(eaq.sk) I believe we need to cooperate with the European Union. And I think that the future of the South Caucasus is connected with Europe! Alternative to this is our countries turned into half stable systems, without democracy, with high level corruption and without a system of values (this we can see from the example of some countries in Middle East or in the Post-soviet territory).
The Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum was established on 17 November 2009 in Brussels. The best, most innovative recommendations given by participants in the Civil Society Forum were presented to the foreign ministers of Eastern Partnership member states on 8 December 2009. Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC) also participated in that forum, and our proposal about visa facilitation for citizens of Eastern Partnership countries was submitted to the European Commission. Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum is an important innovation, since it lets to use the potential existing in Eastern Partnership countries. It also provided conditions for the multilateral dialogue – government, civil society and EU, and for cooperation between Eastern Partnership countries.
Armenian NGOs participate actively in the Eastern Partnership programme. There is a civil society National Platform of Eastern Partnership in Armenia. ACGRC is the active participant in this platform. Also ACGRC is the member of Coalition for the European Continent Undivided by Visa Barriers. This organization was launched at meeting in Warsaw on November 26, 2010 on the initiative of the Stefan Batory Foundation. Today more than 30 non-governmental organizations from different parts of Europe are its members. The coalition takes joint actions to speed up the process of EU visa liberalization with the countries of the Eastern Partnership.
Of course, Eastern Partnership may facilitate the visa issue, that’s very important for the youth, for non-governmental organizations and for businessmen. Eastern Partnership may also help in opening the labour market for some specialists in our countries. That’s very important for all of us.
It’s well known that Moldova and Georgia are seriously forward in the issues of Association Agreement and, in particular, in the agreement on visa facilitation with EU. However I would like to note that in recent 1 and a half year the government of Armenia has also started to work actively with EU on these issues.
The result of this work is that on February 27 the European Union and the Government of Armenia launched negotiations on two agreements to facilitate respectively the procedures for issuing short-stay visas, as well as the readmission of irregular migrants. The visa facilitation and readmission negotiations with Armenia follow the political commitment taken at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit in May 2009 regarding the improvement of people to people contacts. The EU has already launched a Mobility Partnership with Armenia in October 2011, binding framework for managing movements of people, in which ten EU Member States participate (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Sweden).
We welcome that Armenian government activated its participation in Eastern Partnership and shows political will for realization of those reforms which are necessary for signing the Association Agreement with EU. For moving forward the negotiations with the EU on visa facilitation serious legislative changes are needed, serious reforms in such issues as police, migration service, protection of personal data, border service and etc.
At the end of 2001 ACGRC with his partners (Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development from Georgia, Center for Economic and Social Development from Azerbaijan, Institute for Development and Social Initiatives “Viitorul” from Moldova, Europe without Barriers from Ukraine and Office for a democratic Belarus) realized monitoring of viza liberalization technical criteria fulfillment Pilot Project. The monitoring was initiated and supported by the Stefan Batory Foundation.
Apart from that, on 25 February 2012 ACGRC in cooperation with the Coalition for the European Continent Undivided by Visa Barriers organized a conference in Armenia “The EU and the Eastern Partnership countries: prospects and barriers for the visa liberalization”. The speakers were: H.E Zohrab Mnatsakanian (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia), H.E Traian Hristea (Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia), Elenoora Vergeer (Policy Advisor on Migration, European Union Advisory Group to Armenia), Joanna Fomina (coordinator of Friendly EU Visa project at the Stefan Batory Foundation), Boris Navasardian (President, Yerevan Press Club), Olga Stuzhinskaya (Office for a democratic Belarus) and Leonid Litra (Institute for Development and Social Initiatives “Viitorul”). The participants were well-known experts-analysts from Belgium, Poland, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
All these activities show that in particular Armenia actively works on reforms: only during last several months the parliament of Armenia ratified a lot of European conventions connected with the migration issues, readmission, struggle against corruption, transnational organized crimes, trafficking, spreading of drugs, personal data protection and also adopted new laws (for example on issuing biometric passports) and made changes in Criminal and Administrative Codex. The government of Armenia made several decisions directly connected with the negotiations on visa-facilitation.
All these speak about positive tendencies in the negotiations of Association Agreement between EU and the government of Armenia. As we think a new and most important stage is coming in the process of cooperation of EU and Armenia: the beginning of implementation of decisions made by the Armenian side. Here education of the staff (customs and border service, police and etc.) is very important and also their technical supply which must realize decisions of the government.
Author is Chairman of the Board of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC) in Yerevan, Armenia. This report was made at the "1st EU-Eastern Partnership Forum" (March 22-24, 2012 in Tbilisi, Georgia).