armenia. So there’s nobody with disadvantages, everyone profits. That’s why I think it’s an exciting project.”

Commenting on the monopoly in Armenia, Dr. Kambeck characterized it as one of the challenges of implementation of free trade agreement with the country.

“However, if you look at the way the Armenian market is structured today, and how it was structured 5, 10 years ago, you’ll see a certain shift. I think, Armenian general market will move away from monopolies anyway, because even the monopolist has an interest in that, having a chance to make more money if the general market becomes more solid and grows more. If he keeps the whole market for himself, this market can never grow beyond; meaning it’s better to have a strong market share in a big growing market than a 100% market share in a small market which doesn’t grow any further. This is why even the so-called oligarchs themselves should be interested in breaking all this up and moving ahead in a more pluralist system. Now there are some market sectors where this will take longer time and some where it’s very urgent and it will go faster. I’m saying that because I know, even in Europe there are still highly monopolized sectors. Event after 40-50 year, those countries didn’t manage to break up those structures.”

As Dr. Kambeck further noted, civil society is very important in European integration process. “The civil society is actively taking part, with EU strongly increasing their programs of working with civil society,” he said, expressing hope for initiation of smaller sized programs to assist local NGOs.