Armenia’s leading civic groups supporting European integration on Monday urged the government to publicize more information about its forthcoming Association Agreement with the European Union and stop “imitating” democratic reforms required for its implementation.
The non-governmental organizations aligned in the Civil Society Forum complained that most ordinary Armenians have little idea of the wide-ranging agreement and its supposed benefits for their country.
In a joint statement, they said the authorities in Yerevan should engage in a dialogue with the domestic public and pursue policies “congruent with European values.” To that end, they must “abandon the practice of imitating compliance with international obligations,” read the statement.
“We have been signing documents that presuppose various reforms but there are very few changes in real life,” said Boris Navasardian, the chairman of the NGO coalition sponsored by the EU. “That creates some distrust in the essence of those documents.”
According to the statement, public discourse on the issue has largely been “superficial” and centered on geopolitical implications of the Association Agreement, notably a potential confrontation with Russia. The latter is thought to be pressing Armenia to join a Russian-led Eurasian Union of former Soviet republics.
Navasardian, who also leads the Yerevan Press Club, suggested that the Russian pressure might be one reason why Armenian officials tend to be vague about European integration. “If they talk too much and look too happy ahead of the Association Agreement, perhaps that could upset our strategic partner,” he said.
The Association Agreement, which is due to be finalized in November, stems from the EU’s Eastern Partnership program that offers six ex-Soviet states privileged partnership in return for political and economic reforms. The Armenian authorities say they are committed to such reforms.
Their political opponents as well as much of the civil society claim the opposite. Some of these critics accuse the EU of turning a blind eye to vote rigging and human rights abuses. They are particularly upset with the West’s largely positive assessment of the conduct of Armenia’s last national elections.
Echoing this frustration, the civic groups said the EU should be “principled” in monitoring Yerevan’s fulfillment of its Eastern Partnership commitments.