Issue 109

ARMENIA IN EUROPE”

 Conference in Yerevan

 Press Release

 July 4, 2012, Yerevan

On July 4, 2012 at 09.00-18.00 at the RA Government House of Receptions (Yerevan, 47 Mashtots Ave) the conference “Armenia in Europe” will take place. The event is co-organized by the Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum and the Centre for European Studies at Yerevan State University.

The event will be attended by H.E. Herman Van Rompuy, President of European Council, who will pay a regional official visit to the South Caucasus on 3-5 July, by members of RA National Assembly and Government, as well as by representatives of RA state agencies, NGOs, scientific and research centers, foreign embassies, international organizations and media outlets.

Each of the 8 sessions of the Conference will tackle a specific dimension of EU-Armenia cooperation: security, human rights, judiciary and elections, freedom of expression, EU-Armenia economic cooperation, specifically, the negotiations around the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), visa facilitation, fight against corruption, good governance and the environmental challenges.


President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy to visit Armenia on 3-4 July

02.07.2012

The President of the European Council, H.E. Herman Van Rompuy, will pay a regional official visit to the South Caucasus on 3-5 July. The visit will start in Armenia on 3-4 July, and then continue to Georgia and Azerbaijan.

He is going to meet the President of the Republic, Serzh Sargsyan and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hovik Abrahamyan. He will address the National Assembly. President Van Rompuy will also make an opening address to the Civil Society Forum “Armenia in Europe” and will visit the National Gallery for the “Yerevan – World Book capital” and “500 years anniversary of Armenian printed book” UNESCO exhibitions. He will make a short visit to Zvartnots cathedral.

During the meetings, H.E. Van Rompuy will discuss issues such as EU-Armenia relations, the internal political situation and regional issues, as well as other issues of mutual interest.

Presidents Van Rompuy and Sargsyan will give a joint press conference.

The exclusive interview of Armenpress with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy

29 June, 2012

ARMENPRESS

Mr. President, in the past few years Armenia and the European Union have registered important progress in their bilateral relations. In your assessment what further steps do the two parties need to enhance the quality of these relations?

We are experiencing overall progress in the EU-Armenian relationship. The Association Agreement is moving forward, and we have started negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Earlier this year we also launched negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreement. In addition to this, the European Union provides different forms of support to Armenia including on institution building. Let me underline that the European Union is in many ways a community of principles and values.Armenia has, as a partner in the Eastern Partnership, signed up to share these values. Closer association between the EU and Armenia is directly linked to this aspiration. I therefore encourage Armenia to continue on the path of reform, towards strengthening democratic institutions, promoting transparency, human rights and the rule of law. The stronger Armenia’s commitment to pursue genuine reform, the more we will be able to cooperate and support you. In this context, the EU welcomes the efforts made by the Armenian authorities to deliver more transparent and competitive parliamentary elections. This was an important step forward, although there still are a number of issues that will need to be addressed, as identified in the Final Report by the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission. We trust that these issues will be addressed before the upcoming Presidential elections.

How long, in your opinion, will it take to conclude Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Armenia and the EU, and in which particular ways can it be mutually beneficial for the parties?

There is no time limit for the negotiations. Their pace depends on the willingness and readiness of the parties to advance. The outcome and the results matter more than the speed of such negotiations. Three rounds of negotiations have been scheduled for 2012 and given the commitment presented by Armenia so far, the EU considers that the negotiations could progress smoothly and rapidly. I expect that this future agreement will open up many new opportunities for Armenia. Exporters will be able to take advantage of the further opening of the EU internal market for Armenian goods and services.

It is known that progress in Armenia-EU relations was mainly due to Eastern Partnership initiative, in which six countries take part. How do you assess the progress of this initiative and what countries have registered the best results?

We launched the Eastern Partnership in 2009 with a clear aim to support reforms in Eastern partner countries, and accelerate their political and economic association with the European Union. Much has already been achieved. Negotiations on Association Agreements with Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas are very well advanced with the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and, as I mentioned, Armenia. Similar negotiations have already been completed with Ukraine though final ratification will depend on the respect of the values Ukraine signed up to through the Eastern Partnership. Selective justice and criminalisation of the opposition are for instance not compatible with these values. Negotiations on an Association Agreement are also under way with Azerbaijan. We are also aiming to make travel between the EU and partner countries easier for citizens, with visa free regime as the ultimate goal. We already have a process with the Republic of Moldova and Ukrainein place for visa liberalisation, and we will soon start a similar exercise with Georgia. Negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements are under way with Armenia and Azerbaijan and a comparable offer has been extended to Belarus. The EU can also offer support to reinforce institutions, and such co-operation is advancing well in Armenia, Georgia and Moldova. Additionally, the Eastern Partnership provides a platform for multilateral cooperation between the EU and all six partners to enhance regional cooperation and exchange best practices. Civil society, national parliaments and local and regional authorities are also associated to these initiatives. The EU is determined to continue support partners by sharing know-how, giving political support and providing financial assistance. Nonetheless, this support is determined by the pace of reforms.

The settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is one of the priorities of the EU in the South Caucasus. It was very often stated that the EU wants to contribute to confidence building measures between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Could you please specify what are those measures and in what other spheres the EU is ready to contribute?

I would like to underline that military force will not resolve the conflict. Only a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will help transform the South Caucasus into a stable region and a fully functioning gateway between Europe and Asia. This is clearly in the best interest of our partner countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and is also an important interest for the European Union. The EU has reinvigorated its support to the work of the OSCE Minsk group. We welcome all the considerable efforts, including the latest statement at the G20 summit, of the Co-Chairs; France, theRussian Federation and the United States of America. The responsibility to reach an agreement is essentially in the hands of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and we urge them to pursue a peaceful solution based on the Madrid principles with vision, wisdom and courage. We are concerned at the slow progress in the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. And it was with great concern that I learnt about recent violence along the Line of Contact and the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. I deeply regret the tragic and unnecessary loss of life. The European Union has repeatedly expressed readiness to contribute to confidence building measures, where it can help the work of the OSCE Minsk Group. In this regard, the European Union is prepared to further promote the engagement of civil society in confidence-building and contacts between the populations on both sides. This will help foster trust and allow people affected by the conflict to fully take part in the debates on perspectives for peace. In addition, the EU conducts regular political dialogue with both partner countries, and has also appointed the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Ambassador Phillipe Lefort. We also support the OSCE-proposed mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations and stand ready to share the EU’s relevant experience and good practices in promoting conflict transformation.

Recently the European Parliament has adopted a resolution, expressing the wish to have unconditional access to Nagorno-Karabakh. What were the incentives for such steps? Can this be considered as a step in the direction of de jure recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh ?

No, this does not constitute any form of recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Council of the European Union, as well as the European Parliament, have underlined the need for unrestricted access for EU representatives to Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions. For the EU, this is a principled and pragmatic matter, as it would help turn into action our readiness to support confidence building measures now and to provide rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance once a settlement is achieved.

The Armenian-Turkish border is the last one in Europe. Is it acceptable to have closed borders in the 21st century in modern Europe, while Turkey is still trying to impose precondition for the establishment of Armenian-Turkish diplomatic relations?

The European Union encourages Armenia and Turkey to normalize their bilateral relations without preconditions (from any side). We believe that the full normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey would be an important contribution to security, stability and cooperation in the Southern Caucasus. We call on both countries to continue their dialogue and remain committed to the process. An important first step would indeed be the opening of the border.

Interview by Armen Ghazaryan

Photo from the official website of the European Council

Declaration by the High Representative, Catherine Ashton,on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Delegation of the European Union to Armenia

26.06.2012

Today I would like to reaffirm the EU’s commitment to the prevention and eradication of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to the full rehabilitation of torture victims in all parts of the world. This day is an occasion to speak up against this abhorrent violation of human rights and human dignity. Torture is not only a tragedy for the victims, it is also degrading and injuring those who perpetrate it and to societies which tolerate such outrage. The absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is unequivocally established under international law. No culture of impunity is acceptable.

Recalling Resolution 66/150 adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2011, the EU reiterates its principled condemnation of all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through intimidation, which are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever and can thus never be justified. The EU calls upon all States to implement fully the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The EU urges all States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention as a matter of priority, and calls upon States parties to give early consideration to signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention. The EU welcomes the recent ratification of OPCAT by Philippines, Mauritania, Venezuela, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Turkey and Panama. The EU also calls upon all states to establish or maintain independent and effective mechanisms to monitor places of detention with a view to preventing acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The EU calls upon all States to adopt a gender-sensitive approach in the fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, paying special attention to gender-based violence.

The European Union welcomes and supports the work done by the UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE in the fight against torture. Co-operation by States with international mechanisms, such as the UN Special Rapporteur, the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and the Committee Against Torture, is essential to make our international system of protection and promotion of human rights effective.

Through funding at the national and the EU level, we offer substantial support to organizations that provide medical, social, legal and other assistance to many men, women and children who are victims of torture with the aim of restoring their health and dignity as human beings. Earlier this month on the 1st of June the EU launched a new call for proposals called “Fighting Impunity”, which is dedicated to supporting civil society actions against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The total amount of the call for anti-torture projects is 16.215 millions Euros.

The EU takes this opportunity to commend the persistent efforts by the many NGOs and individuals working tirelessly for the prevention of torture and to alleviate the suffering of victims, as well as mobilising public opinion on this important day in the UN calendar.
We must all stand together to make the world free from torture”.

EU adopts Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy 

Delegation of the European Union to Armenia

25.06.2012

The Council adopted today a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy with an Action Plan for putting it into practice. This is the first time that the European Union has had a unified Strategic Framework for this vital policy area, with such a wide-ranging plan of action for its implementation.

“Human rights are one of my top priorities and a silver thread that runs through everything that we do in external relations. With this comprehensive package we want to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy. In order to help put the Framework and the Action Plan into practice, I have also proposed the appointment of an EU Special Representative on Human Rights and I look forward to a swift appointment,” said Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, upon adoption of the package.
The Framework sets out principles, objectives and priorities, all designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of EU policy as a whole in the next ten years. They provide an agreed basis for a truly collective effort, involving EU Member States as well as the EU
Institutions. The Strategic Framework also anchors a commitment to genuine partnership with civil society. The Framework is also designed to be as readable as possible, so as to be accessible to all citizens.

The key messages of the Strategic Framework are:
– Human rights throughout EU policy
– Promoting universality of human rights
– Pursuing coherent objectives
– Human rights in all EU external policies
– Implementing EU priorities on human rights
– Working with bilateral partners
– Working through multilateral institutions
– The EU working together

The Strategic Framework builds on the joint Communication entitled ‘Human rights and democracy at the heart of EU external action – towards a more effective approach’. This was adopted by the European Commission on 12 December 2011 following a proposal by
Catherine Ashton. It was in turn the result of a lengthy process of consultations, dating back to the informal meeting of the EU foreign ministers (Gymnich) at Cordoba in March 2010.

The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy brings together 97 actions under 36 headings, prepared on the basis of consultations by the European External Action Service, involving the European Commission and EU member states, which are jointly responsible for implementation. Informal consultations have also been held with MEPs and NGOs. The Action Plan and covers the period until 31 December 2014. One of the commitments of the Action Plan is that the EU should present its performance in meeting its objectives in its annual report on human rights and democracy in the world. This should give an opportunity to all stakeholders in EU policy, including civil society, to assess the impact of EU action and contribute to defining future priorities.

Background

The adoption of the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy represents a watershed in EU policymaking. The EU has a long catalogue of statements on human rights and democracy, but these have tended to focus on particular issues or countries. Over time, the EU has also developed a range of ‘guidelines’ and other policy guidance, but it is the first time that a unified strategic document has been adopted. It shows the EU delivering on the promise of the Lisbon Treaty, which introduced the following commitment: “The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.”

In order to contribute to implementation of the Strategic Framework and the Action Plan, the High Representative has proposed the appointment of an EU Special Representative on Human Rights. The aim of this is to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human
rights policy. For reasons of continuity, an initial appointment of 2 years has been proposed.

The EUSR should have a broad, flexible mandate, giving the ability to adapt to circumstances, and should also work closely with the EEAS, which will provide full support.

More information is available at:
http://eeas.europa.eu/human_rights/index_en.htm

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