YEREVAN — Donald Tusk, the outgoing head of the European Union’s top decision-making body, again praised the Armenian government’s reform agenda when he visited Armenia on Wednesday.
Tusk noted “positive dynamics” in the country after holding talks with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. “I am encouraged by the progress under your leadership,” he told Pashinian at a joint news briefing.
Tusk, who will be succeeded by Belgium’s Charles Michel as president of the European Council in November, specifically reaffirmed EU support for ongoing efforts to reform Armenia’s judicial system.
“The EU welcomes the focus on creating an independent, efficient and accountable judicial system,” Tusk told reporters. “A solid judiciary is an essential element of a mature democracy and for economic and social development. Also here the EU will continue to support with expertise and mobilize further resources.”
“In recognition of the government’s reform efforts, the EU has almost doubled our support to Armenia in 2019,” he added. “These funds will help to implement priority projects, including infrastructure and environment.”
The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, announced last month that the 28-nation bloc will provide 25 million euros ($28 million) in additional aid to Armenia this year. She hailed “democratic reforms” implemented by Pashinian’s government after chairing, together with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian, a second session of the EU-Armenia Partnership Council.
The council is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the landmark Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed by the two sides in 2017. The CEPA commits Yerevan to gradually “approximating” Armenian economic laws and regulations to the EU’s legal framework.
Pashinyan stressed the importance of the 350-page accord after the meeting with Tusk. He said the CEPA will not only lead to closer ties between Armenia and the EU but also “assist in the implementation of the Armenian authorities’ reform agenda.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was also high on the agenda of the talks. Tusk urged the parties to the conflict to “take measures to restore an atmosphere conducive to peace and real talks.”
“The conflict does not have a military solution and needs a political settlement in accordance with international law and principles … The EU is already supporting peace-building activities and is ready to further support measures to prepare the populations for peace,” said the top EU official.
Tusk made similar comments on the Karabakh issue after meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Tuesday.