Politics 10:31 05/03/2019 Armenia

Pashinyan in Brussels: “CEPA is of tremendous importance for the success of our reforms"

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia who is in Brussels on a working visit called at the European Parliament on Monday. The PM was greeted by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman David McAllister, his office said.

Pashinyan addressed the Foreign Affairs Committee with a speech, in which he stated:

“Chairman McAllister,
Distinguished members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored and privileged to address the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.

After the Velvet Revolution it is the first opportunity for the Armenian Prime Minister to speak at the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Hence, I would like to focus, in particular, on the fundamental changes that already happened and are currently taking place in my country. I will also speak about the challenges that we are facing today and about our goals and plans for the future.

Distinguished colleagues,

Armenia is currently undergoing changes which are unprecedented in their nature and magnitude - changes that are completely transforming our political and economic landscape.

Last spring a nonviolent revolution occurred in Armenia. Armenian people, guided by the slogans of love, tolerance and fraternity, stood up to protect their political rights and build a society in conformity with their ideals and values.

They opted for democracy and pluralism, for justice and equality. They spoke against corruption and a political system based on a client-patron relationship. They stood against the elite which monopolized the political and economic life of the country; against oligarchic economy, and against those who established and exploited extractive institutions leading the country to a standstill.

Velvet Revolution restored democracy in Armenia!

The snap parliamentary elections, held last December, reinforced our achievements. Those political forces behind the revolution won a landslide victory. We gained an overwhelming support of the Armenian people – more than seventy percent of the votes.

For the first time in about twenty-five years, the elections held in Armenia were not contested by any political party. It is equally important to say that the recent elections obtained the best possible assessment of the European observers who hailed them as free, fair, and transparent.

I am confident that the victory of democracy is irreversible in our country! My confidence is based on the following premises. First, ideas of freedom and democracy have deep roots in the core values of our people. Armenia was one of the first countries where a nation-wide popular movement arose against the former communist regime back in late 1980s.

The restoration of our independence in 1991 was indisputably aimed at establishing society based on constitutional democracy, rule of law, and liberal values. The distortion of democracy, which we witnessed in our country during the last twenty years, happened as a result of a deviation from the initially chosen path of development. It originated from a wrong and misleading interpretation of our traditional set of values and aspirations.

Second, the democratic transformation in our society is based on a wide social demand coming from all layers of the Armenian society and the six-million-strong Armenian Diaspora worldwide.

This progressive process was born out of the will and aspirations of our people. Moreover, it had nothing to do with outside forces. It did not produce any tectonic shifts in our foreign policy nor originated any changes in our foreign policy strategy. Armenia remains committed to its foreign policy obligations and partners.

Third, democracy is not merely one of the viable options for us. Rather, it is a matter of security for us. We believe that for our people and our political culture it is true to claim that democracy provides for stronger and more efficient economic and political institutions, which constitute an important precondition for the development of country.

Therefore, we couldn’t afford the luxury of under-developed institutions which previously existed in our country. They caused economic inefficiency impeding the progress of our country. Promoting our economic and political institutions became an imperative in Armenia. It has no alternative today.

We need democracy in order to be competitive in the 21st century! However, democracy needs to be protected and reinforced. What are the main challenges that we are facing today?

First of all, it is the poverty which still exists in our country. Today, the people who live under the poverty line make up about one third of our total population. They constituted the main social basis for fraud elections and electoral bribes that we were witnessing in the past.

In our society there is an obvious correlation between economic development and democracy. Erosion of the middle class was actually accounting for the decline of democracy that we witnessed in the past. Thus, a strong and viable middle class is considered to be one of the main prerequisites for sustainable democracy in Armenia, and the economic revolution is chosen, therefore, as the next goal of our Government and the cornerstone of its Program. With this view in mind, we have adopted and already started implementing an ambitious reform agenda.

As I mentioned on many occasions, among the current priorities of the Armenian Government are the fight against corruption, eradication of monopolies, elimination of poverty, consolidation of the independent judiciary system, establishment of rule of law, and a level playing field for all economic and political actors.

We are going to put in force a package of robust measures to reform our tax and custom systems.

We also focus on reforming our education system. People should be able to live and create in a rapidly evolving and shrinking world, in which progress is driven by knowledge.

I am proud to inform you that a lot of visible changes have already occurred in our country over the past few months. For example, we have already eradicated systemic corruption in Armenia.

The power of monopolies and existing oligopolies in Armenia has already been strongly reduced. Today, there is nobody in Armenia able to use political influence to achieve economic goals anymore.

Distinguished Colleagues,

While implementing our reforms policy we are stumbling on obstacles. One thing is clear in this regard: implementation of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union is of tremendous importance for the success of our reforms!

The value and the attractiveness of this initiative are in achieving its objectives exclusively through the implementation of reforms. CEPA is a reform-generating tool. The fulfillment of its provisions will entail qualitative changes in many areas of our society.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to assure you that the Government of Armenia is resolute to take all necessary measures to implement the CEPA. We are determined to conduct an active and fruitful cooperation with the European Union in all areas of mutual interest.

In this regard, I want to note that early ratification of the CEPA by the EU Member States is crucial for its complete entry into force and further enhancement of our bilateral relations.

At this point more than one-third of the Member States have already ratified the Agreement, and we are hopeful that in the near future the rest will follow suit. On this matter we very much count on the Parliament's support and your personal contribution.

Within the context of our cooperation agenda I would also like to mention the Visa liberalization dialogue. Opening of the process will greatly contribute to the people-to-people contacts and to our cooperation in general.

Taking the opportunity, I would like to ask your support in promoting this case, given the fact that Armenia is consistently implementing all requirements on this issue.

The financial and technical assistance of the European Union remains critically important for us. We need your support to make robust steps in implementing our reforms. It is obvious that an enhanced assistance of the European Union will help us move forward in a more resolute and decisive way. The wider the scope of the assistance the faster and smoother the pace of our reforms!

Distinguished colleagues,

Geopolitical and security risks that continue to mar the South Caucasus are the other challenges that we are facing today. They seriously undermine our reform potential.

First, the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the existing tension in our region create political risks which are significantly affecting the investment attractiveness of our country and the region as a whole.

Second, arms race unleashed by our opponents poses additional difficulties for the region of South Caucasus.

Today, Armenia has to allocate a large portion of its scarce resources to maintain the peace in the region. It is Armenia which actually bears the economic burden of keeping the existing balance and preventing another outburst of hostilities.

Third, closed borders and the continuing transport blockade, imposed on our country since early 1990s, sharply reduces the possibilities of diversifying our economy.

And finally, the sanctions against Iran are also having negative consequences on our economy reducing the availability of one of two corridors connecting Armenia to the rest of the world.

Esteemed members of the Parliament,

As I mentioned the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I would like to stress the constructive and balanced approach of the European Union toward this issue.

It is our view that the international community should continue to support the peace efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, especially by sending clear message that the use of force is impermissible.

We are confident that the path to the resolution of the conflict lies through the understanding of the need for the respect of the right of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination.

People of this mountainous region have lived in de facto independence for more than two decades. There is a generation of young people there who cannot imagine any alternative to the independence.

If we seek for a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the conflict, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh should be allowed to define their future by themselves.

I am not representing the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. As the Prime Minister of Armenia, I only have the mandate of the citizens of Armenia, but not the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh who have their own constitution and form their own Government.

It is obvious for me that the peace process could produce a real progress only if the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have a seat at the negotiation table; only if the voice of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh is heard and taken into account.

Distinguished colleagues,

We are deeply convinced that trust between the involved parties is one of the important prerequisites for the settlement of conflicts. This confidence can be reached through evolving dialogue and mutual understanding.

We see the South Caucasus as a region where independent nations live in peace, solidarity, and cooperation. Indeed, in the modern world, closed borders are considered at least economic and political nonsense.

The world is changing by the day, resulting in a greater interconnection and interdependence. New forms of dialogue, coexistence, and economic cooperation are needed in our region. Culture of dialogue, tolerance and compromise should prevail over all differences and discrepancies existing in South Caucasus.

Thank you for your attention.”

Source Panorama.am
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