The Council of Europe secretary general, Thorbjorn Jagland, praised last year’s “democratic transition” in Armenia and a “reform agenda” adopted by the country’s new government after meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in Strasbourg on Thursday.
“I would like to commend the prime minister for the fact that he and his government are moving forward rapidly with reforms, particularly in the judiciary,” Jagland told a joint news briefing with Pashinian.
“I can reassure you that we will continue to be an important partner,” he said. “It is absolutely clear that Armenia is a European country rooted in European history and European values.”
Jagland also stressed the importance of opposition parties and media for Armenia’s democratization. “That is also the only way to combat corruption because if we don’t have checks and balances by a parliament, an independent judiciary, and independent news media, then we always get corrupt,” he said.
The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in particular voiced support for the peaceful political transition that followed last spring’s “velvet revolution” in Armenia. Like other Western observers, PACE representatives called the Armenian parliamentary elections of December 2019 democratic.
In a speech delivered at the PACE later in the day, Pashinian described at length the mass protests that toppled the country’s longtime leader, Serzh Sarkisian, and brought him to power. He said they put an end to “the oligarchic and corrupt system that had ruled Armenia for years.”
“Vast political changes are truly happening in Armenia today,” he said. “We have managed to root out systemic corruption, to eliminate the monopolistic structure of the economy, and to create real prerequisites for everyone’s equality before the law.”
“Armenia is today unequivocally a democratic country with absolute freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” added Pashinian.
The Armenian leader also spoke about the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and, in particular, his “constructive and positive dialogue” with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. “But I am convinced that mere dialogue between the leaders is not enough for settling the issue,” he said. “It is very important to launch a dialogue between societies as well, so that we prepare our respective societies for peace and not for war.”
Pashinian went on to criticize pro-Azerbaijani resolutions on Karabakh adopted by the PACE in the past. He charged that one of those resolutions “became a prelude” to offensive military operations launched by Azerbaijan in April 2016.