By Emil Danielyan
The Armenian government set up on Thursday two new high-level bodies tasked with helping to deepen its political and economic links with the European Union.
The government said in a statement that Prime Minister Andranik Markarian will personally head a “national council” and a separate commission that will deal with “the Republic of Armenia’s cooperation with the European Union.”
The statement issued after a weekly cabinet session said the council will include “representatives of the civil society” to be chosen by the chief of Markarian’s staff. It did not specify who else will sit on the bodies.
Armenia already has a special commission which is headed by President Robert Kocharian and is supposed to coordinate his administration’s efforts at European integration. It comprises Markarian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and parliament speaker Tigran Torosian.
The government’s decision to create more such bodies follows President Robert Kocharian’s recent calls for a comprehensive plan of action that will accelerate Armenia’s integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Kocharian told top government officials on July 13 to submit a timetable of “concrete activities” stemming from Yerevan’s commitments to the EU, the Council of Europe, and NATO within the next two months.
The move comes amid Armenia’s ongoing negotiations with the EU over an “action plan” stemming from the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), which will entitle it to a privileged partnership with the 25-nation bloc. EU diplomats say the plan is likely to be finalized by the end of this year.
Still, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, has warned that Yerevan’s participation in the ENP will be at serious risk if parliamentary elections, due in Armenia next spring, again fall short of democratic standards. The freedom and fairness of the polls is “crucially important” for the country’s European integration, he said.
(Photolur photo: Andranik Markarian.)