The upcoming parliamentary elections are important for Armenia’s efforts to forge closer links with the European Union under the Eastern Partnership program, Deputy Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian said on Friday.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Mnatsakanian acknowledged that the May 6 vote could have an impact on the ongoing talks on the signing of an “association agreement” between Armenia and the EU.
“Both the upcoming elections and our overall record on human rights and democracy are part of our agenda [with the EU,] and that’s very logical,” he said. “When we speak of a common system of values, when we speak of building the country with the same [EU] standards, that has to do with the democracy and human rights agenda.”
The Eastern Partnership offers Armenia and five other former Soviet republics the prospect of much closer partnership with the EU in return for major political and economic reforms. EU officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of democratizing the country’s political system.
The EU’s two top officials, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, sounded optimistic about the proper conduct of the Armenian elections after meeting President Serzh Sarkisian in Brussels, last month. They said Sarkisian’s government is committed to holding a free and fair ballot.
Mnatsakanian, who is the chief Armenian negotiator in Eastern Partnership talks, insisted that Yerevan has already made progress on democratic reforms even if that process remains “painful and difficult.” “We know very well that we have issues to address and they should remain on our agenda,” he said. “But we can now see just how competitive our political field is and how active the civil society is.”
Yerevan and Brussels have reported significant progress in their talks on the association agreement that began in July 2010.