By Gevorg Stamboltsian
Janez Potocnik, the European Union’s junior commissioner on enlargement affairs, discussed with Armenian leaders on Thursday practical consequences of Armenia’s inclusion in the list of countries entitled to privileged ties with the EU.
After talks in Yerevan with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and other senior officials Potocnik reiterated the EU’s position that Armenia itself should decide the extent of its cooperation with the bloc under the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). He said the EU’s executive Commission would only support and encourage Yerevan’s efforts to meet European standards on free elections, human rights and freedom of speech.
The decision to extend the ENP, also known as “Wider Europe,” to Armenia as well as neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia was formally made by the EU foreign ministers on June 14. EU diplomats have since been keen to stress that neither country will draw any material benefits from the scheme until 2007. They say each South Caucasus state will have to negotiate separate “action plans” on economic and political reforms by that time.
The EU has also made clear that it will consider developing relations with the three countries on the basis of individual merit. So far, Georgia has emerged as a clear leader -- something which was acknowledged by the union’s special representative to the region, Heikki Talvitie, in Yerevan late last month.
Potocnik said that he will submit to the European Commission a report on Armenia by the spring of 2005, after which the two sides will begin discussing joint programs on a broad range of issues. He also reiterated the EU’s insistence on the quick closure of the Metsamor nuclear plant “for safety reasons.”
“I think we have a kind of mutual agreement that sooner or later the decommissioning of the Metsamor nuclear plant will be needed,” the Slovenian official said, reaffirming the EU’s offer of a 100 million-euro compensation for the shutdown.
EU officials in Brussels told RFE/RL earlier this week that during his regional tour Potocnik will reiterate the bloc's willingness to take a more active approach to the regional conflicts. They said although the EU bloc will not act as a mediator it will use incentives inherent in closer ties to foster compromise.
(Photolur photo: Janez Potocnik.)