Common values and interests: a new impetus in Armenia-EU relations (Part One)

Common values and interests: a new impetus in Armenia-EU relations (Part One)
Photo: БГНЕС

The recent visit by the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan to Brussels, during which he met with the leaders of the European Union, gave a new impetus to the Armenia-EU relations.

This was his second visit to Brussels after the success which his official visit to Berlin was in February and after his meeting with the leading figures of Germany. He first visited Brussels in July last year, in order to take part in the NATO summit. He also held meetings with EU leaders there. Especially notable during this visit was Pashinyan’s response to Brussels’ proposal to increase financial assistance to Armenia. He reproached Brussels for the offer and then said that “he could easily squeeze out such a sum out of some oligarchs” and that this was not what he expected from Brussels.

Yet, as the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, Ambassador Piotr Switalski, stated, Armenia finally has a government that knows what the state’s relations with Europe should be.

Armenia-EU Agreement and Armenian reforms

In November 2017, Armenia entered into a new treaty with the European Union –a treaty for a comprehensive and extended partnership with the EU (CEPA) in all spheres of the social, political and economic life, but in view of the dramatic events which took place in April 2018 and led to the changes in power, as well as to the change of paradigms in the relations with foreign policy partners, a situation emerged in the first months following the Velvet Revolution, which was justly qualified by some observers as a “misunderstanding”. What made the situation worse was the bitter memory of September 2013 when, after the successful completion of the almost four years long negotiations process with Brussels, the President of Armenia suddenly decided to snub the Association Agreement with the EU and to lead the country on a “Eurasian” road. In addition, there is the stream of misinformation originating from a number of Armenian and Russian mass media which spread false information regarding the foreign policy goals of the new Armenian government.

It is understandable that since the visit in July 2018 did not go smoothly (then the goal of the meetings was to get familiar with the situation and they passed by very quickly, almost on the go) the new working visit was carefully planned. In addition to the meetings which were held with the heads of the structures of the Euro committees, there also was an open political presentation and discussion at the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET).

Speaking to the MEPs, Prime Minister Pashinyan presented the main points of the Democratic Agenda stating that:

First, there is no alternative to democracy in Armenia because “ideas of freedom and democracy are deeply rooted in the fundamental values ​​of our people. Armenia was one of the first countries to launch a national movement against the former communist regime at the end of the 1980s. The restoration of our independence in 1991 undoubtedly aimed to form a society based on constitutional democracy, the rule of law and liberal values. Over the last 20 years, democracy in our country has been distorted, which has diverted us from the previously chosen democratic path. This is the result of a vicious interpretation of our traditional values ​​and aspirations.”

Second, he stressed that the process of democratic transformation “is based on the will and aspirations of our people. Besides, it is in no way connected with external forces. This process has not caused any turmoil in our foreign policy, nor any changes in our foreign policy strategy. Armenia stands firmly behind its foreign policy commitments and is faithful to its partners. “

Third, he said that for Armenia, democracy is not only a way of existence but also a matter of security. “We believe that in the name of our people and our political culture, it is right to admit that democracy provides stronger and more effective economic and political institutions that are an important prerequisite for the country’s development. That is why we have given up the luxury of preserving underdeveloped state institutions, as it used to be done before. They caused economic inefficiency and hindered the progress of our country. Democracy, which stimulates the economic and political institutions in Armenia, has become an imperative. Today we have no alternative,” Pashinyan stated.

Closer relations based on shared interest

The main points presented by the Prime Minister are in line with the expectations of the Armenian society. According to a survey conducted by the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC), about 87% of the 800 respondents in four Armenian cities believe that the new authorities in the country should deepen the relations with the European Union.

On the other hand, the internal changes in Armenia, including the steps taken to clarify the circumstances surrounding the events of March 2008 and to identify and prosecute those guilty of the deaths of the people involved in the events, have provoked a positive response in another European structure – the Council of Europe, more precisely, in the report by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunya Mijatovic, published in late January on the results of his visit to Armenia in the autumn.

The pervasive opinion in the European structures and capitals is that the new Armenian government is really committed to reform all areas, but that the main improvements are yet to be done. And in this respect, Armenia’s close cooperation with the European structures in the reform process is very important in terms of achieving the necessary quality, the irreversibility of the reforms, and the minimization of risks. Also crucial for Armenia will be the opportunity for financial and advisory assistance from the EU, the Council of Europe and the specialized structures…

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