By Astghik BedevianA newly formed parliament committee tasked with promoting Armenia’s integration into European structures held its first meeting on Monday that focused on organizational and technical issues.
The standing committee was formed by the recently elected National Assembly in line with Armenian leaders’ pledges to bolster the country’s links with the European Union and fully meet their commitments to the Council of Europe.
The parliament elected Avet Adonts of the pro-presidential Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) as its chairman earlier this month. The 13 other members of the panel represent all five parties that won parliament seats in the May 12 elections.
Adonts, who headed the foreign relations department at President Robert Kocharian’s staff before the elections, said after the first meeting that the committee has to hire experts and solve other logistical issues before drawing up a plan of actions. He said its chief priority is to harmonize Armenia’s laws with those adopted by EU countries.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Adonts admitted that laws alone will not bring Armenia closer to Europe. “Public opinion in Armenia is not quite prepared for European integration,” he said. “Many think that it is being imposed on us. We have to explain, we have to work actively with non-governmental organizations.”
Adonts, who was a career diplomat before joining the presidential administration and has the ambassador’s rank, also said his committee will establish direct contacts with the European Parliament and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), in which Armenia holds several seats.
The PACE was scheduled to discuss later on Monday the Armenian authorities’ handling of last month’s elections. Members of the Strasbourg-based assembly monitored them along with representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Parliament. In a preliminary report, they described the vote as largely democratic. The Armenian opposition, including the Zharangutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties that won parliament seats, strongly disagreed with this conclusion.
The Armenian parliament was due to send a new multi-party delegation to Strasbourg. However, parliament speaker Tigran Torosian failed to form the delegation, citing a lack of time. He told reporters on Friday that Armenia will be represented at the ongoing PACE session by two pro-government lawmakers who were part of a PACE delegation formed by the previous parliament.
The decision was condemned on Monday by Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian. In a letter to Torosian, he demanded that a Zharangutyun deputy, presumably Larisa Alaverdian, be also “immediately” dispatched to Strasbourg. There was no immediate reaction from Torosian.
(Photolur photo: Avet Adonts.)