Speech by Mr. Robert Kocharian President of the Republic of Armenia on the occasion of the accession of the Republic of Armenia to the Council of Europe

25 January, 2001

Mr President,
Mr Secretary General
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Armenia's entry into the new Millennium is signified by highly remarkable events, which attest to its rich history. This year we mark the tenth anniversary of Armenia's re-established independence. Having embraced firmly the values of freedom and democracy, we committed ourselves to transforming our society to this end. We are also celebrating one of the most important milestones in Armenia's history, the seventeen hundredth anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as a state religion. It is the celebration of persistence in our beliefs and our values. They have survived the tests and turbulence of history.

The past ten years were also the time for rediscovering Armenia's identity. With its rich historical and cultural heritage the Armenian nation has always considered itself part of the European civilization.
Soon after having gained independence we declared our objective to engage Armenia firmly in the architecture of the new Europe. It is indeed symbolic that at the beginning of the new Millennium, in the year so meaningful for our nation, we are here today to celebrate Armenia's accession to the Council of Europe. This is an impressive illustration of the link between Armenia's past, present and the future.

Armenia has always associated itself with Europe, its history, its values and culture. Throughout past centuries the European history has been fuelled by common anxiety about the future. As a result, this continent has produced a reliable and unique system of interdependence.

The contemporary Europe has been transformed into a land of sustained security and peace. It opened extraordinary opportunities for providing prosperity for its people. European structures of co-operation have secured louder voice for smaller nations. They pooled individual sovereignties in order to cope in concert with the challenges and demands of the modern world. Most importantly, Europe has vividly demonstrated that prosperity and security are firmly linked with the
democratic system of governance and strict observance of the human rights. The priorities and objectives of Armenia are in full conformity with the values and practices of Europe and its institutions. It was with this vision in mind that we had tabled our application to join the Council of Europe and engaged ourselves in the long accession process.
We view our membership as a crucial juncture on the road to Armenia's comprehensive integration within Europe. We believe that the present institutional developments in Europe should open considerable and promising opportunities for Armenia.

I have been most delighted to observe overwhelming consensus in our public and across the political spectrum over the issue of Armenia's accession to the Council of Europe. In confirmation of this fact the leaders of all political factions of the Armenian Parliament have joined me today to celebrate this remarkable event. 
We have already been benefiting greatly from our co-operation throughout the years of the accession process. This process was not an easy one, but most instrumental for the democratic transformation of Armenia. A considerable amount of national legislature has been upgraded to European standards with the expert advice and assistance of the Venice Commission and the Secretariat.
The Council of Europe has embraced various Armenian public and government organizations in raising the awareness of democratic principles and human rights. Our reforms have been under the close scrutiny of the Parliamentary Assembly. The Council of Europe has contributed significantly to strengthening trust and confidence in our region of South Caucasus.

Throughout its history our region has known strife and destitution as a result of colliding empires and complex interethnic relations. At present the South Caucasus is still challenged with unresolved conflicts and pressures of transition. However, we in Armenia are confident that through formulating and pursuing common interests for all the three states of the region we will be able to surmount the present difficulties. In other words, along with reassessing the individual potentials to each of our countries, we should also pursue the advantages and benefits of regionalism. With the accession to the Council of Europe of Armenian and Azerbaijan, and earlier of Georgia, we confirm the commitment of the entire region to the common values of democracy and human rights. These values will best serve as strong
foundations in asserting our common goals and interests. The history of Europe and its present achievements are the best encouragement for this objective.

The scope and pace of democratic transformations differ in each of our countries, yet our individual reform processes acquire regional importance. We should establish additional leverage for the ongoing peace processes and eliminate the remaining elements of enmity and mistrust. The extent of reforms in the region
will expand its engagement in broader structures of European integration. Armenia welcomes the initiatives of the Council of Europe, aimed at consolidating our societies and promoting regional co-operation in democracy building.

Armenia attaches utmost priority to establishing comprehensive security in the South Caucasus. Regretfully, we still remain a weaker link in the wider system of European security. Armenia's policies are aimed at excluding the risks of new dividing lines and confrontational environment in the region. We have clearly stated our views and objectives in this regard. The promotion of the concept of regional security will become a consolidating framework for the resolution of all regional conflicts, including the one in Nagorno Karabagh.

The Nagorno Karabagh peace process has in the past few years acquired certain new and positive elements. While the present format of the OSCE Minsk Group remains most appropriate for the peace process, there is an ongoing direct dialogue between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. We have established a good level of understanding between us. In the framework of our current visit we intend to meet once again. The bilateral meetings were extended to the level of Foreign and Defense Ministers, which is important for the strengthening of the cease-fire regime. Furthermore, due to the efforts of the international community,
including the Council of Europe, there have been growing contacts between our public and government organizations. Such contacts contribute to a better understanding in our societies and reduced feeling of hostility towards each other. They improve the environment in which the search for compromises takes place. In other words, the peace process requires patience and time, but certainly has prospects for success. At the same time, Armenia's position is determined by the necessity of securing legal equality of the parties to the conflict, as well as by the realities with regard to Nagorno Karabagh. They require broader formulations of the notion of sovereignty. With these considerations in mind we continue to value the principles of a resolution reflected in the Minsk Group co-chairs' proposal for a common state.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With its full accession to the Council of Europe, Armenia is registering a considerable degree of progress in democracy building. We realize that we are still in the middle of this road. Armenia is committed to full and timely observance of its post-accession obligations. Meanwhile, I take this festive opportunity to thank all
those in the Council of Europe, in the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Presidency, for their commitment in assisting Armenia throughout these years of accession process.

I am overwhelmed with joy and pride for my people, as the Armenian flag is raised at the Council of Europe. This re-establishes Armenia's rightful place in the family of European nations. Eventually Europe has institutionally extended its borders to where they belong. We are here to mark our own effort in enriching the sense and meaning of being European.

Thank you.

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