Check against delivery!
Thank you. I am very pleased to welcome back to Brussels the Foreign Minister [of Armenia], Zohrab [Mnatsakanyan] – welcome back! - and also all of his delegation and his team today for the second meeting of the European Union-Armenia Partnership Council.
Since our first meeting in this format that happened one year ago, the European Union-Armenia cooperation has advanced very well, with a particular focus on the implementation of our Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement.
This agreement can play a very important role in the modernisation of Armenia, including by introducing European Union norms in many sectors. Armenia has recently prepared a roadmap that we have discussed today to implement this agreement. As we see that it can usefully underpin and support reforms in Armenia, we will further support its implementation with technical assistance and capacity-building.
The European Union is paying special attention to the judicial reform that we also discussed at length today. We support the ongoing work aiming at a comprehensive judicial reform in Armenia, in line with the Armenian Constitution and with international standards. An independent, efficient and accountable judiciary benefits all. It contributes to the protection of human rights and to a business environment favourable to economic development and foreign investment.
Following the launch of a European Union-Armenia dialogue on judicial reform in September last year, the European Union is ready to provide substantial support to this key reform, based on a comprehensive and ambitious justice reform strategy.
Our joint work and cooperation obviously does not stop here, this is only one side of our good cooperation. The European Union is identifying funding possibilities for the priority projects that Armenia has recently presented to the European Commission. These priority projects concern many different fields such as women participation, energy efficiency and interconnections, ID cards, police reforms, and infrastructure.
The European Union has earmarked more than €160 million in bilateral assistance for Armenia for the years 2017-2020. Based on the country’s performance and democratic reforms during last year, the European Union will allocate an additional €25 million this year, bringing the total allocation for this year to €65 million to support Armenia in its reforms and in implementing effectively our agreement. With these funds we will seek to maximise the impact of reforms and, obviously, to improve the living conditions of the citizens in a visible and tangible manner.
Our Partnership Council today also stressed the importance of continued work towards implementing the Eastern Partnership and in particular the deliverables that we have identified for next year – the 2020 deliverables -, including in the field of rule of law, governance, and the fight against corruption.
We also discussed the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The conflict needs an early political settlement. The European Union continues to fully support the mediation efforts and the proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, including through the work of our Special Representative [for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar].
We call on the sides to strictly respect the ceasefire, follow up on commitments undertaken by their leaders and the Foreign Ministers at recent meetings under the auspices of the Co-Chairs, and engage on substantive issues. As usual, we stand ready to support measures aimed in particular at overcoming the conflict divide and contributing to preparing the populations for peace.
A large part of our agenda was dedicated to regional and international issues. We reiterated today the European Union’s commitment to support the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey and called on both sides to continue to engage in this process without preconditions.
We discussed the situation in Syria and gave our strong backing to the work of the UN Special Envoy [Geir Pedersen] for the resumption of the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.
And both, the European Union and Armenia, today confirmed their continued commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear deal with Iran.
I have no doubt that EU-Armenia relations and cooperation on many important issues – regional, international, but also bilateral - will further strengthen, based on our Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, but also based on our common interests and on our common values of democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights.
So I would like to thank very much the Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan] and all his delegation for being in Brussels today again for our excellent meeting, for very constructive discussions today and for our very good cooperation in these months.
Q: You were able to observe the full year of the work of the government that came after the revolution in Armenia. Could you compare its work to the work of previous governments? Have you seen some qualitative changes in that work?
Nice try, but I would never compare one government with another. I can definitely clearly assess the work we have done during this year and a couple of months of common work with the current authorities of the country as excellent. I believe there is no doubt and I think it was clear from both of our remarks and this day of work that in this last year since our last Council meeting, we have advanced enormously. The implementation of our Agreement is proceeding well. The dialogue and the cooperation and the partnership we have on all different issues, from international to regional to bilateral issues, is excellent. And we also have good plans for the future. So again, I would not compare, but I can assess that the work we are doing together today is excellent.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-173821