EP plenary: EU-Armenia relations

15.03.2023
Strasbourg

Speech delivered by Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Várhelyi, on behalf of High-Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell    

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 Madam President, Honourable Members of this house. 

 Let me thank the Rapporteur, Mr [Andrej] Kovatchev, and all Members who have contributed to the report on EU-Armenia relations that we are discussing today. Your report provides a good overview of the challenges the country faces.  

 Armenia is a country that has suffered a double crisis – the 2020 war and the Covid pandemic. 

 Moreover, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Armenia finds itself in a difficult position, having to rely for its security on a country that is carrying out an unprovoked aggression against its neighbour. 

 In this context, Armenia is looking toward the European Union as a fundamental partner. Given steady progress on reforms in democracy, fundamental freedoms, rule of law and the fight against corruption, Armenia deserves our full support. 

 Our Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement is the blueprint for Armenia’s domestic reforms agenda. It has now been fully in force for over two years.  

 The Economic and Investment Plan has the potential to mobilise over €2.6 billion in public and private investments, and it is already delivering in Armenia through developing green connectivity, energy efficiency and as well as supporting SMEs and supporting socio-economic development. 

 Of course, as your report rightly points out, much still needs to be done, when it comes to the functioning of the justice sector, fight against discrimination, gender equality, but also the protection of vulnerable groups, and to tackle foreign disinformation. We have an in-depth regular dialogue with Armenian authorities on all these issues. 

 The report calls to further enhance EU-Armenia economic and trade relations. The EU-Armenia but also Armenia-Russia trade flows have increased several folds since the EU imposed additional sanctions on Russia. While we welcome our more intensive exchanges with Armenia, due to its geographic location, it is also one of the partner countries we intend to cooperate more closely with the aim to prevent the circumvention of sanctions.   

 The European Union is also actively involved in facilitating dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We remain committed to continue acting as an honest broker to help achieve the common goal of a secure, prosperous and peaceful South Caucasus, for the benefit of all its people. 

 The President of the European Council [Charles Michel], supported by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and our Special Representative [Toivo Klaar], is personally invested in this. We also have regular contacts with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries on this. 

 The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan should use the historic opportunity to solve this conflict for good and return to the substantial dialogue, as many important questions need still to be solved urgently. 

 One such urgent issue is the obstruction of movement in the Lachin corridor. Since the beginning of December, the European Union has mobilised all diplomatic efforts to solve this situation. The ongoing restrictions to freedom of movement and to the supply of vital goods are causing serious distress for the local population. As the deadly incident of 5 March showed, the situation in this area is flammable. 

 Finally, I would like to mention the full-fledged civilian CSDP mission [EU Mission in Armenia] that the EU has established in Armenia since January. Among others, the mission observes and reports on the security situation on the ground. This is yet another concrete and essential element in the European Union’s efforts to support the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

 Thank you very much for your attention.

 Link to the video (starting at 5:15): https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-238105  

Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0)460 75 45 53