YEREVAN (Armenpress)–The EU Troika Delegation Tuesday presided over the opening of the European Union’s new diplomatic mission in Armenia.
Head of the delegation Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Special Representative for the Southern Caucasus Peter Semneby joined Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian Tuesday at the inauguration ceremony.
The Troika Delegation was in Azerbaijan Monday for the inauguration of EU’s Baku mission and will be moving on to Georgia Wednesday as part of its three-day working tour of the South Caucasus.
The February 19 Armenian presidential elections are important not only for Armenia but for the EU as well, because Armenia is an important regional partner for the EU, EU special representative to the South Caucasus Peter Semneby said Tuesday at inaugural ceremony in Yerevan.
Elections are an essential factor for the development of democracy in Armenia and the development of democracy is a priority for bilateral cooperation between Armenia and the EU, according to Semneby. Elections therefore occupy a critical role in Armenia-EU relations, he said.
The EU special representative positively assessed the pre-election climate in Armenia, noting that candidates’ struggle during elections increases the public’s interest towards the political process. A complete assessment of the elections, however, must wait until after voting day, he noted.
The opening of the new EU mission in Armenia is also an important step towards the development of cooperation between Armenia and the EU, Semneby remarked.
The delegation met with Oskanian and Armenian President Robert Kocharian Tuesday ahead of the mission’s inauguration to discuss key regional issues as well as the implementation of European Neighborhood policies within Armenia.
"Over a year after we embarked into our joint Action Plans, the relations between the EU and the countries of the Southern Caucasus are growing ever closer," Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said on the eve of the mission’s visit to Azerbaijan. "This is my third visit to the region, and I am looking forward to discussing the implementation of our ENP Action plans, energy security, regional issues including the frozen conflicts, as well as international issues."
"This time I am particularly happy to open fully-fledged EC Commission Delegations in Armenia and Azerbaijan. This opens a new chapter in our relations with these countries," she added. "It is a confirmation of the Commission’s commitment to cooperate closely with the South Caucasus countries, supporting reforms with a view to bringing the whole region closer to Europe".
Aside from discussing the three countries’ ENP Action Plans, the EU Troika delegation discuss with Azerbaijani and then Armenian authorities the situation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratization, as well as regional cooperation and energy security in the Southern Caucasus. The delegation is expected to cover the same agenda in Georgia.
The ENP Action Plans in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia were adopted in late 2006. Their implementation is supported by the European Community bilateral ENPI assistance, which has allocated 92 million euros to Azerbaijan, 98 million to Armenia and 120 million to Georgia to be distributed between 2007 and 2010. Assistance to the three countries is also provided through various initiatives implemented in the context of ENPI Regional and Inter-Regional, as well as EC Thematic programs such as the European Instrument for Democratization and Human Rights.
According to the delegation, the main focus of cooperation with Azerbaijan is the establishment of good governance, socio-economic reforms and energy security. While for Armenia, the three focal areas of bilateral assistance are: the strengthening of democratic structures, administrative reforms, and poverty reduction.
For Georgia the ENP focuses on support for democratic development, the establishment of rule of law in governance, economic development, poverty reduction, conflict resolution, and social reforms.
From 1991-2004, the EC has allocated over 1.2 billion euros worth of assistance–with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia receiving approximately an equal share of about 400 million euros each.