Good evening ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending this press conference tonight.
This week, 8 Members of the European Parliament, representing all of the 6 largest political groups in Parliament are visiting Azerbaijan, Georgia and finally, Armenia.
We are very happy to be in Armenia today. We arrived yesterday from Tbilisi, and have since met with President Serzh Sargsyan, the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Edward Nalbandian, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Ara Babloyan, Members of Parliament from several parties and Members from our counterpart, the Committee on Foreign Relations. We also met with civil society representatives, as well as representatives of the international organisations. And we visited an EU-funded project at the Regional State College where the EU supports vocational education.
Before all these meetings, we started yesterday our visit to your country by a moving visit to the Museum of the Armenian Genocide, and paid our respects at the Genocide Memorial.
We are very much encouraged by the conclusion of the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). This agreement will be the foundation of the deepening of our relations and open new perspectives for cooperation and development. You can count on the European Parliament’s engagement and, already this year, the Foreign Affairs Committee will be preparing a report on this agreement, as the basis for the Parliament’s position.
Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Union and at the same time, it is signing this ambitious agreement with the European Union. This is the demonstration that our Eastern Partnership is not a zero-sum game, in competition against other regional actors. Instead, I believe that cooperation of all responsible players is needed to find common solutions to problems that affect many people’s lives.
A new government is being formed following the recent parliamentary elections. This next government will have many challenges to tackle, starting with the implementation of necessary reform such as the reform of the Judiciary, fight against corruption and anti-discrimination.Improving the business climate and creating economic growth opportunities to boost employment – especially of the young Armenians – is a strong expectation from the society, and rightly so.
The implementation the recommendations of the election observers is also a priority. As you know the European Parliament participated in the observation of the parliamentary elections (the delegation was led by Ms Heidi Hautala, also participating in this mission). We assessed that the elections were well administered but significant shortcomings remain and we stand ready to support Armenia to address these.
Let me conclude with a word on the role of civil society. In every country we visit, we always meet with civil society representatives and human rights defenders. In Armenia, they updated us on many issues related to the Rule of Law and fundamental freedoms, abuses by law enforcement bodies, domestic violence, media freedom, labour rights, gender equality, and the rights of minorities, to name a few. We encourage the authorities to launch deep reforms on these issues, to involve the civil society in the process and to ensure impartial, credible and effective investigation of all alleged Human Rights violations.