The European Union has urged the Armenian authorities to hold more democratic elections in the future, while reiterating its largely positive reaction to their handling of last month’s legislative polls.
The issue as well as political reforms promised by Yerevan was high on the agenda of President Serzh Sarkisian’s talks with the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, that were held in Brussels on Wednesday. Ashton was quoted by a spokeswoman as praising Armenia’s “reform achievements.”
“She welcomed the efforts by the Armenian authorities to hold the recent parliamentary elections in a more transparent and competitive environment, but highlighted the need to address a number of issues, identified by the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission’s Report, in order fully to meet internationally recognized democratic standards well ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 2013,” the spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said in a statement.
A separate statement issued by Sarkisian’s office said Ashton described the May 6 elections as “the best ones held during Armenia’s 20-year independence.”
A spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele likewise said that the EU believes that the conduct of the vote was “basically OK.” But the official, Peter Stano, said Yerevan should “address the shortcomings” reported by OSCE observers before the Armenian presidential election due in February next year.
Stano told RFE/RL in Brussels that the proper conduct of the presidential ballot will be essential for a conference of Armenia’s foreign donors planned by the EU. “Broadly speaking, the donors’ conference is about getting money for Armenia to support it in its reform efforts, in whatever Armenia is doing … in terms of modernizing the society and brining it up to democratic standards,” he said.
Stano first announced plans for such a conference late last year. He told RFE/RL at the time that the EU plans to organize it after the Armenian parliamentary elections.
Stano insisted on Thursday that the conference has not been delayed until after the 2013 election because of irregularities reported by European election observers last month.
The EU official also stressed that the donor conference and prospects for additional Western assistance to Armenia depend not only on a better conduct of elections but also the implementation of other political reforms. In particular, he said, the authorities in Yerevan should “ensure pluralism in the broadcast media,” enact appropriate amendments to an Armenian law on religion and step up the fight against corruption. They should also intensify the pursuit of a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he said.
“Overall Armenia is making very good progress and keeping up this progress would take us further in our relations,” added Stano.