Issue 55

EU officials welcomed the amnesty

Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission and The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek made in May 27 are issued statements of welcoming the decision to accept an amnesty in Armenia.

I warmly welcome the general amnesty that was adopted by the Parliament of Armenia on 26 May, on a proposal of President Sargsyan. I also welcome the initiative of President Sargsyan to renew investigations into the events following the elections in 2008. These are important developments for Armenia, which meet a long standing EU demand and follow the recommendations of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. I encourage political forces in Armenia to take this opportunity to renew their dialogue”,-Catherine Ashton noted.

The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek also welcomed the decision of the Armenian Parliament to release prisoners of conscience and noted: “I hope that the dialogue and openness for freedom of expression, media pluralism and constructive engagement with the opposition and civil society will be further strengthened”.

Buzek welcomes neighbourhood review, urging focus on democracy

26-05-2011

The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, has welcomed the European Commission review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, saying the EU’s relations with its neighbours needed “a thorough overhaul” and calling for “strong support and engagement from all Member States”.

“We need an open partnership in which our citizens have a real stake,” he said in a statement. “The neighbourhood policy towards both the Southern Mediterranean and Eastern Europe must focus on this priority. It must reflect the spirit of solidarity and be flexible enough to accommodate approaches tailored to each country.”

Buzek strongly welcomed the ‘more for more’ approach: “Greater political and financial support should be available for neighbourhood countries which undertake reforms with vigour and determination and move towards a functioning democracy and market economy. Strengthening the compatibility between our systems is of crucial importance and will benefit all partners.”

In the case of the Eastern Partnership, he said it was important to give the most advanced partners a quicker path towards the EU, adding: “We have created the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly that aims to bring together experiences, ideas, best practices and shared values, all in a democratic spirit.”

“As regards the Southern Mediterranean, I call for a pragmatic re-launching of the Union for the Mediterranean. We have established and important parliamentary dialogue with our southern neighbours and it needs to be supported by pragmatic actions at the governmental level.”

Only strong democracy could lead to long-term stability and prosperity, Buzek insisted: “The revised Policy should centre on dialogue with civil society, NGOs and democratic forces in European Neighbourhood countries. Europe has a special role to play in defending human rights and our common values. This is true especially with regard to our neighbourhood, but also beyond. In this task we should be uncompromising.” (ENPI Info Centre)

ENP Country Progress Report 2010 –Armenia

MEMO

Brussels, 25 May 2011

The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published on 25 May 2011 the annual “neighbourhood package”, consisting of a communication proposing a reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), 12 country reports on developments in 2010, including one on Armenia, a sector report and a report on the Eastern Partnership.

In 2010 Armenia made progress in various areas of the ENP Action Plan, including some progress in the area of political dialogue and reform. It continued the human rights dialogue with the EU (the second meeting took place in December 2010). Positive steps were taken to overcome the political crisis with the gradual release of a number of persons (but not all) detained after the March 2008 events. Good progress was reported on decriminalisation of defamation and on strengthening of the Office of the Human Rights Defender. Some progress was made in the area of judicial reforms and on enhancing the freedom of expression, even though the media pluralism remains limited. Good progress was made also in implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and in preparations for the introduction of biometric passports.

In view of the severe recession resulting from the global economic crisis, in November 2010 the EU and Armenia agreed a €100 million financial assistance package. Nevertheless, the crisis hampered progress towards economic reform, poverty reduction and the protection of the environment. Overall, Armenia maintained prudent macroeconomic policies and introduced some measures to mitigate the effects of the downturn.

Negotiations of the EU-Armenia Association Agreement were launched in July 2010 and progressed at a good pace.

Negotiations on a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continued at the highest level leading, among other things, to the exchange of the prisoners of war and a joint statement during the OSCE Summit in Astana in December 2010.

Political dialogue and governance, including CFSP

  • The Concept for the National Human Rights Protection Plan was adopted in January 2010. The Human Rights Defender Office (HRDO) continues to monitor the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country (in 2010 it produced two ad hoc reports). However, cases of torture and ill treatment in detention centres are still reported and no progress was made in improving prison conditions or the juvenile justice system.
  • During the parliamentary by-election in January 2010 in Yerevan Constituency number 10, several irregularities were reported.
  • A new draft electoral code bringing the Armenian legislation further in line with international obligations was submitted for public discussion.
  • Progress was made on the implementation of judicial reforms (in accordance with Strategic Action Plan 2009-11) with regard to transparency in the court system, but the independence of the judiciary remains a serious concern.
  • Some progress was made in the fight against corruption, as efforts were made to improve transparency in the public sector and amendments to the Law on Prosecution and the Law on the fights against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism were adopted.
  • Freedom of expression and information improved, however the amendments to the Television and Radio Law were criticised by the OSCE as not promoting media pluralism. The freedom of assembly has improved.
  • In September 2010Armeniasigned the CoE Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and approved a Gender Policy concept.
  • Armenia aligned itself with 28 out of 44 of the EU’s Common Foreign Security Policy declarations that it was invited to join. Two Political and Security Committee Political Dialogue meetings between Armenia and the EU took place in June and September 2010. The Southern Caucasus Integrated Border Management (SCIBM) was inaugurated in March 2010.

Economic integration and trade

  • Economic activity in 2010 recovered from the deep recession. GDP grew by around 4%. The unemployment rate fell to 6.9% at the end of the year.
  • Domestic and external supply shocks and the decline of agricultural output brought the inflation rate to 9.5% in November 2010. The reference interest rate of the Central Bank remained at the level of 7.25%.
  • As a result of the crisis, the Armenian government continued the suspension of the Sustainable Development Programme on poverty reduction.
  • Bilateral trade with the EU improved in 2010, EU exports to Armenia increased by 4.2%, while exports of Armenian products to the EU increased by 59.9% (they remain however concentrated in a few commodities of low value added).
  • Armenia continued addressing the EU recommendations preparing the DCFTA negotiations. The government approved the strategy for quality infrastructure reform, the institutional capacity of the customs service was improved, progress was made regarding free movement of goods, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, etc. The government has also supported the SME Development National Centre.

Promoting mobility, fighting irregular migration

  • The first meeting of the EU-Armenia Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom and Security took place in Yerevan in July 2010. In November 2010 Armenia adopted the Border Security and Comprehensive Border Management Strategy. Work continued also on the National action plan on migration and asylum.
  • Some actions were taken in the field of eliminating the trafficking of human beings, combating drugs and money laundering. No progress was reported in the area of police and judicial cooperation and data protection.

Sector cooperation – examples

  • Transport: The implementation of the 2009-20 transport sector development strategy started. Progress was achieved on the North-South road corridor and on the rehabilitation of the rail links. The National Road Safety Council of Armenia became operational and the Road Safety Strategy was implemented, leading to a drop in accidents.
  •   Energy: In May 2010Armenia applied for observer status under the Energy Community Treaty. The first EU-Armenia energy subcommittee was organised inYerevan in Nov 2010. In August 2010 Armenia signed an agreement withRussia concerning the construction of a new nuclear power plant.Armenia pursued the safety upgrading of Medzamor Nuclear Power Plant (MNPP) and continued to credit the nuclear decommissioning fund in view of the planned closure of this plant by 2016. The EU continues to request closure as soon as possible before this date since the MNPP cannot be upgraded to meet internationally recognised nuclear safety standards.
  • Environment: The Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus (REC) continued to carry out activities, including in the fields of information and public participation. Armenia ratified the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the UNECE Convention. It also submitted the second National Communication to the UNFCCC on climate change.
  • Education: In the context of Bologna Process, a strategic plan 2010-15 was developed. Armenian students actively participate in the Erasmus Mundus Masters courses. In addition a Jean Monnet interdisciplinary module was awarded to Yerevan State University focussing on EU-Caucasus relations.
  • Culture: Armenia participated in the 2010 Special Action for ENP countries under the Culture Programme.
  • Health: The European Commission and Armenia established communication channels for the exchange of epidemiological information in the event of a public health emergency.

                               EU–Armenia – BACKGROUND

THE POLICY

The European Neighbourhood Policy governs the relations between the EU and Armenia. Since 2009 the EU implements the Eastern Partnership, the Eastern dimension of the ENP framework, aiming at substantially upgrading engagement with the six Eastern neighbours via:

– a Bilateral track, whose objectives include the establishment of Association Agreements with Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, once conditions have been met, as well as progress on visa and mobility issues, and

– a Multilateral track (i.e. intergovernmental platforms and Flagship Initiatives).

This approach allows for gradual political association and deeper economic integration.

                                         FACTS AND FIGURES

1999: The EU-Armenia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement entered into force.

2006: The EU-Armenia Action Plan was approved

2009: The EU Advisory Group toArmenia (financed by the EU) started its activities with the aim of supporting the Armenian authorities in the implementation of the key areas of the ENP Action Plan

2009: The Neighbourhood Investment Facility committed €14.6 million in grants and technical assistance for two projects in the transport sector. Armenia is also eligible for three regional projects, committing €24 million in the energy and financial sectors

2007-2010: The ENPI envelope forArmenia stands at € 98.4 million

2011-2013: The new National Indicative Programme (NIP) 2011-13 for Armenia was adopted in March 2010 and has a budget of €157.3 million. The programme is geared towards supporting the achievement of key policy objectives as outlined in the EU-Armenia Action Plan and pursues three priorities: (1) democratic structures and good governance, (2) trade and investment; regulatory alignment and reform, and (3) socio-economic reform and sustainable development.

EaP CSF First Working Group representatives meeting

On May 27 the meeting of EaP CSF first working group representatives was held in Brussels. The participants discussed the issues regarding the EaP CSF progress, the recommendations of the working group and the subsequent implementation of projects. The reports of the WG1 sub-working group were also presented.

The meeting participants adopted a statement concerning the May 26 events in Georgia. The statement particularly notes: “We deeply regret the events that took place in the capital of Georgia on 26th of May, when riot police violently dispersed largely peaceful demonstration using excessive force. …We call on the Government of Georgia to launch an immediate, thorough, and impartial investigation… and hold those responsible accountable. We request from authorities to restrain from politically motivated detentions and unlawful pressure on opposition activists. …We call on the EU to request an independent investigation and monitor the actions taken to safeguard against future human rights violations and to express its concerns directly to the Georgian government”.


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