ARF Addresses Socialist International Eastern Europe Committee

THE SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL (SI) COMMITTEE FOR CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE MET JUNE 14-15 IN SOFIA–BULGARIA TO DISCUSS SEVERAL ISSUES PERTINENT TO THE REGION–INCLUDING EUROPEAN UNION ENLARGEMENT–AND STABILITY IN THE BALKANS–POSSIBLE SI INITIATIVES ON RUSSIA AND CIS COUNTRIES–AND THE COMMITTEE’S INPUT AT THE UPCOMING SI CONGRESS. THERE ARE AN UNPRECEDENTED NUMBER OF GOVERNMENTS LED BY SOCIAL DEMOCRATS IN THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEAN REGION TODAY. AS THE ONLY ARMENIAN ORGANIZATION WITH MEMBERSHIP TO SI–THE ARF PRESENTED THE FOLLOWING REPORT TO THE CONGRESS BY ARF BUREAU MEMBER MARIO NALBANDIAN:

Since the last Socialist International Committee On Central And Eastern Europe (SICEE) meeting almost a year ago–there have been many developmen’s in and around Armenia on issues of concern and interest to our party.

Parliamentary elections in Armenia over two weeks ago were the culmination of an eight-month long election marathon that began in the Fall of last year with elections of local self-governing bodies–and continued in the Winter of this year with two rounds of presidential elections. Presidential elections–specifically–and to a lesser extent parliamentary elections–caused a climate of political tension in the country–as they were marred by irregularities. We are convinced that most of these irregularities should and could have been avert; Armenia could have avoided putting on the line its international reputation as the most democratic state in the South Caucasus.

As a leading political party–the ARF- Dashnaktsutiun was active during all these elections. As a result–we multiplied our presence in local self-governing bodies. During the presidential elections–we supported the candidacy of the incumbent president. We took it on ourselves to strive to make the elections free and fair. Even though we were effective–and the candidate we supported was re-elected president–we did not succeed completely. As for the parliamentary elections–we consider them to have been not fully free and fair–and as a result–the newly elected National Assembly does not fully reflect the real correlation of the political forces in the country. Nonetheless–following long and difficult negotiations–we have agreed to join with two other parties to form a political coalition in the National Assembly–and a coalition government.

For the first time in Armenia’s recent history–and probably in the whole of the CIS–a political coalition memorandum was signed–stipulating the coalition parties’ responsibilities and obligations. A formal agreement for the creation of the coalition was our initiative and establishes the priorities of the political coalition program–which are:

– Constitutional reforms

– Political reforms–particularly in the electoral system–aimed at increasing the role of parties

– Economic policy with a clear social orientation

– Anti-trust policy and guarantees for free economic competition

– Fighting corruption and shadow economy

In the new National Assembly–one of the two Deputy Speakers is a member of the ARF–as is the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. In the coalition government–our party is in charge of three ministries: healthcare–social security–and agriculture. In Armenia–these spheres and ministries are in need of crucial reforms–and we have accepted our new challenges–determined to make improvemen’s.

During this period–we moved forward within Socialist International (SI). Following the May 2002 SI Council meeting which recommended our full membership in February of this year–Secretary General Luis Ayala’s three day visit to Armenia marked yet another milestone. For a one hundred and thirteen year old party–that has had the chance to operate in its own independent homeland for less than fifteen years–hosting such a visit was an honor–and I should add–very timely and beneficial.

Secretary General Ayala’s visit coincided with the commencement of the war in Iraq–triggering a set of trends in the whole region–including ours; these trends could hold unforeseen consequences. This is coupled with US efforts aimed at greater presence and influence in our region–the South Caucasus–that already faces the challenge of establishing peace–security–and stability. This can only be reached–however–if democracy is irreversibly advanced in the region.

Our neighbor to the east–Azerbaijan–is expected to face a leadership crisis. An unstable Azerbaijan cannot be an effective party to the peaceful settlement of the Mountainous (Nagorno) Karabagh issue; in fact–an unstable Azerbaijan is a threat to the security of the region.

Our neighbor to the west–Turkey–is another concern for us. To gain membership to the EU–Turkey hastily made changes to its legislation regarding minority rights. However–those have proven to be cosmetic changes; in practice–the protection of minority rights has gotten worse. In the case of Armenia’s in Turkey–confiscated community property was to be returned to the community according to these changes. New confiscations–however–have taken place. Furthermore–the Turkish Ministry of Education has initiated a campaign to teach their students how to deny the Armenian Genocide; the same is being forced on Armenian students in Turkey. This persecution is coupled with yet another diplomatic charade–with Turkish diplomats and former diplomats engaging in a semblance of dialogue with official Yerevan and Diaspora organizations.

While our party’s political influence is on the rise in Armenia and consequently in the region–we believe we can play an important role in the development of social democracy in the South Caucasus–and in the CIS–as the sole party in the region with soon to be confirmed full-fledged membership in Socialist International. It is with this prospect that we look forward to hosting a SICEE meeting in Yerevan before the next SI Congress.

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