Armenia: Internal Reforms as Response to Global Challenges

By Viktor Yengibaryan

The author of this blog lives in Yerevan/Armenia. He is President of the European Movement in Armenia. This blog reflects his personal opinion. Viktor Yengibaryan is also member of the Editorial Advisory Board of „European Union Foreign Affairs Journal“ (EUFAJ).

Tense relations between Russia and Turkey, the rising hardcore diplomacy between west and the east and the threatening information flow in the international media on terrorism, immigration in Europe and the destabilization of, and negative expectations for macro-economic situation globally has fatal meaning for Armenia. Armenia, a country, which is landlocked and has two closed borders out of four, namely the border of Turkey and Azerbaijan are blocked since the country’s independence. The other two countries neighboring Armenia are Georgia and Iran. Yerevan’s economic and political partners in its direct neighborhood region are Tbilisi and Tehran, the country tries to profit from the improvement of the relations between Iran and the west now. On the other hand the disagreements between Georgia and Russia, and the differences between Iran and the west, leave the country no other chance than to be creative in its foreign policy. Being a member of Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, the country is close to come to a new and more ambitious economic cooperation agenda with the European Union. Closer cooperation with Europe and European Integration of the country was and still is the main foreign and domestic policy vector for many young people and academics.

Yerevan is also the political and military supporter of the de-facto independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, disputed by oil-rich Azerbaijan, which is no way to be described as an “easy-going” country, especially for journalists and democracy activists.

The recent atrocities and violation of ceasefire by Azerbaijanare a proof, that Armenia needs a strong internal and foreign policy development.

In 2015, the 100th commemoration year of the Armenian Genocide, organized in Ottoman Empire and still refused by its legal successor Turkey, Armenia’s authorities initiated a constitution change, which is to reform the country’s political system in a revolutionary way. On December 6th, 2015, the people of Armenia voted in favour of the constitution draft, applauded by the Venice Commission (a Council of Europe commission specialized on constitutional affairs). (Link: http://www.parliament.am/library/sahmanadrakan%20barepoxumner/venetik.ezrakacutyunangl.pdf).

The newly voted constitution turns the country’s political system from a semi-presidential to a parliament-based democracy, with more power for political parties. The head of the state and the government is to be elected by the Parliament; the next President of Armenia is going to have a more representative role, similar to European parliamentary systems. The new constitution is guaranteeing more freedom of speech and more power for judicial system. Surely, the new constitution provides more space for pro-European activists to participate in parliamentary elections next year. A good representation of young professionals in the next parliament is broadly seen as a precondition for a well functioning parliamentary democracy and the ability for more cooperativeness with European structures and countries.

Armenia’s President Serj Sargsyan (Republican Party – EPP) in his speech on 12th February, 2916, announced the beginning of a new era of development. “We don’t expect rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey and an improvement of Armenian-Azeri relations for the near future”, he said, “the only thing we can rely on to improve our economy and democratic structures is the people”. Speaking about current challenges in the region, he stressed the importance of human rights and democracy. Same day, he appointed his former aide, Georgi Kutoyan, a 34 year old lawyer as director of National Security Service of the country. The civil society largely welcomes that appointment, and perceives it as a clear sign of change of generation. Well, as the American writer Denis Waitley said: “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence”.

Obviously, to regional and global geopolitical challenges, Armenia responds with political elite circulation, change of generation and reforms.

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