Top representatives of the European Union have congratulated Nikol Pashinian on becoming Armenia’s prime minister and pledged to work with his government in implementing a landmark EU-Armenia agreement signed last November.
The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also invited Pashinian to visit Brussels “at the earliest opportunity” when she telephoned him on Wednesday.
“They agreed on the importance of the partnership between the European Union and Armenia and looked forward to meeting in person,” a spokesperson for Mogherini said in a statement.
“They discussed the next steps following the Prime Minister's election by the Armenian Parliament, including the future formation of a government, and touched on further opportunities to strengthen links between European Union and Armenia,” added the statement.
On Thursday, Pashinian received a congratulatory message from EU Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“We look forward to cooperating with you in your new position to further strengthen the relations between the European Union and Armenia, particularly through the implementation of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA),” read the telegram posted on the Armenian premier’s website.
Tusk and Juncker also renewed EU calls for a “comprehensive dialogue among all political stakeholders in Armenia” following the resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. The latter stepped down on April 23 amid massive anti-government protests led by Pashinian.
Pashinian called for a quick ratification of the CEPA by all EU member states when he addressed Armenian lawmakers shortly before they voted to elect him prime minister on Tuesday. He also said his government will strive for the lifting of the EU’s visa requirements for Armenian nationals.
The CEPA, which was ratified by Armenia’s parliament last month, commits the Armenian authorities to carrying out political reforms that will democratize the country’s political system and boost human rights protection. They must also gradually “approximate” Armenian economic laws and regulations to those of the EU.
The 350-page accord came as a less ambitious substitute for an Association Agreement which was nearly finalized by Armenian and EU negotiators in 2013. Sarkisian, who was Armenia’s president at the time, precluded the signing of that agreement by unexpectedly deciding to seek his country’s accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Pashinian criticized that volte face and called for Armenia’s withdrawal from the EEU as recently as last October. However, he made clear right after Sarkisian’s resignation that he will not pull the country out of the trade bloc comprising five ex-Soviet states.
Pashinian is due to attend an EEU summit that will be hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi next week. The two men spoke by phone on Tuesday.