Armenia’s new leadership needs to create new institutions in order to build on recent months’ democratic changes in the country, a senior European Union official said on Thursday.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Ambassador Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, also urged the government to send further “positive signals” to potential foreign investors.
“There are positive intentions, great hopes and expectations,” Switalski said when asked to comment on the policies of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s cabinet. “Based on the European experience, we avoid giving advice. We can only share our experience.”
“The most important thing is to build institutions,” he went on. “Political will is a mechanism, a lever for changes, but changes can happen only after the political will is transformed into strong institutions and good laws.”
“Armenians will soon be faced with big challenges of how to transform these positive changes and intentions into laws and a new culture of governance,” added the diplomat.
Pashinian has repeatedly pledged to democratize Armenia, strengthen the rule of law, eradicate corruption and create a level playing field for all business since he swept to power in May after weeks of protests that brought down the country’s previous government.
Switalski acknowledged that Pashinian’s government has already succeeded in improving the domestic business environment. “I think that positive changes are obvious and these positive changes relate to the fact that there are no longer business figures acting like intermediaries thanks to their special connections. I think we are getting closer to a situation where rules of the game are equal.”
Citing official statistics, Switalski cautioned at the same time that foreign direct investment in the Armenian economy has fallen in the last few months. He suggested that foreign investors have “decided to wait and see what happens next.”
“At this point it is important to send positive signals to the effect that Armenia is interested in attracting foreign investors,” said the EU envoy. “It should be ensured that new investors, especially those from the EU, feel they are welcome here.”
The EU closely monitored the recent crisis in Armenia sparked by former President Serzh Sarkisian’s attempt to hold on to power after serving out his second presidential term on April 9. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, sent a congratulatory letter to Pashinian two days after he was elected prime minister on May 8.
The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, subsequently voiced “full support” for sweeping reforms promised by the Armenian government.
Pashinian has since repeatedly criticized the EU for not increasing its financial assistance to Yerevan. Switalski countered in July that his government needs to come up with specific reform-oriented projects before demanding greater aid from the bloc.