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By Armen Zakarian
Denmark’s Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller was in Yerevan on Friday on the final leg of his tour of the three South Caucasus states which he said reflects the European Union’s growing interest in the region.

In his meetings with Armenian leaders and at a concluding news conference, Moeller presented the region’s recent inclusion in the EU’s program of privileged ties with neighboring states as opening far-reaching “European perspectives” for Armenia Azerbaijan and Georgia. He referred to them as a “part of Europe” and said the bloc must not become an exclusive club of affluent nations.

Moeller was among the foreign ministers of the EU member states that formally approved on June 14 the three countries’ inclusion in the European Neighborhood Program (ENP). Each of them now has to negotiate individual “action plans” on political and economic integration into the union.

Officials in Brussels have stressed that Armenia and its ex-Soviet neighbors will not be able to draw any material benefits from the ENP until 2007. They also say that the program does not automatically pave the way for their membership in the EU.

But Moeller, citing the example of Turkey, said the South Caucasus states can become eligible for EU membership in the future if they meet the EU’s strict standards of democratic governance, the rule of law and economic liberalization. He made it clear that the region must resolve its bitter ethnic conflicts if it is to attract substantial foreign investment and emerge from post-Soviet poverty.

Speaking about Danish-Armenian relations, Moeller singled out energy as a potentially promising area of bilateral economic cooperation. He reiterated in this regard the EU’s calls for the closure of the Metsamor nuclear power station and offered Yerevan to look into Denmark’s growing reliance on renewable sources of electricity such as the wind and the sun.

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian was quoted by his office as telling Moeller that Armenia would like to learn from the Danish experience.

Yerevan has resisted EU pressure to decommission Metsamor this year and plans to keep the facility operation for another decade.

(Photolur photo: Moeller, left, greeted by Oskanian outside the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan.)
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