The Armenian government has presented the European Union with a new plan of political and economic reforms which it hopes will speed up Armenia’s integration into the bloc.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian announced the “reform agenda” after talks with senior EU officials in Brussels late on Monday. He said it concerns 33 specific areas of state policy, including human rights protection, judicial reform, tax and customs administration as well as food safety.
“The Republic of Armenia wants to substantially step up its reform efforts so that the goals set by its government are put into practice at a faster pace,” Sarkisian said at the European Press Club in Brussels.
“We expressed confidence that we will manage to fulfill all of our commitments,” he told a joint news conference with EU’s Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele earlier in the day.
Fuele hailed the reform plan, saying that Yerevan can count on greater EU assistance. “The more Armenia embarks on this reform process, the more support will come from the European Union,” he said, adding that the two sides have agreed on “some concrete steps” to be taken by the Armenian government.
It was not clear if they relate to the conduct of Armenia’s next parliamentary and presidential elections due in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Fuele also reaffirmed “good progress” in ongoing negotiations on the signing of an “association agreement” between Armenia and the EU, which is envisaged by the bloc’s Eastern Partnership program for six former Soviet republics. “More needs to be done, and I encouraged Armenia to continue its efforts it in this respect by building on the very good progress indeed reached in recent months,” he said.
The association agreement will, among other things, entitle Armenia to a permanent free trade regime with the EU and simplified visa requirements for its citizens travelling to EU countries.
Fuele announced that the EU’s top decision-making body, the European Council, is poised to give the green light to the formal start of visa facilitation talks with Yerevan.
Sarkisian, for his part, said talks on a “deep and comprehensive free trade agreement” between Armenia and the EU will also get underway soon. “We are very grateful to our EU colleagues for appreciating our performance to date and for expressing readiness to increase financial and technical assistance to implement this reform agenda successfully in Armenia,” he added.