The Cooperation Council between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Armenia held its sixteenth meeting on Monday, 18 January 2016. The EU was represented by Mr. Bert KOENDERS, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, acting as head of the European Union delegation on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Federica Mogherini, and by Mr Johannes HAHN, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. The Armenian delegation was led by Mr Edward NALBANDIAN, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, acting this year as Chair of the Cooperation Council.
The European Union and Armenia reconfirmed their joint commitment to enhance and deepen their cooperation in all areas possible and compatible with Armenia's new international obligations deriving from its accession to the Eurasian Economic Union.
Both sides welcomed the launch of negotiations and provided further political guidance and impetus as regards the future EU-Armenia Agreement, meant to replace the current outdated Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and to reset their relations within the wider framework of the reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership.
The EU and Armenia reviewed activities undertaken and meetings held during the past year in the context of the Eastern Partnership and underlined the importance of effective joint actions to build on the successful 2015 Eastern Partnership Summit held in Riga. They addressed issues related to the implementation of the reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy and shared the view that updated Partnership Priorities should be defined after the conclusion of the new EU-Armenia agreement.
The Cooperation Council reviewed recent political, economic and social reforms in Armenia. The EU took note of progress achieved in implementing these reforms and of Armenia's commitment to continue on this positive trajectory, while at the same time encouraging Armenia to accelerate reforms in specific areas, notably democracy and the rule of law, anti-corruption, human rights and fundamental freedoms, constitutional and judicial reform. Particular attention was drawn to the need for reform of the electoral system, to the need to appropriately implement the new constitution and assure media freedom, as well as to the important role of civil society.
The EU confirmed its continued support for Armenia's reform efforts, including implementation of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements, and encouraged Armenia to make best use of the assistance it receives to this end from the EU. For 2014-2017, between 140 and 170 million EUR, focused on private sector development, public administration reform, and justice sector reform, are to be disbursed.
The Cooperation Council welcomed the good progress made in implementing the Mobility Partnership. The EU reiterated its firm commitment to enhance the mobility of citizens in a secure and well-managed environment, which is a core objective of the Eastern Partnership, and recognised the high importance attached by Armenia to the mobility of its citizens. Moreover, both sides welcomed the overall good implementation of the Visa Facilitation and Readmission agreements since the previous Cooperation Council.
The Cooperation Council addressed also regional issues of common interest, including the prospects for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. On the latter, the EU reaffirmed that the status quo is unsustainable and that the peaceful resolution of this conflict remains a priority issue for the EU. The security situation along the Line of Contact and the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is a matter of serious concern. The EU reiterated its call for restraint and further engagement in the OSCE-led negotiation efforts. Moreover, the EU reiterated its support to the negotiations mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs aimed at settling the conflict. It encouraged further dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including at the level of Presidents and welcomed the summit held on the initiative of the Co-Chairs in Switzerland on 19 December 2015 which provided an important opportunity for exchanges on the way ahead. Furthermore, the EU reiterated its willingness to support peace-building activities and its readiness to provide reconstruction and rehabilitation support to the regions affected by the conflict, once a peace deal is struck.