EU Adopts Conclusions on South Caucasus
It’s very clear that the Council of Europe’s Foreign Affairs Council supports a strengthened relationship with the three countries of the South Caucasus and has a strong desire to see them being able to move forward, said High Representative Catherine Ashton (pictured) following the 3149th meeting of the Council in Brussels on Monday.
Apart from discussing the situation in Syria and welcoming the conduct of elections in Egypt, the Council also had a “good conversation” about the South Caucasus, adopting the following conclusions on the region:
“1. The EU welcomes the significant progress made in the framework of the Eastern Partnership to strengthen the European Union’s relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In this regard, the EU underlines the importance of the Eastern Partnership as a specific Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
“2. Recalling its core interests in the region, notably related to security and stability, democratic reforms, energy and economic investments, the EU remains committed to promoting prosperity, security, democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights, good governance, sustainable development and regional cooperation throughout the South Caucasus, and is ready to enhance efforts to support confidence building and peaceful settlements to the conflicts in the region, in close cooperation with all relevant parties.
“3. The EU emphasises the importance of the continued implementation of the commitments made in the Joint Declaration of the Warsaw Eastern Partnership Summit, Warsaw Sept. 29–30, 2011, and reiterates that the pace of reforms will determine the intensity of the cooperation, and partners most engaged in reforms will benefit more from their relationship with the European Union, including closer political association, deeper gradual economic integration in the EU Internal Market, enhancing mobility of citizens in a secure and well managed environment and increased EU support.”
On the section pertaining to Armenia, the EU welcomed not only progress in the negotiations on the Association Agreement between the EU and Armenia, but also the start of visa facilitation and readmission agreement negotiations.
The Foreign Affairs Council also made a point of emphasizing “the utmost importance” of ensuring the May parliamentary elections and next year’s presidential elections in Armenia meet internationally recognized democratic standards and “will closely monitor developments in Armenia leading up to the elections.”
The Council also urged Armenia to pursue further reforms in strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing the independence of the justice system, encouraging political pluralism, press freedom and equal access to media, as well as ensuring protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Council noted that the EU will continue to support these reform efforts.
The Council underlined the importance of fighting corruption and welcomed Armenia’s declared commitment to this end. “Real progress in this area remains fundamental for economic growth and development,” it said.
In the document “Council conclusions on the South Caucasus,” the EU also addressed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, expressing its concern at the “slow progress” in negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the conflict. The Council stated that the EU continues to support the OSCE Minsk Group in its efforts to mediate and resolve the conflict, while acknowledging the efforts of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in coordinating trilateral talks.
Furthermore, “the EU reiterates its support for the Madrid principles and calls on Armenia and Azerbaijan to step up their efforts to reach agreement on those principles as a basis for peace. The EU recalls the joint statement of the presidence of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries at the G8 Summit in Deauville on May 26, 2011, and the commitments made by the Presidents of both countries in the framework of the Minsk Group, most recently in Sochi, and calls for their full implementation. In this regard, the EU expresses concern on increased tension along the Line of Contact and underlines the importance of urgent steps to implement the ceasefire and to adopt appropriate confidence building measures.”
The EU is prepared to provide “enhanced support” for confidence-building measures, thereby fostering the Minsk Group’s mission. In this regard, the EU emphasized the necessity of “unconditional access” for representatives of the EU to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.
“The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission to develop, in close consultation with the OSCE, post conflict scenarios for Nagorno-Karabakh as a basis for future EU engagement,” concludes the Council document.
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