Remarks by Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan at Eastern Partnership Foreign Affairs Ministerial video-teleconference

11 June, 2020

Thank you very much, Helga.

I am also very glad to see all my good friends virtually and hope that we will eventually be able to see each other in person, in the near future. It is a very good opportunity today to compare notes in the run-up to the leaders’ VTC next week.

The eastern flank of Europe, which is the Eastern Partnership, has been founded upon shared values, which are the strength of the EaP and must therefore prevail over geopolitical considerations and remain a unifying force and a cornerstone for developing its post-2020 agenda. Democracy, rule of law, human rights, independent judiciary, freedom of the media, freedom of assembly are amongst the critical building blocks of the common space of European values. Armenia’s Velvet Revolution in 2018 and the consistency of our Government in commitment to the values of the Revolution, are a manifestation of our adherence to the common space of European values, hoping that this space is not eroding.

The multilateral platform of the Eastern Partnership has also been complementing and feeding into the development of bilateral relations of each Eastern Partner country with the EU and its Member States.

Therefore, given the importance of the Eastern Partnership, it is critical to sustain and further foster its continuity and integrity. Any compartmentalization of the Eastern Partnership will shatter the project. Yet, this does not mean that the principle of differentiation or “more for more” approach should not be applied; differentiation and inclusiveness are not mutually exclusive.

We welcome the Joint Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative on the EaP policy beyond 2020 and appreciate the mentioning in it of the EU’s readiness to “support the partner countries in the modernization of medical facilities, e-health, training of medical staff and providing affordable medical care and promoting access to people across society.” We also welcome the focus on resilience reinforcement agenda in the five main areas, as Commissioner Várhelyi has outlined in his statement.

For Armenia, it is a critical priority to launch the visa liberalization dialogue. Armenia has been effectively implementing the Armenia-EU Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements. We are engaged in individual dialogue with Member States to demonstrate our work and our achievements, which merit the launch of the VLD and we hope that this will happen soon.

The novel coronavirus is the first serious challenge that the Eastern Partnership has faced since it entered its second decade.

However, this pandemic once again demonstrated the importance of international cooperation and multilateralism for effectively solving supranational threats. Joined efforts are much needed to tackle this crisis. In this connection, I would like to commend the EU for mobilizing an emergency support package for immediate needs as well as the social and economic recovery of the Eastern Partnership region. This is highly and deeply appreciated by our Government and by the people in Armenia. The EU’s support is so far the biggest to the EaP countries; particularly for Armenia, the EU has announced over 92 mln euros worth of support package, which includes both new funds and already existing but redirected instruments. This is a very strong manifestation of solidarity.

We also appreciate the launch of the “V4EastSolidarity” program and assistance from individual Member States, specifically Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Poland. Thank you very much.

Armenia’s response to the pandemic has several layers, including investing in healthcare, providing support to socially vulnerable groups and helping the businesses to overcome the crisis and preserve jobs. As of today, the overall socio-economic assistance package of the Government amounts to 150 bln AMD, which equals over 300 million euros. The Government has effectively implemented 18 assistance programs/actions to address both the economic and social impact of the pandemic. Those programs are in the phase of implementation. We are also designing further comprehensive mid-term action plan, identifying our policy and interventions. We have also invited the EU to start a policy dialogue to create an inclusive and constructive platform where the European Union and its institutions could engage and contribute to the design and further implementation of our mid-term action plan to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic.

Indeed together with the spread of the pandemic, there is also “infodemic” and it needs to be addressed. There were some ideas and proposals on the ways to deal with it, including the use of communication, TV and so on. Those are very interesting ideas that we are willing to consider and discuss with our partners. Disinformation is more than the simple distortion of facts on pandemic.

We do not welcome the use of COVID-19 to crackdown on human rights and to disseminate hate speech.

On the point concerning regional stability and peace, including during the pandemic, Armenia joined the call of the UN SG on global ceasefire and we have also produced together with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs a joint statement in which the Co-Chairs outlined the importance of observing the ceasefire strictly and refraining from provocative actions in the current environment and called on the sides to take measures to reduce tensions further.

We have, however, been observing large scale military exercises and outright war threats to Armenia in time of the pandemic. Those actions are provocative in nature and tend not to contribute to reducing tensions.

Speaking of conflicts, each and every conflict reflects a different security environment, cultural and historical context and are different in dynamic or context of resolution and it should be approached on its own merit. Differentiation is necessary while addressing the question of conflicts.

Thank you.

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