From the 4th to the 5th EaP Summit
This policy paper is based on opinions expressed during the round-table discussion, “From the 4th to the 5th EaP Summit: Defining the Aims, Action Plan”, held on the 12th of November 2015. The round-table discussion was attended by Parliamentarians, representatives of the RA executive body, representatives of civil society organisations and independent experts. The event was organised within the framework of the EU-funded “Civil Society. Dialogue for Progress” project.
The next Eastern Partnership Summit will take place in two years’ time, but we should prepare for it now by defining our expectations and setting out our aims. What do we expect from the 5th EaP Summit, in the context of RA-EU relations? What should our steps for reaching the desirable results be?
Our main expectations from the next EaP Summit refer to the document that ensures the new legal basis of RA-EU relations. It is expected that as a result of RA-EU negotiations to be launched this year, а new bilateral agreement will be agreed on, signed, and ratified; and that it will enter into force during the Summit. Taking into account that the new document will be based on the already negotiated and agreed Association Agreement, two years should suffice to complete the negotiations and sign the document before the Summit. It should also be taken into due consideration that the lost years of cooperation with Europe could lead to an unwelcome imbalance, as during these years the other course of Eurasian integration will continue to develop.
The pace of RA-EU relations also depends on broader regional processes, particularly the development of EU-RF relations. Progress in this context is regarded as an impetus to foster the development of RA-EU relations, or at least a very important contributing factor. The RA government does not lack the political will to continue cooperating with the EU: this must is patently clear to its European partners, and as such the pace of the integration process today largely depends on the European side.
Furthermore, the overriding mood of the general public and the level of support shown for the process are also important for progress. In Armenia, some of the main problems associated with public support for the European integration process are a lack of PR on the European direction and Europe in general; incomplete or misleading presentation of this direction; and the adoption of anti-Armenian resolutions and announcements by different European institutions (for example PACE) which can result in “building barricades” among Armenian society against that specific institution and Europe as a whole. For example, two obviously biased and anti-Armenian PACE reports that referred directly or indirectly to the Karabakh conflict were perceived very negatively both by the societies of Armenia and Karabakh. Those reports in the form of draft resolutions will be presented for approval during the PACE winter session to be held from January 25 to January 29, 2016. Should these be approved as resolutions by PACE, some quite serious problems could arise and cause negative attitudes towards the EU and European structures.
Public awareness-raising, interpretation of current events, prevention of negative and undesirable attitudes are all highly important, as is a positive presentation of the advantages of European integration.
Civil society can play a key role in working with the public as well as on idea generation. Cooperation between civil society and the state is very important at this stage in order to increase public awareness, present the benefits of European values and the integration process, generate new ideas and implement them.
CSOs are more free in their activities and in choosing their tools. On the one hand, they can serve as a link between the general public and the state, while on the other hand generating and implementing ideas that are highly important for the promotion of this process.
What can our actions to enhance public confidence in European integration be, as well as to prepare for the next EaP Summit?
To understand and clearly define our expectations from the EU, we must first of all clarify our expectations from our cooperation with Europe, as well as our actions. In this context, we must consider the currently ongoing projects between Armenia and the EU – or those realised under the auspices of the EU – as well as any necessary steps for increasing the efficiency of these projects. For example, it is necessary to review and discuss the experience of the formation of Euroregions between Armenia and Georgia, as well as to discuss restarting the work of the EU Centre and the suspended activities of the Advisory Group. It is also necessary to assess the effectiveness of reform programmes in certain fields, discussing the necessity of making some changes in them, amongst other topics.
Based on its priorities and objectives – regardless of the EU support – Armenia should implement reforms while deepening those already ongoing (in the sectors of justice, police, education, public administration, legislative procedures, the modernisation of border checkpoints, the fight against corruption, the elimination of economic monopolies, and so on). This will prove the seriousness of our goals as well as our political drive, and receive an appropriate reaction from the EU, too.
The efficiency and quality of the agreements reached with the EU and the document to be signed will also depend on our will, actions and initiatives. It is important that the agreements do not remain only on the paper. This will dampen the prospects of developing cooperation with the EU and public support for the European direction.
In this regard, we should be open-minded and make use of the differentiated approach placed on the bases of the ENP and EaP reviews. If we want to see progress in the reforms, we must be consistent, carry out our obligations and demand the strictest possible monitoring of to make the reforms’ results more visible.
Meanwhile, diplomatic relations with the EU should be built on trust, clear agreements and flexibility and take into consideration the “red lines” of both sides. For example, before the end of the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme and the settlement of Iran-West relations, there was international consolidation and sanctions levied against Iran. However, taking into consideration Armenia’s geopolitical and economic conditions as well as the blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, our EU partners understood the crucial nature of Armenia-Iran relations and acknowledged the impossibility of Armenia’s joining the sanctions against Iran. At the same time, in their diplomatic relations the EU and Armenia should also aim to reach a consensus, in order to minimise instances whereby in international organisations the sides vote against each other on resolutions contradicting the interests of one of the sides.
Through specific arrangements with the relevant EU bodies, it will be possible to prevent any announcements and resolutions that are undesirable for Armenia or which support anti-Armenian actions. In return, Armenia could potentially coordinate its actions with the EU on key issues.
Today the EU offers broader opportunities to work directly with partner countries, meaning that we should make the best possible use of it and be ambitious and innovative in our actions.
Both in the preparatory works of the next Eastern Partnership Summit and in relations with the EU in general it is important to be consistent and define certain goals, which can sometimes seem quite ambitious (for example, establishing several regional offices of European institutions in Armenia; monitoring of reforms with the same standards as in the case of countries that have signed Associations Agreements, etc.), but that if implemented properly will serve their aims. The implementation of these goals in turn depends on dialogue, a sense of initiative and gaining public support based on trust.
The content of this paper does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union nor of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation as lead of the consortium. Responsibility for the information and views expressed herein lies entirely with the author(s).
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