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EU Urges Armenia to Protect Civil Society, Adopt Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Legislation

The EU's annual report on the implementation of its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) shows a mixed picture. Although 2013 was a year of crises in some of its partners, reflecting political instability and difficult socio-economic conditions, the EU has continued to support efforts to enhance democratic governance, build security and support sustainable and inclusive development, reads a press release issued by the European Commission on March 27.

"In the eastern ENP countries, Ukraine saw momentous change — triggered by massive civil protests (so-called "Euromaidan") in support of political association and economic integration with the EU. The EU stands ready to support Ukraine in its quest for a democratic and prosperous future. In fact, the Commission announced on 5 March 2014 a package of measures, including EUR 11 billion in financial assistance over many years. On 21 March 2014, the political chapter of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was signed in Brussels. Moldova and Georgia made progress in political and judicial reforms, and reforms to prepare for the implementation of the Association Agreements. Georgian elections in autumn 2013 marked its second democratic transition of power. Armenia continued democratic reforms but decided to put on hold preparations for the conclusion of an Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and not to initial it. Azerbaijan continued to treat lightly calls to improve respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. Belarus made no progress in political reforms," reads the release.

According to the 2013 ENP Country Progress Report, Armenia addressed some of the key recommendations contained in last year's ENP progress report. It notably adopted a law on equal rights and opportunities for men and women which, however, lacks a mechanism for complaints. There were limited developments regarding reforms in the public administration and in the judiciary. Nevertheless, preparatory works were undertaken to proceed with reforms about the electoral legislation, the fight against corruption and human rights protection.

On the basis of this year’s report and with a view to sustained implementation of the ENP Action Plan in 2014, Armenia is invited to:

•    cooperate with and protect civil society; investigate the cases of attacks and intimidation of human rights defenders and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice;
•    implement the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations concerning elections, in particular ensure a level playing field for all candidates and avoid the use of administrative resources for electoral purposes. Moreover, ensure pluralism in the broadcasting media;
•    fully investigate the deaths that occurred during clashes following the March 2008 presidential elections and the allegations of ill-treatment in police custody;
•    finalise the draft Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religion;
•    ensure respect for the principle of non-discrimination and adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation;
•    continue the reform of public administration; especially intensify the prevention of and the fight against corruption;
•    intensify the reform of the judiciary and the law enforcement;
•    strengthen the implementation of governance reforms;
•    work towards the earliest possible closure of the Medzamor nuclear power plant as well as speed up the implementation of the roadmap on energy efficiency and the target of 30 % of generated energy from renewable sources;
•    step up efforts towards agreement on the Madrid Principles, as a basis for peace, in accordance with the commitments undertaken by the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan within the Minsk Group; refrain from actions and statements that could heighten tension and undermine the peace process;
•    promote an environment conducive to progress in the conflict settlement, encourage and support related peace-building activities;
•    ensure unimpeded access for representatives of the EU to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions in support of conflict transformation activities in full complementarity with the efforts of the Minsk Group.