YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The European Union’s (EU) chief representative to the South Caucasus Heikki Talvitie–who is in Yerevan on a regular fact-finding tour of the region–met with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and the two deputy speakers of the Armenian parliament. The anticipated inclusion of the three Caucasian states in the EU’s Wider European program of privileged ties with new neighbors was again high on the agenda of the talks.
Talvitie said that he discussed with vice-speakers Tigran Torosian and Vahan Hovannisian efforts to amend Armenia’s constitution and a controversial government bill on public gatherings pending debate in the National Assembly.
Torosian said that the draft legislation will fully correspond to European principles and standards before presented to parliament for consideration. He said it is currently being examined by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe which monitors legislative reforms in Armenia.
Unlike the Council of Europe–the EU until recently avoided close involvement in the promotion of Armenia’s democratization–but indicated last January its readiness to extend the Wider Europe initiative to Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia. Membership in the scheme would require commitmen’s on both economic and political reform from the three ex-Soviet states.
A senior member of the Armenian parliament–ARF’s Armen Rustamian–announced last week that Yerevan is ready to assume them. Torosian echoed the pledge. "It is obvious that we don’t pass this stage successfully–talk of a future membership of the European Union will remain a wishful thinking," he said.
Oskanian–for his part–told the EU envoy that the Wider Europe strategy will facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Mountainous Karabagh and elsewhere in the region. A Foreign Ministry statement said he and Talvitie had a "detailed" discussion on Karabagh. Talvitie also held a separate meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian–who represents Armenia in the Karabagh peace talks; the two mainly discussed regulation of the conflict.