Presidential Working Group Meets, Discusses Progress on PACE Reforms

YEREVAN (ArmRadio)–President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday held a working session to discuss the government’s progress in the ongoing implementation of democratic reforms recommended by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in mid May.

The presidential working group established to implement the recommendations forwarded by the PACE met last month to hammer out an action plan for addressing the requiremen’s set forth in the PACE resolution 1609.

According to President Sarkisian, considerable progress has been made since last month and the Armenian Government is much closer to achieving the standards set forth by the Parliamentary Assembly. The main objective of Wednesday’s session was to summarize the progress made since the last meeting and to coordinate what the Government’s next steps will be, he explained.

The meeting discussed, step-by-step, each article outlined in the PACE resolution.

Regardless of the developmen’s that took place in Armenia following the elections, the Government must now carry on with its pre-election programs, Sarkisian said during the meeting.

"We believe in these programs and we will work to fully realize them," he stressed, adding that the country right needs does not need superficial change, but real and long-term solutions to its problems.

"The foundations we lay today are very important and it is also essential that our decisions are adopted with the future in focus."

Speaker of the National Assembly Tigran Torosyan turned to the recent activities of Armenia’s parliament and discussed the recent legislative changes it made to expand political rights for Armenia’s opposition.

He explained that a draft law expanding the rights of Armenia’s parliamentary opposition has been sent to the Venice Commission for recommendations. Most of the points in the resolution that pertain to Armenia’s opposition have been addressed by the Parliament, Torosyan said, noting, however, that two points in the resolution contradicted Armenia’s constitution.

Armenia’s small parliamentary opposition has also been offered a leading post in the Government as a gesture of goodwill by the ruling coalition, Sarkisian added.

The chairman of the National Assemblies State and Legal Issues Commission David Haroutunian also discussed the activities of his commission, which was established after the post-election unrest to improve Armenia’s electoral code. Haroutunian said the commission was moving forward and making progress.

Hran’sh Hakobian, the chairperson of the parliamentary commission on science, education, culture, youth and sport issues, discussed her commission’s ongoing efforts to improve the regulation of Armenia’s television media. She said four draft laws have been prepared following parliamentary hearings on the matter. The bills, she continued, have been endorsed by all the factions in parliament, and have been sent to the Venice Commission for further recommendations.

Armenia’s TV broadcasting companies have also made a number of structural changes in their programming, she explained, pointing to a number of TV stations that have significantly eased restrictions on the content they air by providing a forum for alternative opinions and approaches.

"The country’s public television must satisfy the needs of all levels of society," Sarkisian said commenting on Hakobian’s report. "We must be able to create a mass media that will have the trust of the people."

The recently enacted legal changes, easing restrictions on public assembly were also discussed during the meeting, as was the recently established Public Council, which will address social issues in the country.

Armenia’s Prosecutor General then discussed the status of prisoners detained since early March. He explained that out of 115 individuals currently in custody, 46 have already been released, while others have been given conditional sentences.

The status of an ad-hoc parliamentary commission established to investigate the post election riots was also discussed. According to Sarkisian, the commission should involve Armenian and international experts, as well as representatives from the public. It is the responsibility of the commission to conduct a thorough inquiry into the clashes that ensued on March 1-2 and provide the parliament with credible conclusions and acceptable recommendations, he said.

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