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April 17, 2008

ACNIS Looks Into Armenia’s European Integration Prospects

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a foreign policy roundtable to examine Armenia’s policy on European integration and the country’s commitments made and actions taken to that end. The meeting brought together MPs, foreign embassy and mission personnel, leading analysts, policy specialists, public and political figures, and media representatives.

ACNIS research coordinator Syuzanna Barseghian welcomed the audience with opening remarks. “The current analytical observations carry the objective of shedding light on the challenges that are dependent on today’s geopolitical realities,” Barseghian said. “These observations seek to provide answers to the key questions concerning the political course Armenia has chosen on its road to integration into Europe and the priority measures planned for that purpose.”

The day’s first speaker, chairman Karen Bekarian of the “European Integration” NGO, reflected on the policy of European integration in terms of its real and demonstrative manifestations. He drew attention to the fact that there is no clear-cut and common view in Armenia regarding this process and therefore European integration has no societal demand in our country. “All the political players are simply exploiting the notion of European integration, making it serve their individual interests.  They are disregarding the true interests of the state and the people,” Bekarian stated. In his viewpoint, Armenia’s current coalition government is a prime example that bespeaks the absence of a shared outlook with respect to the country’s European integration prospects. Bekarian argued that two of the political parties in power consider EU membership as an ultimate goal, whereas according to the other two ruling coalition parties—who even though place a huge emphasis on partnership with the European institutions—accession to the European Union is not a final objective for Armenia.

In his intervention, member of the Armenian National Assembly Armen Ashotian examined the priority measures for Armenia’s integration into Europe. In his view, the need for European integration is primarily dependent on the factors which secure a rapid progress in Armenia with respect to democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, poverty reduction, and reforms within state governance. According to Ashotian, this need also heavily depends on the expectation of a peaceful resolution to the Karabagh conflict, regional integration, financial support, and adoptation of a civilized value system. “The prospects for Armenia’s European integration, and specifically our involvement in the ‘European Neighborhood Policy,’ allows us a wonderful opportunity to implement those qualitative and systemic reforms that are fixed in the government’s and the newly elected president’s agenda,” Ashotian maintained.

In his turn, member of parliament Stepan Safarian explored Europe’s reaction to the electoral processes in Armenia and looked at the priorities of the political course to be adopted by our country. In his opinion, the imperative for European integration demands on the flawless execution of the commitments that are assumed in line with the international accords, treaties, and other formal documents. As Safarian argued, despite the fact that in their evaluations the European institutions mostly encourage and rarely criticize the electoral processes in Armenia while in terms of relations between the authorities and the opposition they uphold a balanced approach, during the recent presidential elections, this picture was quite different. “Today the main target of European criticisms are the authorities and this, in my opinion, is because of the concern toward strengthening the divided political opposition and as a result of a more acceptable demeanor by the opposition,” Safarian said,  not ruling out this time the possibility of European sanctions against Armenia.

The roundtable discussants also included Marius Chebotaru and Cătălin Balog of the Romanian Embassy; Anatoliy Popsuev from the Russian Embassy; Norair Danielian of the “European Movement Armenia” NGO; Vahagn Muradian from the Information Office of the Council of Europe; Maria Aghajanian of the Open Society Institute; and Sergey Minasian from the Caucasus Media Institute.

The policy roundtable concluded with an exchange of opinions and policy recommendations among; political scientist Edward Antinian; Vahe Gevorgian from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; independent analyst Manvel Sargsian; Suren Movsisian of the Noravank Foundation; ACNIS analyst Hovhannes Manukian; and several others.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2008, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am ; or visit www.acnis.am.


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