Armenia views the European Union’s Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius as an important stage in the development of its relations with the 28-nation bloc “on a more streamlined and realistic foundations”, President Serzh Sarkisian said addressing the delegates to the high-level event on Friday.
In his speech the Armenian leader said it is in this context that Armenia reads the final document of the summit and the Armenia-EU Union Joint Statement adopted in the Lithuanian capital.
Armenia had been on course to initial an Association Agreement with the EU at the current summit but in September it decided not to go ahead, preferring to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Despite the apparent U-turn the Armenian government has reaffirmed its commitment to continuing political cooperation with the EU to the extent that does not hamper its membership in the Russian-led trade bloc.
“We have reconfirmed our commitment to drive through the reforms underway in our countries by the Joint Declaration to be adopted by the Vilnius Summit. Armenia is determined to continue with the implementation of the deep and large-scale reforms aimed at fighting corruption, ensuring free economic competition, raising transparency of government activities, safeguarding the independence of judiciary, guaranteeing freedom of speech, and strengthening the civil society, which constitute the pivot of Armenia-EU relationship. Building and strengthening Armenian nationhood upon European model has been the conscious choice of ours, and that process is hence irreversible,” President Sarkisian underscored in his Vilnius speech, the text of which was disseminated by his press office today.
In the Joint Statement issued by the EU and Armenia from the Vilnius summit on November 29 the two parties acknowledge that they have completed negotiations on an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, but will not proceed with its initialing “due to Armenia’s new international commitments.” Yerevan and Brussels have also agreed on the need “to update the EU-Armenia ENP Action Plan.”
“The EU and Armenia enjoy close links and reconfirm their commitment to further develop and strengthen comprehensive cooperation in all areas of mutual interest within the Eastern Partnership framework,” the statement published by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads.
“Based on common values, both sides are committed to further cooperation aimed at the continuous improvement of democratic institutions and judiciary, the promotion of human rights and rule of law, good governance, the fight against corruption, the strengthening the civil society, the further improvement of the framework for enhanced trade and investments, the continued implementation of the mobility partnership and increased sectoral cooperation. Based on their common endeavor to build upon the existing framework of cooperation, the EU and Armenia stress the importance of revisiting the basis for their relations,” it says.
Sarkisian elaborated that “our major objective is to form such mechanisms with the European Union that on the one hand would reflect the deep nature of our social-political and economic relationship, and on the other – would be compatible with other formats of co-operation.”
“The Eastern Partnership should become a natural bridge that promotes integration from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. In this sense we are committed to undertake consistent efforts towards building a more inclusive Europe free of dividing lines,” the Armenian leader emphasized.
Speaking at the high-level European gathering Sarkisian also urged EU member states to “fully engage themselves and display consistency in order to remove the illegal blockade of Armenia by Turkey.”
“I believe that consistent adoption of the European values can help Turkey to reconcile with its own past. Today thousands of Turkish people condemn the Armenian Genocide and stand by us to commemorate the victims of the Genocide. I believe that on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial the Turkish authorities should be able to demonstrate will and decline the policy of denial. In order to continue its integration with the European Union in a capacity of a European nation Turkey still faces the challenge of opening the last closed border in Europe and establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia,” he said.
Sarkisian also mentioned his recent talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev over the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.
“Although it is too soon to talk of the results, the fact of the meeting in itself is a positive phenomenon. It is important to emphasize that the successful outcome of the negotiations in reality depends on our ability to reject the negative rhetoric and ease the tension on the Line of Contact,” he concluded.
The summit of the heads of state of the Eastern Partnership countries in Vilnius resulted in the initialing of EU Association Agreements by Moldova and Georgia, while the signing of the accord with Ukraine was delayed. The European Union and another Eastern Partnership member, Azerbaijan, signed a visa facilitation accord.
On the sidelines of the summit the Armenian president met with a number of European leaders, including French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.