The Armenian government intends to speed up political and economic reforms that will put Armenia firmly on “the European path of development,” Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said during a working visit to Brussels late on Wednesday.
Addressing the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sarkisian acknowledged the existence of a gap between the government’s declared objectives and “our reality.”
“For that reason, Armenia has to accelerate the implementation of reforms and institutional transformation,” he said, adding that President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration has the “political will” to do that.
The prime minister specified that these “radical” changes should democratize the country’s political system, make the Armenian judiciary more independent, reduce government corruption and create a level playing field for all businesses. In particular, he said, the authorities in Yerevan should hold parliamentary elections due in May 2012 “in conformity with the best European standards.”
“The sooner we carry out these reforms, the more trust our government will enjoy,” Sarkisian told European Union parliamentarians. “And that will be the guarantee that the 2012 elections will be more open, transparent and fair.”
Sarkisian stressed the importance of EU support for the success of the reform drive, pointing to Armenia’s participation in the bloc’s Eastern Partnership program.
In a speech last December, President Sarkisian (no relation) likewise pledged to turn Armenia into a “European-style democracy.”
His political opponents dismissed the speech as a gimmick, saying that the Sarkisian administration continues to hold “political prisoners” and suppress dissent. They also accuse him of planning to further reduce the already modest opposition presence in the Armenian parliament after the 2012 elections.
The Armenian president has underlined the need for sweeping changes in the country and criticized various state bodies in recent weeks amid a renewed campaign of street protests launched by the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). The latter is pressing him to call snap elections or face the kind of uprising that brought down the ruling regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
Prime Minister Sarkisian noted in Brussels that the ongoing unrest in Arab countries demonstrate that people around the world “want changes.”