At the invitation of Ambassador Piotr Antoni Świtalski, the Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Armenia, Regional Studies Center (RSC) Director Richard Giragosian met on 3 February with a visiting EU delegation led by Christian Danielsson, the Director General of Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), Lawrence Meredith, the Director of Neighbourhood East (NEAR.C) and Luc Devigne, Director for Russia, Eastern partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and OSCE (EEAS). Other participants included Hoa-Binh Adjemian, the Head of Cooperation Section, Gregory Tsouris, the Deputy Head of Cooperation, and Andrea Chalupova, Political Officer, from the EU Delegation to Armenia.
In his presentation, Giragosian began by welcoming the progress to date in the course of negotiations over a new legal framework of relations between Armenia and the EU, which he argued is a reflection of “a rare second chance to repair, restore and regain relations with the European Union in the wake of the 2013 decision to sacrifice Armenia’s Association Agreement.” He then noted that in the aftermath of the April 2016 fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, there is ample opportunity and a significant degree of pronounced political will in Armenia to deepen cooperation in the security sector, mentioning the possibility for collaboration in the area of cyber-security and citing the need for strengthening security sector reform by leveraging European expertise, as two examples.
RSC Director Giragosian then focused on two other distinct points, each of which may impact if not impede the future of Armenia-EU relations. His first point was that the increasingly serious risk of renewed hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh represents not only a looming threat to security and stability, but in the absence of any credible deterrence, may only add an enhanced obstacle to democratization and reform in the broader South Caucasus region.
Closing with a second, more Armenia-centric point, Giragosian then warned that the outlook for Armenia’s coming parliamentary elections in April 2017 remained worrisome. Giragosian argued that “although the coming election may be somewhat more free, given the advances in election observation and technological tools available to monitor the conduct of the ballot, the election may also be significantly less fair, as the Armenian authorities are likely to rely on the more sophisticated use of the advantages of incumbency, including the reliance on so-called ‘administrative resources’ to prevent a level playing field for candidates.” He then urged that “the EU should continue to closely monitor developments and prepare an adequate policy response to any such negative developments that would negatively impact the course of Armenia-EU relations.”