“EU-Armenia cooperation agenda aimed at implementing reforms” - PM answers questions asked by European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee members
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is in Brussels on a working visit. On March 4, following the remarks delivered at the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of the European Parliament, Nikol Pashinyan answered the questions asked by FAC members concerning the political and economic changes in our country, the development of democracy, the reform of the judiciary, the fight against corruption, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, EU-Armenia cooperation, Armenia’s foreign policy priorities, etc.
Thanking FAC members for their positive assessments, the Armenian Prime Minister said: “I would like to highlight three aspects of the processes underway in Armenia. First of all, we need to create strong democratic institutions. Of course, we must continue to improve the electoral system, so we need to cooperate efficiently with the European Union. We see that our European partners are prepared to support us. I would like to assure that we are firmly determined to fully implement the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement since we are convinced that it fully complies with our overall policy agenda and priorities.
As to the fight against corruption, I should note that it is extremely important for us to establish the rule of law in the country. Several criminal cases have been filed against former officials. The exposure of corrupt behavior will continue. It is up to courts to decide the fate of those criminal cases, and in this regard, it is extremely important to ensure the independence of the courts.
From the very beginning, our government endeavored to put an end to the vicious practice of influencing court decisions. But I am not sure that the former authorities, or if you want the oligarchy no longer make use of their leverages and tools to influence the courts. Nevertheless, we are not going to interfere with court dealings in any way: our goal is to make the judiciary truly independent.
The funds looted from the state should be returned, and we hope that we will succeed in building effective cooperation with the European Union to achieve that goal. It is extremely important for us that the OSCE has promised to assist the Armenian government in returning public funds to the state budget.”
Touching upon the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement, Prime Minister Pashinyan said: “Regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, I must say that there cannot be a military solution to the problem, and we need to create an appropriate atmosphere for a peaceful settlement. In September, I made an unprecedented statement in our parliament: I announced that the settlement of the conflict should be acceptable to the people of Armenia, the Artsakh people and the people of Azerbaijan. And I hoped that a similar statement might be heard from Azerbaijan, on the part of the President of that country, but unfortunately, these hopes were not fulfilled.
On the contrary, threats keep coming from Azerbaijan, which declares that they are ready to resolve the conflict through force without taking into account the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian population. I think that a quick solution to the problem is hardly possible under these conditions.
The issue of the negotiation format is also important. It is internationally recognized that the Karabakh conflict has three sides as stipulated at the 1994 OSCE Summit in Budapest. But so far only two sides have been involved in the negotiations, and unfortunately, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been negotiating without participation of Nagorno-Karabakh. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the previous two leaders of Armenia originated from Karabakh and considered that they could represent the interests of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
I am Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia; I am not the Prime Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh residents are not participating in Armenian elections and are not citizens of the Republic of Armenia, which means that I cannot negotiate on their behalf. Therefore, the second aspect of the issue is that it is necessary to create an appropriate format of negotiations, which is impossible without the involvement of Nagorno-Karabakh in the talks.”
In response to questions about cooperation with Russia and the European Union, Nikol Pashinyan stated, in part: “The good news here is that the European Union did not raise a question of geopolitical choice for Armenia. Our cooperation agenda with the EU is focused on the implementation of reforms. Certainly, our cooperation with Russia is extremely important as we continue to be strategic partners, and I think there are no contradictions and cannot be in our relations with Russia and the European Union. We are transparent in our relationships: our rapprochement with the European Union does not imply any conspiracy against Russia, just as there is no plot against the European Union in our continued relations with Russia.
Cooperation in the field of energy is of vital importance to Armenia, and we intend to develop it with Russia and Iran. A few days ago, I visited Iran and we discussed the opportunities for deepening cooperation in the field of energy.”
Regarding the domestic political developments and economic changes in Armenia, the Prime Minister stressed that his government’s ideology remains the same in this context.
“A key feature of our ideology is to encourage people to take concrete steps in order to shape their own future. After the political revolution, we kept urging our citizens to more actively engage in economic activity.
Before the revolution, we had monopolies and oligarchy that restricted the economic opportunities in our country. Now we are opening the field, creating equal conditions for all players. What matters most is that we are also reforming our regulatory framework in favor of small and medium businesses. And we will try to create a new field of economic activity – the micro business - where people might be free from tax burden.
We are also going to make legislative amendments to improve the investment climate. We will develop infrastructures, and here we will need technical and financial support from the European Union. Again, I find it important to stress that we should continue to build stronger democratic institutions in Armenia. In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that democracy and the rule of law are irreversible in Armenia, and the former corrupt system has no chance of return in our country,” Nikol Pashinyan concluded.