On the Decision of the RA Authorities to Join the Customs /Eurasian Economic Union
It has been a year since the RA President Serzh Sargsyan announced about Armenia’s intention to join the Customs Union and participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU), which in practice meant failure of the initialed Association Agreement with the EU- a plan that was developed in four-year-long intensive and productive negotiations between the RA and EU. Since then, the Armenian National Platform (ANP) of the EU Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) has several times came up with statements expressing disagreement with the foreign policy course of the official Yerevan, emphasizing the threats posed to the sovereignty and national security of the country and voiced concerns over the disrupted reform process in the RA.
In the course of the past months the Platform reiterated its principle position and the validity of its views regarding the prospects for the RA (see the ANP statement of September 17, 2013 and December 21, 2013). The dynamic development of EU-Armenia cooperation has considerably frozen since then. Our country found itself in a humiliating position, facing the overt reluctance of the two founding countries of EaEU – Belarus and Kazakhstan to accept Armenia as the fourth member of the Eurasian Economic Union. This course is already having its detrimental impact on the international image of Armenia, raising suspicion over the ability of Yerevan to make sovereign decisions deriving from its national interests.
As opposed to the assurances of the proponents of Eurasian integration, the decision of September 3, 2013 has in no way contributed to security of Armenia and Mountainous Karabakh. From the perspective of armed clashes in borderline territories and the number of victims in those incidents, the passing year has been the most tragic since the ceasefire regime established about two decades ago. Russia continued the supply of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan which became an additional factor leading to escalation of the regional tensions.
Achievements in the field of energy security which has been one of the main arguments for the Eurasian choice are not convincing either. After September 3 Armenia lost its last 20 percent share in the company which enjoys a monopoly in natural gas supplies to Armenia and the RA citizens had to face yet another increase of gas and electricity tariffs.
The ratification of the vague prospect of joining the Eurasian Union has once again been postponed to a new date – October 10, 2014, and is already creating preconditions for distancing from the closest neighbors of Armenia-Georgia and Iran. The new challenges which emerged in the past year increased the social vulnerability of our citizens and lead to even higher migration rates.
It is with a deep concern that the ANP warns of deepening split among the Armenian society, which results from the disputes around the Eastern Partnership, Ukrainian crisis and diverging views on the Moscow-West confrontation. By the way, sharp contradictions around these issues, as a rule, are not directly related to the vital interests of our country and specific problems of Armenia’s development. This unhealthy phenomenon came as an immediate result of the global information war and primarily the unprecedented manipulative impact of Russian TV channels transmitted in Armenia in an open network. Armenian National Platform has already addressed the relevant authorities regarding the issue of unacceptable propaganda for xenophobia carried out by a licensed broadcaster registered in Armenia in accordance with RA legislation (see ANP statement of 07.04.2014). Unfortunately, RA authorities failed to take measures to address the threats to information security of the country and the violation of national legislation.
Disregard of civic initiatives along with many other examples question the government’s assurances to follow the path of democratic reform and willingness to initiate a dialogue with the public, regardless of the choice of integration model. Right after the announcement of Eurasian choice we witnessed intolerance towards some forms of civil protest. Use of disproportionate force against the civil activists on September 5, and December 2, 2013, and the “cover-up” of the investigations of the attacks on the activists, the prosecution of Shant Harutyunyan and Volodia Avetisyan for political reasons, which have been voiced in the ANP statements many times, in no way strengthen the belief that Armenia is developing as a free and democratic state.
ANP has repeatedly offered to RA authorities, and primarily to the National Assembly to initiate substantive discussions on the whole range of issues regarding the milestone decision of September 3. No discussions in an official public format were organized in this regard, both before and after the September 3 announcement of RA president. Moreover, it would be of no surprise if the bill on RA’s accession to the EaEU, which is a product of questionable diplomatic procedures, will be hastily ratified in an extraordinary session of the parliament, without proper preparations and discussions. This reality is a proof to some serious drawbacks in the decision making system of the country when it comes to political decisions regarding the long-term prospects of the fate of the nation and the state.
Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum expresses its strong dissatisfaction and disagreement with the decision of RA government to join the Customs/Eurasian Economic Union and failure to initial the Association Agreement with the European Union. At the same time, we are deeply disappointed with absence of a principle position on the foreign policy course and reform agenda among the oppositional parties represented in the RA parliament, and inability of the parties that criticized the September 3 decision of Serzh Sargsyan, to come up with a common action.
In the current state of affairs, ANP expects the mobilization of the Armenian society for the sake of its national interests and considers its main task the raising of citizens’ awareness and responsibility for the future of the country.September 25, 2014 Yerevan
Regarding the Trial of Shahen Harutyunyan (Shant Harutyunyan’s son)
The trial of Shant Harutyunyan, his son Shahen Harutyunyan and other members of the protesting group is being held these days. The way this trial is being handled is in line with many other trials that took place in Armenia – with a political pretext, bias and negligence of basic legal norms.
Nevertheless, the charges brought against 15 year old Shahen Harutyunyan (at the time when the act was committed Shahen was 14 years old) and the suggested 5 year prison sentence, is an extraordinary precedent, given that RA’s Prosecutor’s Office did not demand such a term even for some murder trials, cases in point being the murder allegedly committed by the son of Syunik region governor Surik Khachatryan and the assassination attempt of the RA army colonel for which nobody was charged in fact. Doesn’t the state prosecutor realize that we are dealing with a 15 year old underage teenager here, who by no means is a murderer, whose father is currently being prosecuted and is facing even a longer prison sentence, and that the charges will not only destroy the boy but the whole family?
EaP CSF Armenian National Platform expresses its deep resentment with the RA Prosecutor’s office indecent charges against Shahen Harutyunyan and reaffirms its assessment of Shant Harutyunyan and his son’s prosecution as a case for political persecution. With that in mind, EaP CSF Armenian National Platform demands the RA authorities and the judiciary to stop the shameful practice of settling scores with their opponents.25.09.2014 Yerevan
EaP CSF Member and human rights defender from Azerbaijan, Anar Mammadli, has been awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2014 in honour of his extensive civil society action and work in the defence of human rights.
The prize, issued by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has been presented to Mr. Mammadli’s father, Asaf Mammadov, and includes €60,000 in reward.
Anar Mammadli has played an important in defending human rights in Azerbaijan. He has been an active member of the EaP CSF as the former coordinator of Working Group 1 on Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance and Stability. In addition, he is founder and former chair of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), which is a highly influential institution in Azerbaijan dedicated to election monitoring.
As a result of his political activities, Mr. Mammadli has been in prison since December 2013 following his conviction on fabricated charges by the Azerbaijani government. Regarded as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, Mr. Mammadli is facing a sentence of 5 and a half years in prison.
“Mr. Mammadli’s commitment lies in the area of promoting democratic institutions and civil and political rights. Anar Mammadli is our long-standing partner, who shared with our assembly his valuable expertise on the situation in his country” said PACE President Anne Brasseur upon presenting the trophy.
The EaP CSF Forum is campaigning for the immediate and unconditional release of Anar Mammadli along with other political prisoners in Azerbaijan, including human rights defenders Rasul Jafarov, Leila Yunus and Arif Yunus. Ms. Yunus has also been nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2014. These human rights defenders have been victims of a targeted, and recently intensified, campaign against civil society in Azerbaijan.
Georgia has the highest degree of media freedom among the Eastern Partnership countries, Moldova came second and Ukraine third, according to a survey titled Media Freedom Index of the Eastern Partnership countries covering the first half of this year. Ukraine has switched places with Armenia since the previous wave of the survey, while Azerbaijan and Belarus follow towards the end of the ranking.
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) Media Freedom Index is compiled quarterly under the EaP Media Freedom Watch project, carried out by the international public organization Internews-Ukraine, in partnership with non-governmental organizations of the five EaP countries.
The criteria used in the evaluation are:
- The political context (the level of rights and freedoms for media granted by the constitution);
- The actual practice (restrictions of media freedom) including:
– attacks, threats and detentions
– access to the information
– censorship and self-censorship
- Access to broadcasting;
- Access to the Internet.
About 60 media experts were interviewed in order to compile the data, according to the press release. (EU Neighbourhood Info)