EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle has outlined the way forward for EU-Armenia relations in the current new context, confirming the EU’s resolve to keep building the partnership. At the same time, he stressed the role of civil society in the reform process, the need to protect activists against intimidation, and to strengthen fundamental freedoms in the country.
Speaking after the 14th Cooperation Council between Armenia and the European Union in Brussels today, Füle told a press conference: “Compared to previous Cooperation Council there is definitely a difference in the content of our discussions – given the new international commitments of Armenia. But what remains the same, is our desire and resolve to continue to have a close relationship and take it forward, based on what we have achieved so far.”
Füle said the two sides had confirmed the need to revisit the basis for bilateral relations, as well as to update the EU-Armenia European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan to adjust it to the extent and ambitions of future cooperation.
He commended Armenia’s progress on the Mobility Partnership, with the ratification of the Agreements on Visa Facilitation and Readmission completed. “This will enable us to boost people to people contacts, which is an important element of our continued cooperation.”
The Commissioner also welcomed progress on reforms and Armenia’s commitment to continue on this path. “At the same time, we have however encouraged acceleration of the efforts in specific areas, notably Democracy and the Rule of Law, anti-corruption, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and judicial reform.”
“The way forward for EU-Armenia relations in the new context has been outlined. Now we have to start work to make it reality,” Füle said. “Armenia can count on the continued EU support to advance political, economic and social reforms and improve the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Today’s meeting was also an opportunity to underline the role of civil society in the reform process, the Commissioner said. “We have strengthened the cooperation and support for the Civil Society. We hope very much that also their work will be built on what has been achieved in that area in the last 3.5 years. We hope very much that fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of expression and assembly, will be further strengthened.”
A specific support is going to be provided to the Armenian national platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in order to strengthen its role and monitoring the reform process by building structured dialogue with the government.
“We call on the government to ensure that there is not intimidation of Civil Society representatives, human rights activists, in particular women’s rights activists. And we called on Armenia to investigate some of those cases from the past and make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” Commissioner Füle said. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
In a telephone conversation with President Yanukovych of Ukraine over the weekend, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso reiterated the need “for a political solution to the current tensions, through dialogue with the opposition and civil society,” calling for respect for civil freedoms and “maximum restraint.”
He announced that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton would travel to Kiev this week to support a way out of the political crisis.
President Barroso also recalled “the EU’s position of signing the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area once the conditions are met.” (EU Neighbourhood Info)
EIB Vice-President Wilhelm Molterer commented: “EIB funds will finance the upgrading of a key transport corridor in Armenia. This project will promote economic and social development in Armenia and improve regional integration, with significant benefits for the whole region.”
The project is part of an ambitious programme aimed at improving the 556-kilometre North-South road corridor running from the border with Georgia at Bavra to the border with Iran at Meghri via the cities of Bavra, Gyumri, Ashtarak, Yerevan, Goris, Kapan and Meghri.
The project is being co-financed by the Asian Development Bank and the EU Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF).
This is the sixth EIB operation in Armenia, bringing EIB lending commitments in the country to €112 million. Earlier, the Bank financed projects involving the renovation of the Yerevan metro, improving border-crossing infrastructure, rehabilitating the water sector and supporting the financing of smaller projects promoted by the SME sector. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
North-South road corridor – project summary sheet