Election violations, human rights
During the 17th session of the EU – Armenia Cooperation Council, which took place in Brussels on 23 May, 2017 the European Union has asked Armenia to address the shortcomings of the parliamentarian elections held on April 2 and to investigate the human rights violations.
The OSCE observers reported vote-buying, pressure on public servants including in schools and hospitals, and of intimidation of voters for certain parties. Long queues and meddling by party representatives and police were observed during the voting day and interference of owners into editorial autonomy as well as self-censorship, were recorded in the media.The delegation of the European Parliament present in the country on elections day reached similar conclusions.
The Armenian authorities were strongly encouraged to study all alleged human rights violations, including the reported misconduct by the police during the 2016 “Erebuni crisis” when a group of gunmen stormed a police station, took hostages and triggered a massive standoff with government forces, with protesters joining asking for the resignation of the president, and to ensure a fair trial for those charged.
Reforming the judiciary, fighting corruption
Urging for more democratic reforms the EU also underlined the importance of tackling problems in the justice sector and countering discrimination on all grounds, as well as the speedy adoption and implementation of legislation against discrimination and against domestic violence. A continued fight against corruption and strong support for the rule of law is essential, the final declaration of the Council states.
Both partners confirmed their commitment to deepen relations and the EU – to continue supporting Armenian reforms.
We are ready to support Armenia’s reform process on economic development, business environment, judiciary, human rights and fight against corruption, the EU first diplomat Federica Mogherini said following the Council session in Brussels
Armenian foreign minister Edward Nalbandian referred to the “impressive progress” achieved since the previous Council meeting 16 months ago, thanking the EU for the financial and technical support provided for the organisation of the elections in the country.
New Comprehensive Agreement with the EU
Nalbandian ensured Yerevan remains “committed to the goals of the Eastern Partnership” and is willing to enforce cooperation with the EU.
Armenia expects to sign the new comprehensive Partnership Agreement with the EU on 27 November, during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, while adopting the new priority agenda in advance. This will allow Brussels to continue financial support till 2020. The negotiations on the agreement were launched in December 2015 and were concluded in March 2017.
The negotiations with the EU on the Common Aviation Area Agreement and on Creative Europe admission, the EU cultural fund, are also to be concluded by November, the foreign minister said.
Hoping for visa liberalisation
He renewed the request made by the Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan in March to launch a visa liberalisation dialog.
Insuring mobility and people to people dialog is essential in enhancing connections between our societies, Edward Nalbandian said.
The minister insisted Armenia is prudently fulfilling its obligations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements for the last 3 years and needs to see “acknowledging sign” from its partner.However, the EU hasn’t engaged with an exact timeframe for starting visa talks yet. Further clarity on the issue could be expected by November, an EU source says.
Minister Nalbaldian briefed EU on the latest Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution efforts, blaming Azerbaijan for violating ceasefire agreements and refusing to implement international accords.
Federica Mogherini reiterated that the EU strongly supports the OSCE co-chairs format:
The European Union believes the status quo is unsustainable and that the conflict needs an early political settlement in accordance with international law. The European Union continues to fully support the mediation efforts and proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
The High Representative of the EU said the Union is encouraging Armenia and Turkey to take steps in normalisation of their relations. Both neighbours are still to establish formal bilateral diplomatic relations following the recognition of the independence of Armenia by Turkey back in 1991.
EU-Armenia Cooperation Council Main Results
OSCE Observation Mission Report
Federica Mogherini press statement following the Council meeting
OMH article: Armenia and EU Ready with New Agreement, Yerevan Hopes to Open Visa Talks Soon
EU-Armenia relations – Facts and Figures