Armenia-EU: Financial support in exchange for democracy and stability

The relations between Armenia and the European Union are entering a new phase. President Serzh Sargsyan has visited Brussels to give assurances that Armenia will continue its European integration and cooperation with NATO.

While visiting the Belgian capital that is regarded as the political center for both the EU and NATO, Sargsyan met European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to say that “very important developments” have taken place recently allowing Armenia and the EU “to reach a new milestone in their relations.” The Armenian leader said that “Armenia’s relations with the EU are anchored in the same system of values which is conditioned by our historical, cultural, religious and linguistic similarities.” He said both sides were mutually satisfied with considerable progress achieved in the negotiations on the Armenia-EU Association Agreement, and negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Zone and visa regime facilitation were making headway.

Sargsyan said that Armenia is resolute to go on with the deep and comprehensive reforms and hails the
European Union’s “more assistance for more reforms” principle.

At the same time, the Armenian president said that if reforms were going faster than expected, Armenia would expect “additional resources that would, in turn, expedite the reforms themselves.” In fact, Armenia is seeking increased aid from the European Union.

In response, Barroso said the EU neighborhood policy entitled “A New Response to a Changing Neighborhood”, which implies additional assistance, may be available to countries that are working to strengthen their democracy and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. “Additional funds may be available beginning in 2012,” said the EU president.

At the same time, Barroso put forward yet another “condition”. He said peace and stability in the region were needed to advance the common goals of Armenia and the EU. “I reiterate the urgent need to resolve the Karabakh conflict. The EU continues to support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group,” he said. According to Barroso, the EU is ready to work with the OSCE Minsk Group to help support confidence-building measures, if the parties themselves wish to do so.

Earlier, the EU adopted a document in which it pointed out the need for raising the EU role in the Karabakh settlement. The document for the first time mentions that the EU should have direct access to Karabakh.

In Brussels, President Sargsyan also participated in the meeting of NATO-Armenia in the 28+1 format and met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The sides also discussed the Karabakh problem and Sargsyan reminded that a few days ago the president of Azerbaijan declared that the worldwide Armenian nation is Azerbaijan’s number one enemy. “This fact must be given due assessment by the international community,” stressed Sargsyan.

“Our relations contribute to regional and Euro-Atlantic security,” said Rasmussen. “The South Caucasus region is of great importance for the Alliance, and Armenia is an important partner for NATO,” he said.

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are among those invited to attend a NATO Summit due to take place in the United States, on May 22.