European Commission issues ENP Country Progress Report 2009 on Armenia

The European Commission has published the so-called neighborhood package, consisting of an overall assessment of five years of implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), 12 country reports on developments in 2009, including one on Armenia, and a sector report.

According to the report, in 2009 Armenia made progress in several areas of the ENP Action Plan, launched a regular human rights dialogue with the EU, improved the legislative framework in the area of anticorruption and strengthened the role of the Human Rights Defender. It also took positive steps to address the internal political crisis following the aftermath of the Presidential elections in February 2008, including the Amnesty issued in June, the amendments to the Criminal Code and the publication of the report by the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Inquiry Committee.

The Commission states that Armenia took a major step in regional cooperation and dialogue with Turkey, resulting in the historic signature of the two protocols on the establishment and development of bilateral relations in October 2009. “Armenia suspended the ratification procedure of the two protocols in April 2010. The EU was pleased to note Armenia's continued commitment to pursue the process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations but at the same time expressed concern about the loss of momentum in this process,” the report reads.

“Armenia widely aligned itself with EU's Common Foreign Security Policy declarations (108 out of 138 in 2009) and is generally very active in cooperating on CFSP-related issues. The dialogue for negotiating a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict intensified considerably at the highest level in 2009,” the report notes.

“Negotiations within the Minsk Group on the peaceful settlement considerably intensified in 2009 and contributed to enhanced dialogue, with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan holding six bilateral meetings during the year. In addition, the Foreign Ministers of the two
countries met a number of times, including during the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 2009 in Athens. Courageous steps by both sides will be necessary to find a resolution to the conflict.

A joint statement by the OSCE Minsk Group at presidential level during the G8 Summit in L'Aquila in July 2009 urged "the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement on these Basic Principles,
which will outline a comprehensive settlement." However, overall tensions remain and the situation continues to be fragile. Incidents of exchanges of fire and casualties on the line of contact continued to be reported and are cause for concern,” the report reads.

As regards economic integration, the report says that “Economic activity which had started to fall in the last quarter of 2008 contracted by around 15.4% in 2009 due to the global economic downturn and particularly the rapid deterioration of the Russian economy. Armenia reached an agreement with the IMF for a € 553 million Stand-by Arrangement while securing additional funding from other donors, including the EU and a € 350 million stabilisation loan from Russia. The EU decided to grant Macro-Financial Assistance, composed of € 65 million loan and a € 35 million grant. As a result of the crisis the Armenian government had to temporarily suspend the Sustainable Development Programme on poverty reduction. The introduction of the new pension system was postponed to 2011. As a result of the global slow-down, EU exports to Armenia declined by 20.6%, while exports of Armenian products to the EU decreased by 49.3% in 2009. The EU is by large Armenia's main trading partner with 35.3 % share in its overall external trade (2008). Armenia benefits from the EU Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) for the years 2009-2011. After a fact-finding in February, the EC established a detailed assessment of Armenia's preparedness for a future EU-Armenia Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The negotiations will start once the necessary conditions have been met.”

Public Radio of Armenia