On July 6-8, 2012 in Vanadzor Yerevan Press Club with the support of the Armenian Office of Friedrich Ebert Foundation hosted the seminar “The Role of the EaP Civil Society Forum in Implementing Reforms in the Fields of Public Administration and Fight against Corruption”.
Ivan Presnyakov, Coordinator of Fight against Corruption Subgroup of EaP CSF 1st Working Group, Ukraine, took part in the seminar and presented the implementation process of CSF recommendations on fighting corruption in the six Eastern Partnership countries.
The speeches of Varouzhan Hoktanyan, Executive Director of Transparency International Anti-corruption Center and Mikayel Hovhannisyan, Director of “Europe” Programme at Eurasia Partnership Foundation were dealing with the programmes, administered by the Armenian CSOs, their importance and their future plans.
The goals and perspectives of the activities, implemented by Association of Local Democracy Agencies were presented by its Delegate Davit Dolmajian. Meanwhile, the report of Armineh Tukhikyan, Co-Chairwoman of Urban Foundation for Sustainable Development dealt with the work, being made towards the democratization of local self-governance bodies in Armenia.
A wrap-up speech was made by the President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian, who presented the perspectives for strengthening ties between the EaP Civil Society Forum and the CSF Armenian National Platform, the future plans and goals.
Armenia in Europe conference in Yerevan
Armenia will be brought closer to Europe when the process is perceived by large sections of the country’s population, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy stated at the Armenia in Europe conference in Yerevan, Armenia.
Mr. Herman Van Rompuy has great expectations from the conference, which is an opportunity to involve Armenia’s public in forming new relations with Europe.
Civil society must be consistent in supervising the government honoring its commitments to implement reforms, he said. Civil society should be active in performing the following three functions: monitoring the reforms, demanding reports and gaining experience. This activity must be carried out in all the areas of Armenia’s life, said Herman Van Rompuy.
The Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (CSF) and Center for European Studies (CES) organized the conference at the Receptions Palace of Armenia’s Government.
Herman Van Rompuy stressed the importance of national minorities’ involvement in the reforms.
The European Council will render further financial aid to civil society in implementing real reforms in human rights protection and democratization.
At his meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and MPs the high-ranking European official intends to discuss the effectiveness of reforms based on European values, particularly formation of democratic institutions, corruption control, transparent elections, and human rights protection.
Much has to be done. However, the stronger is the desire for reforms the stronger Armenia can rely on the European Union.
With respect to political opposition, Herman Van Rompuy noted that Armenia should follow the OSCE/ODIHR report. He expressed hope that for serious progress before the next presidential election in Armenia.
As regards the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Herman Van Rompuy said that civil society should also contribute to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The negotiations may fail without societies’ involvement. A dialogue between societies is of importance for establishing long-lasting peace in the region.
The European Council is assisting the OSCE Minsk Group and proposing its assistance in the person of its high representative, Herman Van Rompuy said. The European Council is ready to assist the establishment of regional stability.
President Serzh Sargsyan received the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy
President Serzh Sargsyan received the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. The President of Armenia and the President of the European Council recapped the results of the negotiations at the joint press conference given for the representatives of the mass media.
Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan at the Joint Press Conference with the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy
I am glad to welcome Mr. Van Rօmpuy to Armenia for the first time. Such a high-level visit from the European Union seriously encourages further deepening and expansion of our relations. We have had a sincere and useful discussion with Mr. Van Rօmpuy on bilateral and regional issues. I should note that we have an overall mutual understanding regarding all issues on our agenda.
We have registered a noteworthy progress in the Armenia-EU relations on several directions and reiterated our determination to preserve that positive dynamics and develop continually and consistently our cooperation.
Armenia is resolute to implement large-scale reforms aimed at further democratization, strengthening of the rule of law, considerable improvement of the social and economic situation and increased efficiency of the state governing structures of our country. In this process, we view the European Union as a reliable partner and supporter. We have had fruitful discussions regarding the EU’s assistance to our reforms.
With Mr. President we have also discussed the recent developments around Nagorno Karabakh. Once again, we reiterated that the conflict must be solved in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group on the principles of the UN Charter and Helsinki Final Act. Threats to use force and armed provocations are unbecoming to the Europe of the 21st century just as xenophobic statements, intolerance, and attempts to revise history. We welcome the readiness of the European Union to implement confidence building measures and establish durable peace in the region.
We have also spoken about the parliamentary elections in Armenia; assessment of our EU partners and our own assessment on this issue concur: these have been the best elections in the history of the newly independent Armenia, however there is still much to be done for the further improvement of the electoral process. I have reiterated our commitment to register new progress in the organization and conduct of the presidential elections of 2013.
We have noted with satisfaction that the Armenia-EU negotiations on a number of directions are progressing well. In particular, soon we are planning to bring to a conclusion the Armenia-EU negotiations on the Association Agreement and in a short period of time to conclude also negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. The negotiations on the visa facilitation are also underway. We wish to conclude these negotiations as soon as possible in order to provide ample opportunities for our youth, artists, scientists and people to expand their contacts.
We are grateful to our European partners for their readiness to support reforms in Armenia. It is very important for their acceleration and comprehensive implementation. With Mr. Van Rօmpuy we have also exchanged views on the new possible forms of that assistance.
Recently in Brussels I participated in the Summit of the Heads of States and Governments – members of the European People’s Party. The main topic of the discussions was the existing financial and economic tension and possible ways to overcome it. Economies of small states are particularly vulnerable in such times and we anticipate that as an Eastern Partner we will get our share of assistance for overcoming these difficulties.
Mr. President, your visit is extremely important but way too short. I hope that you will find time in your extremely busy schedule to visit Armenia again since our intensive contacts are very important for the consolidation of our relations.
Once again I welcome you. And I thank you for attention and support extended to us.
Mr. President, it is a pleasure to be here in Armenia for the first time, a country which has brought much to European history and culture, and with which we share many things, both in our past and future. I am very grateful for the warm and gracious hospitality extended to me and my delegation today.
This is the third time that we meet. (we met previously in Warsaw for the EaP-summit and in Brussels). And as usual, President Sargsyan and I had good talks covering our bilateral and regional agenda.
I would like to highlight the following three points:
First, We are experiencing overall progress in the EU-Armenia relationship. There has been progress in the negotiations on the Association Agreement. And, we have started negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Moreover, in February of this year, negotiations were launched on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements, as a first step towards visa liberalisation.
I encouraged President Sargsyan to make maximum use of the opportunities provided by the Eastern Partnership for Armenia. We have registered good progress since the summit in Warsaw.
And, as I mentioned, we are on track in reaching the goals set out in the Roadmap in time for the next Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius 2013.
Second, I welcome Armenia’s commitment to reforms based on the core values for the European Union, and geared towards approximating to the standards and norms of the EU. This is clearly a strategic choice by Armenia.
I encourage Armenia to continue on this path towards strengthening its democratic institutions, to promote transparency, to root out corruption and to respect Human Rights and the rule of law, including the right to free speech and press. You are, President Sargsyan, on the right track, even if there is still a lot of work ahead.
I also pointed out, (and will point out to parliamentarians and civil society later today) that we are prepared to support you. The stronger the commitment to pursue genuine reform and to uphold universal values, the more you will be able to count on the EU in accordance with the “more for more” principle.
In this regard, I am happy to announce that the EU has decided to top up its annual support to Armenia by 15 million euros for 2012 under the Eastern Partnership Integration and Cooperation (EaPIC). This is an increase of 25 % of the EU:s financial assistance to Armenia.
The funds will be used to scale up our support to a number for core reforms in support for Armenias progress towards association.
The European Union welcomes the efforts which the Armenian authorities made to deliver more competitive and transparent parliamentary elections. This was an important step forward. However, as identified in the Final Report by the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, some issues remain to be addressed. We trust that this will be done before the upcoming Presidential elections.
On this basis, I m pleased to say that the European Commission will now be in a position to start preparations of a donor conference with Armenia and international financial institutions.
Third, progress on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should remain a top priority. Everyday that goes by without a solution is an opportunity missed for all of us. In order to find a solution we need to build confidence, trust and respect.
It is with great concern that we take note of recent reports of serious armed incidents on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Line of Contact. I deeply regret the loss of life. My sympathy lies with the families of those who have suffered the loss of relatives and loved ones.
Military force will not resolve the conflict. Only a peaceful, negotiated settlement can allow the entire region to move beyond the status quo toward a secure and prosperous future. If a secure and stable regional environment can be prepared, stability, peace will bring benefits to all Armenians.
I repeat what has been said earlier by the EU, and was stated by the Co-chairs of the Minsk-group at the G20, to both Armenia and Azerbaijan: Both need to take decisions in order to reach a lasting and peaceful settlement based on the Madrid principles: both Armenia and Azerbaijan need to fully implement the commitments made by their Presidents in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. Both sides should also strictly respect the ceasefire and exercise restraint on the ground and refrain from hostile rhetoric in public statements.
The EU stands ready to support any confidence building and reconciliation efforts. We have both the means and the experience to do so. The appointment of Ambassador Lefort as the new EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia shows the increasing commitment of the EU.
Mr. President, thank you again for receiving us here in Yerevan. Armenia is a partner – a close partner. I am happy that we today confirmed our joint work together to ensure Armenia’s positive future.
of the Working Group 1 of the EaP Civil Society Forum
The WG 1 members, representing several organizations from both EaP and EU countries, supports the statement of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety calling on the Azerbaijani government to refrain from adopting draft amendments to the laws “On the right to obtain information”, “On commercial secrets” and “On state registration and state registry of legal entities”, which create unreasonable obstacles for the access to data on the ownership of private companies.
As IRFS fairly believes, these amendments violate the rights of media and broader society to obtain information on issues of public importance and restrict the work of investigative journalists, civil society activists of Azerbaijan, in disclosing information about corrupt deals and illegal ways of obtaining property by family members of high-ranking state officials.
The members of WG 1 call on the authorities of the EaP countries to refrain from adopting laws which run counter to the principles of freedom of information and transparency of ownership, as well as hampering anti-corruption efforts of media and civil society.
The full text of the IRFS statement is in the attachment.