By Shakeh Avoyan
A standing commission of Armenian and European Union lawmakers ended on Tuesday a two-day session in Yerevan with a joint statement supporting Armenia’s quest for political and economic integration into the EU.
The commission discussed a broad range of issues, including political reform in Armenia and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
It was the fourth meeting of the inter-parliamentary body since its formation two years ago in accordance with a bilateral Armenia-EU agreement on “partnership and cooperation.”
Its German co-chair, Ursula Schleicher, said the authorities in Yerevan are showing strong interest in strengthening their ties with Europe and deserve the EU’s full backing. Schleicher, who is a senior member of the Brussels-based European Parliament, said EU membership is a long-term goal of Armenian foreign policy.
President Robert Kocharian told the Brussels lawmakers later in the day that his government wants to expand relations with the EU. “Our choice of the European family is irreversible and we will consistently move along that path,” he said. Kocharian also claimed that “serious political and economic reforms” have been implemented in Armenia over the past two years.
The situation with human rights and democracy in Armenia was high on the agenda of the commission’s meeting. Armenian opposition deputies attending it complained about what they see as a lack of transparency in the work of the government-controlled parliament and widespread violations of the due process of law. The claims were dismissed by Hovannes Hovannisian, the commission’s Armenian co-chair.
Hovannisian also criticized the European Commission for condemning as illegitimate the recent presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh. He said the EU’s main executive body should have consulted with the commission on inter-parliamentary cooperation before issuing the statement last month. The statement drew a sharp response from the Armenian foreign ministry.
The two sides also discussed the fate of the Metsamor nuclear power station. The EU delegation appeared resigned to the Armenian government’s refusal to shut down the plant in 2004 as was earlier agreed with Brussels.