On 26th May, 2012 Gyumri hosted the open session of the EaP CSF Armenian delegates, attended by 26 out 32 members of the EaP CSF Armenian National Platform, as well as representatives of a number of Armenian NGOs and guests, such as Krzysztof Bobinski, the member of EaP CSF Steering Committee and Olga Stuzhinskaya, the coordinator of the EaP CSF 1st working group. The session was chaired by Seyran Martirosyan, the CSF Armenian National Coordinator.
Questions in the agenda:
- RA National Assembly elections from the viewpoint of the civil society
- The activity of working groups of the CSF Armenian National Platform (ANP) and the developments since the Poznan Meeting. The reports of group coordinators
- Discussion of ANP membership applications from CSOs
- Other organizational issues
The session attendees actively discussed the observer activity implemented by CSOs during the RA National Assembly elections, pointed out the main shortcomings that should be paid attention to at the coming presidential elections.
The CSF delegates have decided to coordinate all the presented recommendations and observations and come up with a public announcement regarding the RA NA elections.
The working group coordinators and representatives of a number of CSOs made brief reports on the activity of the ANP working groups.
At the end of the session CSF Armenian National Coordinator Seyran Martirosyan presented the expressions of interest in CSF ANP membership from three organizations: “Hye Dzmer Pap” journalistic charity foundation, “World Vision Armenia” NGO and Aragatsotn Press Club. In accordance with CSF ANP Organizational principles the above mentioned organizations became the member of ANP.
Seminar in Gyumri on the topic “The Role of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in the Fields of Visa Facilitation and Media Reforms”
Yerevan Press Club with the support of Armenian office of Friedrich Ebert Foundation has organized a seminar for Armenian NGOs in Gyumri on 26-27 May, 2012 on entitled “The role of EaP Civil Society Forum in the fields of visa facilitation and media reforms”.
Krzysztof Bobinski, the member of EaP CSF Steering Committee and Olga Stuzhinskaya, the coordinator of the EaP CSF 1st working group were attending the seminar as speakers. The latter presented the process of CSF recommendations for visa facilitation in all the six countries of EaP. She especially mentioned that today the EU is more willing to facilitate the visa procedures for its Eastern neighbors and as a final aim sees the reservation of a visa free and free movement opportunity. “We can happily state that all the recommendations presented at 2010 Forum have been fully implemented by all the EaP countries, except Belarus”, Ms. Stuzhinskaya stated. The speaker emphasized the importance of the proper presentation of essence of the procedure of visa regime liberalization to the society and the CSO’s active role in it.
Stepan Grigoryan, the head of Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation presented Armenia’s steps in visa regime liberalization, one of the main components of the EU-Armenia Association agreement, and process perspectives. The discussion attendees spoke about the issues related to the introduction of cards, new passports with biometrical data, particularly about the guarantees for provision of secrecy of personal database.
The report of Seyran Martirosyan, the EaP CSF Armenian national coordinator was dedicated to the opportunities for relationship enhancement between the Forum and Armenian CSOs in the field of visa liberalization.
The second part of the seminar was devoted to the implementation process of CSF recommendations concerning the reforms in media sphere which was presented by Krzysztof Bobinski, the member of EaP CSF Steering Committee. He sadly mentioned that there were serious problems of press freedom not only in the EaP, but also in the EU member countries, namely in England, Poland, Italy and elsewhere. Mr. Bobinski expressed the belief that if the Forum activity in all the directions of the works weren’t limited with the participation of Forum delegate NGOs only, but included a wider spectrum of civic field, the safeguards of success could be bigger.
Elina Poghosbekian, the editor of YPC weekly Newsletter presented an exclusive publication “Media Landscapes of Eastern Partnership Countries” book, created as a result of cooperation among the journalistic organization of EaP countries. The book presents the media developments in six EaP countries, Armenian, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine. Ms. Poghosbekian also presented the Armenian media sphere from the perspectives of legislative reforms procedure, judicial cases with media, the initiative of media self-regulation and the activity of Media ethics observer body.
The media freedom related issues in Armenia were discussed with the example of monitoring of broadcasting by Armenian media of National Assembly elections of 6th May, 2012. Particularly, the following monitoring results were presented: broadcasting media in Armenia by Elina Poghosbekian from YPC, online media outlets by Suren Deheryan from “Journalists for Future” NGO, press conferences during the campaign by Anna Aloyan from Committee for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Armenian print media by Armen Minasyan from the Armenian PR Association. All the speakers qualified the results of above-mentioned monitoring projects as an unprecedented progress.
The Seminar was concluded by the report of Boris Navasardyan, the president of Yerevan Press Club. “The format of EaP CSF supposes only 2 yearly meeting opportunities of the representatives of partner countries and EU selected CSOs. In this context the role of working groups of national platforms becomes incomparably important for provision of energy to the forum. We have to be able to coordinate the works of resource raising, distribution and their direction towards the implementation of ideas within the partnership”, Boris Navasardyan stated.
More for more: Commissioner presents EU neighbourhood policy in action one year on
The European Union’s principle of ‘more for more’ has delivered extra funding and movement in key policy areas with those partners that are making the most progress in political and economic reforms, while the EU has reduced its cooperation with those that are not moving towards democratic change, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Štefan Füle has told the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee.
Commissioner Füle spoke before the Committee yesterday to present the new European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) package, one year from the launch of the renewed ENP, at a meeting also attended by the Council of Europe Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland.
The Commissioner listed the main goals of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy as:
- to provide greater support to partners engaged in building deep and sustainable democracies;
- to support more effectively inclusive economic development;
- to strengthen the two regional dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy, namely the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean.
One year on, he stressed the EU’s contribution to sustainable democracy. “To support democratic transition, we have helped a number of Southern neighbours conduct democratic elections with the participation of a diversity of political parties.” He listed:
- The European Union has deployed fully-fledged Election Observation Missions in Tunisia and Algeria, and sent election experts to Morocco.
- It has provided technical assistance to Egypt.
- Libya has invited the European Union to observe the forthcoming elections for a constitutional assembly and High Representative Catherine Ashton has recently decided to deploy an election assessment team (EAT) which will be present in all main Libyan cities.
To support democratic change, Füle said the European Union had thoroughly applied the principle of ‘more for more’. “Despite the current economic crisis in Europe, funding for our neighbourhood has increased.”
- One billion euros of additional grant funding is being made available to partners.
- We increased the lending ceilings to partner countries from the European Investment Bank by €1.15 billion.
- And we successfully operated to extend the mandate of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to the Southern partners. In order to fast track the start of the EBRD activities in the South Mediterranean region, the Commission has granted €20 million for supporting private sector development operations.
In the area of trade, he said the European Commission had launched negotiations for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, and we are about to do so with Armenia. The Council also adopted negotiating directives for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
In the field of mobility, the Commissioner pointed to the recently concluded mobility partnership with Armenia and plans to conclude mobility partnerships with Morocco and Tunisia. He said the EU had also made progress on more technical cooperation in a number of sectors, including agriculture and rural development, and on the participation of neighbours in European Union programmes and agencies, with Morocco as the latest partner to enjoy this benefit.
“By contrast, we have reduced our cooperation with partners that are not making progress towards democratic reform,” said Füle, citing sanctions on Syria and Belarus. “As for Ukraine, respect for common values and the rule of law will be of crucial importance for the speed of political association and economic integration with the European Union.”
But reduced cooperation with undemocratic governments should not result in reduced support and cooperation with civil society, he stressed. “That is why we have launched a special Civil Society Facility for our neighbourhood with an initial budget of €26 million for 2011 and similar amounts planned for the following years.”
He also pointed to plans for the establishment of the European Endowment for Democracy, with an initial focus on the European Union Neighbourhood, as well as greatly increased funding for education and scholarships, while EU programmes and initiatives in support of civil society “pay particular attention to women’s participation in politics and society”.
The Commissioner told Parliament that a key feature of the new approach was the focus on mutual accountability. In this context, this year’s ENP progress reports for the first time addressed recommendations to each partner, he said. The recommendations encourage partners in particular to uphold freedoms of expression, association and assembly and to promote women’s rights and gender equality. They also call for efficient and independent judiciary systems, sustained efforts to tackle corruption and security sector reforms.
“The recommendations are not a diktat of European officials to the partner countries, but a clear indication of what we consider achievable and desirable in order to advance our partnership,” Commissioner Füle said. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
Commissioner Füle speech
The European Union Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Members States Heads of Mission in Armenia
Delegation of the European Union to Armenia
Yerevan, 25 May 2012
The EU Delegation recalls that human rights apply equally to all human beings and underlines the value of non-discrimination and protection of human rights.
At the same time, the EU Delegation is concerned about recent developments, which endanger non-discrimination and protection of human rights in Armenia. The firebombing of a pub in Yerevan and the subsequent disruption of the Diversity March – both portrayed as an anti-LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) persons) action by certain radical groups, as well as discriminatory statements from certain politicians and in particular the proliferation of hate speech are worrying. These developments have sparked a new debate about the extent of discrimination and tolerance in Armenia.
The lack of official condemnation and the perception of ineffective law enforcement have raised concern among Armenian civil society, Human Rights Defenders and international observers. This lack of official reaction has the potential to encourage a sense of impunity in radical groups, and even possibly threaten democratic development.
Armenia has committed itself to the respect of human rights, inter alia, as a member of the Council of Europe, in the EU-Armenia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1999 and in the EU-Armenia Action Plan of 2006
The EU Delegation calls on the Armenian authorities to uphold their commitments to tolerance and non-discrimination in a manner that adequately addresses intolerance as regards homophobia and transphobia.
The EU Delegation welcomes the alignment of Armenia with the Declaration by the EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May 2012.