Armenia gains new support from the European Parliament

On 14 April 2011, Mediamax (mediamax.am), to which our Secretary General, Michael Kambeck, is a columnist, published an analysis of the new European Parliament (EP) resolution on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its meaning for Armenia.

 

Click here to read the article in Armenian 

Click here to read the article in Russian

 

 

“Armenia gains new support from the European Parliament”

(Source: http://www.mediamax.am/en-column-52.html)

 

Last week was a good week for relations between Armenia and the EU. The often complicated and misunderstood EU “machinery” produced a new paper with relevance for Armenia. This paper underlined the EU’s commitment to knitting stronger ties with Europe’s East, especially Armenia. It is worth taking a closer look at this new European Parliament (EP) resolution on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its meaning for Armenia. The weight of such documents is often under- or overestimated, and rarely people outside of Brussels understand how such texts are decided. From my time as chief of staff for the Chairman of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee, I remember three principles which characterise the EP’s work in foreign relations: 1. Trying hard to be fair and balanced; 2. Focussing on the EU’s values as seen by the electorate; 3. Being politically more courageous than the EU’s official diplomacy. Here is how this translated into the text and relations with Armenia:

 

Last week’s resolution is a text adopted by an impressive plenary, hosting 736 MEPs who are directly elected by the people in each of the 27 EU member state countries. This size and diversity produces the balance. For example, the resolution asked the EU to engage more strongly with breakaway regions such as Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) but it stops short of asking to work officially with the NK authorities. The first is a courageous and important help for the people in NK and effectively asks for widening the very infant EU activities in this field today. At the same time, the EP underlines that it wants to remain a neutral player accepted by all sides, which is why it did not provoke Azerbaijan with a call for co-operation with the NK authorities. Such a balance is typical for the EP, because in the large chamber with representatives ranging from ultra-conservative to green-alternative and geographically ranging from Finland to Greece, different views mostly balance out each other.

 

At the same time, the MEPs are all directly elected and they are entirely free to say what they think is right or what their voters expect from them. Voters mostly want the EU to get active, promote European values and solve problems. Thus the EP often pushes the other EU institutions, who work less publicly and generally are less courageous. For example, the resolution text demands the institution of a new EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Moldova. This demand goes way beyond the current policy of the other EU institutions but this will be necessary if the EU wants to achieve its goals in assisting finding a solution to the protracted conflicts, such as NK. The EP also demands a number of concrete progresses in the area of visa facilitation, which again is good for Armenia and more courageous than public statements of the other EU institutions until now. An example of promoting the EU’s values are the clear messages to the ENP countries to further improve Human Rights and Democracy. Another example is that the EP wants the protracted conflicts to be resolved on the basis of three principles: self-determination, non-use of force or threat of force and territorial integrity, which the EP applies for the first time to all conflicts, not just NK.

 

There have been cases where EP resolutions contained wordings problematic for Armenia, mostly where individual MEPs managed to influence the text without a broader discussion. But over years, the EP has been a key driving force behind improving relations between Armenia and Europe. EP resolutions are non-binding, but very often, EU politics only started acting following calls from the EP. All EU players need to report regularly to the EP and face its public questions. The EP also approves or refuses the appointment of Commissioners, such as Catherine Ashton and Stefan Füle, and it can even dismiss a Commissioner for bad conduct. Finally, the EP decides over the EU’s budget, giving it substantial power over concrete EU work. The EP is aware of these indirect but significant powers. Most important are concrete demands, least important are detailed wordings in the text, though they may seem sensitive for Armenia. In most cases, the best arguments win the vote. This is good for Armenia, as on most issues, we have very good arguments and with that a reliable partner in the EU.

Published on Monday 18 April 2011

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