YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–The Armenian government has set up a special high-level body tasked with coordinating its policy on the European Union and promoting closer ties with the bloc–a senior official said on Friday.
"The government has decided to create a commission that will develop a national program of implementing the [Armenia-EU] Partnership and Cooperation Agreement," said Samvel Mkrtchian–director of the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s European Affairs section.
"We still have large room for developing our relations within the framework of that partnership agreement," he said–referring to the document which was signed in 1999. He said the commission is headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and comprises senior representatives of "all ministries and government agencies that deal with the European Union in one way or another."
The agreement provides the legal framework for Armenia’s political and economic relationships with the EU. One of its key stated aims to promote democracy–the rule of law and the respect of human rights in the country. The EU has signed similar arrangemen’s with neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Mkrtchian acknowledged that the increased urgency of putting that agreement into practice results from the recent inclusion of Armenia and the two other South Caucasus states in the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy of privileged relations with its immediate neighbors. The move raised the prospect of increased EU assistance to the three impoverished nations and their easier access to the world’s wealthiest single market.