Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking President Sargsyan for his invitation to visit Armenia and for such a warm welcome. Armenia is a country full of rich history and culture. It is amazing to see what this country has given to the civilization But Armenia is also a nation that has its sights firmly set on an even stronger future.
Mr President, after our very productive meeting in Brussels last March, it is with great interest that I am here in Yerevan today to witness the important changes that are taking place in your country.
We just had a very positive, comprehensive and friendly exchange of views. We took stock of our bilateral relations and we discussed concrete ways to move forward with our common agenda.
Armenia is a very important partner for the European Union in the framework of our Eastern Partnership and we are building a strong relationship based on political association, economic integration, and deeper people-to-people contacts.
Indeed, the negotiations on the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, are progressing very well and we should aim to reach a good agreement by the end of next year in time of our Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013. Once completed, these negotiations will further strengthen Armenia’s European perspective.
Recently, we also gave concrete steps in our Mobility dialogue. After constructive – and should I say – quick negotiations we will be able to sign the Visa Facilitation Agreement still this month, on 17 December, followed, at a later date, by the signature of the Readmission Agreement. Our long term goal is clear and we will work for it: we want visa free travel.
Today I also had the chance to congratulate President Sargsyan for the good conduct of the Parliamentary elections in May 2012. I am reassured by the President’s personal commitment to address the shortcomings that were identified by the OSCE/ODIHR mission. In this context, the working group that the President established is a strong sign of leadership and I commend you for that. It is indeed of critical importance that next the next elections are impecable in terms of fairness and respect of international standards.
Democratic institutions, independence of the judiciary, political pluralism, media freedom and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms are the lifeblood of our partnership. This was the message that I brought to all the meetings that I held today with Armenia’s political leaders, parliamentarians and civil society. These values and principles need to be upheld and actively defended. I am happy with President Sargsyan commitment in this direction.
The European Union fully recognizes Armenia’s commitment to reforms and the efforts being made. We are also aware of the challenges ahead. But we are in this together and we support you. In fact, this year we increased our assistance to the country giving an additional € 15 million for an existing project on the reform of the Judiciary and for an on-going operation on Vocational and Education Training. This is not only recognition of your good work, but it is an incentive to keep your reformist ambition.
Peace and regional stability are also necessary to advance our common goals. I reaffirmed the urgent need to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The EU continues to support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and we stand ready, in full complementarity with the Minsk Group, to provide enhanced support for confidence building measures if the parties so wish.
We believe that only through a stable neighbourhood and good relations amongst the countries in the region will be possible for Armenia to fully tap the potential of the country and also of its association agenda with the European Union.
To conclude, let me once more thank President Sargsyan for welcoming me today. Mr President, the European Union has a stake in Armenia’s future and we are ready to work together with you in fulfilling the aspirations of all Armenian citizens. You can count on us.
I thank you for your attention.