The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to ratify a landmark agreement aimed at deepening the European Union’s political and economic relations with Armenia.
It also adopted a separate resolution welcoming the recent peaceful transition of power in Armenia and calling on the new authorities in Yerevan to implement wide-ranging reforms promised by them.
“This final vote in the European Parliament sends a strong message of support to the Armenian citizens,” said Laszlo Tokes, a rapporteur for the EU’s legislative body.
“The EU is ready to support the reform efforts to which the new government has committed,” he added. “We encourage them to continue combating corruption and reforming the electoral framework.”
The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was backed by 573 votes to 50, with 45 abstentions.
The 350-page agreement signed last November 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 CEPA is a less ambitious substitute for an Association Agreement which Armenian and EU negotiators nearly finalized in 2013. Then Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian scuttled the signing of that agreement with his unexpected decision to seek his country’s membership in a Russian-led trade bloc.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stressed the importance of the “historic” CEPA when she addressed the European Parliament on Tuesday. She described it as one of the EU “instruments” for supporting the new Armenian government’s “very ambitious reform agenda.”
“Our first contacts with the new government have been really very productive,” Mogherini said. “The atmosphere at our first meeting could not have been more positive and friendly and constructive.”
Mogherini referred to the first session of the EU-Armenia Partnership Council, a body tasked with overseeing the CEPA’s implementation, held in Brussels on June 21. She chaired the meeting together with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian.
“I really personally believe that all Armenian parties understand very well that a partnership with the European Union is something vital for the country,” Mogherini told EU lawmakers.
“It is not about geopolitics, it is not about spheres of influence, it is not a partnership against somebody else, it is a partnership for, first of all, our citizens – the citizens of Armenia, our own citizens in the European Union,” she said.
The Armenian parliament ratified the CEPA in April, paving the way for the deal’s provisional entry into force last month. Speaking in Brussels, Mnatsakanian called on EU member states to also quickly endorse it. Several of them have already done so.