LUXEMBOURG (RFE/RL)–Leaders from Armenia–Georgia–and Azerbaijan were in Luxembourg Tuesday to mark the ratification of partnership and cooperation agreemen’s with the European Union.
The presidents of Georgia and Armenia–Eduard Shevardnadze and Robert Kocharian–as well as Azerbaijan’s Prime Minister Artur Rasizade–met with outgoing European Commission President Jacques Santer and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Germany currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. The five marked the official entry into force of the agreemen’s–which will take effect on July 1. The agreemen’s were originally signed in 1996.
The agreemen’s are designed to encourage peaceful development in the south Caucasus region–and to expand relations between the three states and the EU. EU officials also stressed that the agreemen’s will serve as important instrumen’s for strengthening democratic processes and the protection of human rights.
The EU issued a statement pledging to continue assistance to the region to reinforce economic and political stability there. The EU noted that progress has been made in all three states. But it said there are serious problems which need to be addressed concerning the rule of law and the process of market liberalization.
The EU statement said that as the union expands eastwards–relations with the countries around the Black Sea and the Caucasus are becoming more important. The statement said that the agreemen’s with the Caucasus states offer what it called a "new start" in their relations with the EU and with each other".