Sarkisian Hails Closer Ties With EU

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia looks forward to forging closer links with the European Union under the Eastern Partnership program to be formally launched by the bloc in early May, President Serzh Sarkisian told visiting EU officials on Tuesday.

The officials are part of an EU “advisory group” tasked with helping various Armenian government agencies carry out political and economic reforms necessary for the country’s inclusion in the scheme.

The EU’s External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner stressed the importance of these reforms when she visited Yerevan in late January. She said they should strengthen the rule of law and result in good governance.

“We welcome the Eastern Partnership’s endorsement at the [May 7] EU summit [in Prague,]” Sarkisian told members of the group, according to his office. “We are confident that it contains beneficial provisions for Armenia and would love to implement programs beneficial for our country.”

Sarkisian said the Armenian government is ready to follow the advisory group’s recommendations. “We think that that should eventually lead to the creation of new capacities and, in some cases, result in the formation of new institutions,” he said.

The Eastern Partnership, proposed by Poland and Sweden last year, seeks to foster more reforms in the South Caucasus countries as well as three other ex-Soviet states with the promise of "a substantial upgrading of the level of political engagement" with the EU. That includes far-reaching integration into the EU economy, easier travel to the EU, enhanced energy security arrangemen’s and increased financial assistance.

The plan, which does not offer full membership to the six countries, was tentatively approved by EU leaders on Friday. They also agreed to boost EU aid for them by another 600 million euros ($816 million).

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