The head of the European Union Delegation in Yerevan, Piotr Switalski, on Thursday declined to back claims by Armenian opposition and civil society groups that there are political prisoners in Armenia.
Switalski said EU representatives regularly discuss with relevant Armenian officials the fate of individuals who have been imprisoned on what opposition and civic groups consider politically motivated charges.
“I very much appreciate the fact that law-enforcement authorities always find time to discuss such sensitive topics whenever we express such a desire,” he told reporters. “The European Union does not always necessarily share the views of non-governmental organizations. On such issues, we are mainly guided by decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights.”
“As you know, there are no people in Armenia who are qualified by [the Strasbourg court] as political prisoners,” stressed the envoy.
The individuals considered to be political prisoners by critics of the Armenian government are mostly members or supporters of radical opposition groups.
Switalski was also careful not to endorse the opposition Yelk alliance’s calls for Armenia to leave the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). “Armenia is a free country where everyone has the right to express their views,” he said. “We are following debates [on the Yelk initiative] but it’s totally up to Armenians.”
Accordingly, he would not be drawn on implications of Armenia’s possible exit from the Russian-led bloc for its relations with the EU. “As long as [Armenia’s] decisions are not hostile to the European Union I am happy with them,” he said. “I see no unfriendly actions taken by Armenia with regard to the EU in the past. We have no serious disagreements with Armenia.”
The EU and Armenia plan to deepen their relations through a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement which is due to be signed in November.