The European Union on Tuesday reacted positively to the Armenian authorities’ handling of weekend parliamentary elections and said it will press ahead with plans to deepen political and economic ties with Armenia.
“We welcome the efforts by the Armenian authorities to hold these parliamentary elections in a way which represents progress towards more transparent and more competitive elections,” EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in joint statement.
“However, the elections also demonstrated the need to address a number of issues in order to fully meet internationally recognized democratic standards,” Ashton and Fuele said. “We encourage the Armenian authorities to address the shortcomings that were identified by the OSCE/ODIHR as a matter of priority, ahead of the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for next year.
“At the same time, we welcome that six political parties will be represented in the National Assembly. We believe this is a positive step towards the development of a pluralistic and democratic political culture in Armenia.”
In a remark that seemed primarily addressed to the opposition, the EU officials also urged Armenian political groups to “refrain from unlawful acts” in the wake of the elections controversially won by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK). “The constructive dialogue between authorities and the opposition is very important for the consolidation of stability in the country,” they said.
Belgium - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) meets Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in Brussels, 06Mar2012.
Armenian leaders have repeatedly pledged to ensure the proper conduct of the elections in their talks with top EU officials. Sarkisian personally gave such assurances during a March visit to Brussels. His prime minister, Tigran Sarkisian, said at the EU headquarters late last year that the May 6 vote will be the most democratic in Armenia’s post-Soviet history.
A spokeswoman for Ashton, Maja Kocijancic, was asked by RFE/RL in Brussels whether the EU believes the authorities in Yerevan did hold on Sunday the cleanest election yet, Kocijancic said, “We believe that there is progress towards more transparent and more competitive elections.”
Kocijancic also made clear that the election conduct will not adversely affect the EU’s visa facilitation and free-trade talks with Armenia. “I believe that the relations that we have with Armenia will continue as planned,” she said.
Yerevan and Brussels are expected to launch formal negotiations on the creation of a “deep and comprehensive free trade area” later this month.