By Ruben Meloyan
Armenia will miss an important opportunity to deepen its relationship with the European Union if it fails to ensure the freedom and fairness of its parliamentary elections, a visiting senior EU diplomat warned on Friday.
“It will mean that an opportunity has been lost to build, in the short and medium terms, a firm relationship based on mutual values and mutual trust,” Peter Semneby, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, said of a possible repeat of serious irregularities in the elections slated for May 12.
Preparations for the crucial polls dominated the agenda of Semneby latest trip to Yerevan, which involved talks with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and other Armenian officials. Markarian’s office quoted the Brussels-based diplomat as saying that their proper conduct will be “critical” for Armenia’s democratization and European integration. Markarian was reported to assure him that his government has “the desire and the will” to hold a first-ever Armenian election recognized as democratic by the West.
“I haven’t gotten any guarantees, but I have a very strong sense that the authorities are aware of the importance of the elections,” Semneby told RFE/RL after the talks. He stressed the fact that it will be the first major ballot since Armenia’s and neighboring Azerbaijan’s and Georgia’s inclusion in the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) framework.
Each of the three South Caucasus states signed late last year its own plan of actions stemming from the ENP. They undertook, among other things, to embrace a democratic system of governance. The launch of the action plans signaled greater EU interest in promoting political reform in the region.
“It is the first major election taking place in the South Caucasus after we finalized the action plans with the three regional countries,” Semneby said. “And for that reason it has an importance that goes beyond the borders of Armenia. I would say that the European Union and Armenia have a joint responsibility in making sure these elections show the way for democratic transformation in the entire region.”