Barroso hails progress towards EU-Armenia Association Agreement
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has welcomed progress in the negotiations on the future EU-Armenia Association Agreement. Following his meeting with Armenia’s Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan in Brussels on 15 March, he said: “This ambitious treaty will bring our political and economic relationship to a new level and draw Armenia closer to the European Union.”
Armenia’s economic integration with the EU will deepen as a result of a future Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, said Barroso, adding that further progress on the institutional and administrative reforms was needed in order to launch negotiations on this free-trade area. He said the European Commission was giving Armenia all the relevant support to meet the conditions for the start of the talks, in particular through an institution-building programme and an Advisory Group.
Barroso stressed the importance of enhanced media pluralism in Armenia and also the improvement of the electoral conduct. “Our shared commitment to common values – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – is a key part of our relationship and the foundation of an enhanced cooperation under the Eastern Partnership,” he said.
Turning to the visa issue, President Barroso said enhancing mobility between the EU and its partner countries remained an important goal of the Eastern Partnership and of EU-Armenia relations. He announced that negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements would start in the near future.
Touching upon regional issues, Barroso said the EU was seriously concerned about continuing armed incidents at the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and the ongoing militarisation in the region. He underlined the Union’s support for a “peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of the principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity and the self-determination of peoples.” The status quo is not an option, stressed President Barroso. (ENPI Info Centre)
No space was available for the Civil Society!
The request for the venue of the Eastern Partnership National Platform to organize a conference entitled “The role and the place of the civil society in strategy of the future” has been rejected. The conference should have been taken place on March 19-20 at the Minsk International Educational Center (IBB). However on March 14th the Organization Committee was informed that IBB cannot promote the organization of the event due to the decision of one of the establishers of the center of the City Executive Committee of Minsk. The administration of Crowne Plaza hotel has also rejected the request of the EaP National Platform due to formal reasons.
The Organization Committee of the conference considers these decisions as actions taken by the Belarusian authorities aimed at creating obstacles for the activities of the National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. The list of topics offered for the conference as well as the expected content of participants could be the main reason for such reaction. The National Platform has proposed the idea of consolidation of the civil society with the democratic opposition, as well as discussion of possible common strategy of united efforts. The invited participants included not only civil society activists and experts but also representatives of some political forces. The actual ban of the conference is considered to be unconstructive especially in the light of the public statements of the Belarusian MFA regarding the importance of the Eastern Partnership for Belarus. By ignoring one of the main components of the Eastern Partnership the Civil Society Forum, Belarusian authorities are violating obligations taken within the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
Ulad Vialichka the Co-Chairman of the EaP CSF and the National Coordinator of the Forum in Belarus comments the situation as following: “…absurdist and obscure step of the City Executive Committee of Minsk. The National Platform has always been an open ground for discussion of actual issues relating to the development of the country and its civil society. With honour to the value of mutual dialogue we have never created any obstacle for participation of any civil society organization or initiative, including those that are obviously supporting the authorities. I am sure that these activities of Belarusian authorities won’t be left without the reaction of the Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum, National Platforms of EaP states and the European Commission”.
Training for Teachers
In one of our previous issues we have notified that the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia has authorized application of Hello Europe book published in the framework of the Europe Program of Eurasia Partnership Foundation, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia for experimental use in secondary schools.
As continuation of this program, on March 12-13, 2011 the Armenian European Policy and Legal Advice Center (AEPLAC) in cooperation with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation has organized training for history, social, political and legal sciences teachers of two schools “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” and School #198, selected for the probation of the book.
The training that took place with the involvement of AEPLAC and EPF staff and experts, as well as the author of Hello Europe Gayane Terzyan was aimed at assisting teachers in developing institutional educational strategy and effective teaching methods related to the distribution of knowledge on the European Union.