Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian questioned on Wednesday successive Armenian governments’ commitment to “European values” such as democracy and human rights, saying that he was increasingly embarrassed with having to justify their undemocratic practices during his decade-long tenure.
Oskanian said the lack of such commitment has been the main hurdle to Armenia’s democratization and integration into various European bodies.
“The government is the most important thing,” he said during a public discussion on the matter organized by the Civilitas Foundation, his Yerevan-based think-tank. “I was in it, and one of the reasons why I’m not now is that things reached a point where it was difficult to explain the difference between words and actions to the Europeans.
“That problem always existed, especially after elections when there were some undemocratic developments in Armenia. You can imagine the plight of the foreign minister every time the issue was brought up in Europe.”
“My experience has shown that our successive governments have not been prepared for a full adoption and application of these values,” said Oskanian. “This is a fact. They have at best been very selective.”
“The authorities have regarded the full adoption and application of European values as a threat to their power. This will remain the case until we manage to create counterweights in our political system,” he added.
Oskanian served as foreign minister in the administration of former President Robert Kocharian throughout his 1998-2008 rule, a period that saw three disputed presidential elections and other political upheavals. Various European bodies criticized the Kocharian administration’s handling of the polls as well as its human rights record.
Ever since leaving office in April 2008, Oskanian has increasingly distanced himself from this and other controversial episodes of the Kocharian era. The Syrian-born former U.S. national has also been increasingly critical of domestic and foreign policies pursued by the current president, Serzh Sarkisian.
Oskanian said on Wednesday that the Council of Europe, which Armenia joined in 2001, and the European Union should be “more consistent” in pressing the authorities in Yerevan to honor their commitments on democracy and human rights.
In Oskanian’s words, the Armenian public, for its part, should exert similar pressure on both the government and the Europeans, he said. “I think that we should be more assertive in demanding a more serious engagement by them,” he said.