By Armen Zakarian in Strasbourg
Six months after a country becomes a member of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the pan-European body launches a monitoring effort to assess the compliance of the new member state with standards imposed by the inter-governmental body. For Armenia and Azerbaijan the monitoring task has been given to Irina Belahorskaya of Slovakia, who visited Armenia two weeks ago on a monitoring mission.
This week the monitoring group held a meeting in Strasbourg during which Belahorskaya presented her report. According to an Armenian member of the Parliamentary Assembly of CE, Armen Rustamian the report indicated that Armenia abides by the standards and implements the decisions of the European body. At the same time that the report voices confidence in the willingness of politicians and the government in Armenia to fulfill membership requirements, Bilahorskaya has voiced certain reservations. In the first instance is Armenia’s reluctance to abolish the death penalty. A number of political forces according to the report want to maintain the death penalty in connection with the October 27, 1999terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament. The trial of the perpetrators is underway, and many believe that if the death penalty is abolished now, the terrorists will not receive their due punishment for a cold-blooded massacre of government leaders.
The monitoring report also registers that Armenia is tardy in meeting certain deadlines. However, in this respect also, delays are linked to other issues, such as proposed constitutional changes. Belahorskaya proposed to extend the deadline for Armenia to meet some requirements.
The monitoring report on Azerbaijan completed by another rapperteur is much harsher in its criticism of failures and delays in meeting set requirements. This criticism first of all pertains to democratic standards, for example a lack of understanding that the existence of opposition political forces is a normal phenomenon. The report also criticizes the war rhetoric in Azerbaijan indicating that the country has developed intolerance towards its neighbors.