EU Expects ‘Deep Reforms’ in Armenia
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The European Union stands ready to help Armenia’s government implement significant reforms following this month’s parliamentary elections, a senior EU diplomat said on Monday.
Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, declined to comment on the official results of the April 2 elections that gave victory to the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
“I was hoping that during the election campaign I will hear interesting ideas on how to reform the education system in Armenia,” Switalski told news conference. “I didn’t. But it’s never too late.”
“Now I am hearing from all sides that Armenia is entering a period of deep and comprehensive reforms. The country’s economy and governance need to undergo serious reforms. We are ready to assist Armenians in conducting deep reforms,” he said. The reforms should include a tougher fight against corruption, added the diplomat.
The EU cautiously praised last week the conduct of the Armenian elections, while echoing the findings of around 300 European monitors deployed in the country. The OSCE-led monitoring mission reported “credible information about vote-buying” and voter intimidation.
“The election result nevertheless reflects the overall will of the Armenian people,” a spokesperson for Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said in an April 4 statement.
The statement insisted that electronic equipment installed in Armenia’s polling stations prevented other, more serious irregularities such as multiple voting. The EU allocated over $7 million for the purchase of that equipment earlier this year.
Mogherini’s office also said the EU will work closely with Armenia’s “democratically elected new parliament and government” in an effort to “strengthen our political dialogue and continue our support to economic and social reform.” It cited the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which was initialed in Yerevan two weeks before the elections.
Echoing a statement by President Serzh Sarkisian, Switalski said the agreement is likely to be signed in November. Armenia and the EU will also finalize two other cooperation agreements this summer, added the envoy.
The CEPA is a less ambitious alternative to an Association Agreement negotiated by Armenian and EU officials in the summer of 2013. Sarkisian scuttled that deal with his unexpected decision in September 2013 to make Armenia part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Switalski addressed the press as he announced the release of 1.5 million euros ($1.6) in fresh EU grants to Armenian non-governmental organizations. He said the recipients of the funding will monitor the government to gauge the efficiency of its use of economic aid provided by the EU.
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