The European Union is pressing ahead with its preparations for an unprecedented conference of international donors that should approve large-scale economic assistance to Armenia, according to a top EU official.
Stefan Fuele, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, said on Wednesday that Yerevan deserves to be rewarded for what he called major progress made in implementing political and economic reforms. “We can already start discussing issues related to organization of that conference,” Fuele told journalists in Brussels.
The EU first expressed readiness to organize such a forum in late 2011. Visiting Yerevan in July 2012, EU President Herman Van Rompuy indicated that it is contingent on the proper conduct of Armenia’s February 2013 presidential election.
EU reaction to the ballot, which gave President Serzh Sarkisian a second term in office, has been largely positive. In a joint statement issued last month, Fuele and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign and security policy chief, hailed “further progress” made by the Armenian authorities towards holding democratic elections. But they also urged Yerevan to address vote irregularities reported by European observers.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, gave a similar assessment in a congratulatory letter to Sarkisian.
Fuele spoke on Wednesday after presenting an annual European Commission report detailing political and economic developments in six ex-Soviet states, including Armenia, covered by the EU’s Eastern Partnership program. It concludes that Georgia, Moldova, and to a certain extent Armenia have reformed the most in the recent year and will benefit from additional funds from Brussels.
The report urges Yerevan to step up its work to implement and enforce human rights legislation and underlines the need to address shortcomings in the Armenian presidential election. It says that freedoms of assembly and expression are generally respected in the country but media independence remains insufficient. The report also takes note of Yerevan's efforts to reform its judiciary and fight corruption.
The European Commission made clear in the document that Armenia qualifies for its "more for more" principle in which extra reforms lead to additional EU funds for the upcoming year.