Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections on April 2 will be “decisive for the future of the country”, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Switalski has said in an interview with the Mediamax news agency, in which he stressed the significance of the fight against electoral fraud and the broader issue of corruption – “we never close our eyes,” he warned.
“These elections provide Armenia with the opportunity to move closer to the European standards and to open a new chapter in building of democratic future of Armenia,” the Ambassador said.
Armenia needs deep and comprehensive reforms, and only a government formed on the basis of fair and legitimate elections “has the right, political mandate and legitimacy to go forward with ambitious and deep reforms”, said Switalski.
The Ambassador said the “unprecedented” €7 million EU support for the electoral deal between the government coalition and some opposition parties sent a signal of the European Union’s commitment to the electoral process.
“We believe that the very fact that for the first time opposition parties, even if not all of them, and the government coalition were together for many months negotiating seriously on how to eliminate the possibilities for rigging the elections is very important politically, because it is unprecedented in the whole European Neighborhood area,” the EU Ambassador said.
As well as tackling irregularities in the election process, Switalski stressed the importance of progress on the related issue of corruption, which he described as “as one of the most important systemic obstacles for development of Armenia: for the political system, for the economic governance and judicial sphere – for all aspects of the functioning of the society.”
He said the EU had allocated €15 million to support the government in fighting corruption, but that only half that amount had been disbursed due to the government’s failure to meet anti-corruption targets. However, the situation was changing and the government’s diagnosis of the situation was now the same as that of the EU Delegation, he said: “The initiatives in the recent months, the narrative of the Prime Minister and the top officials in Armenia is very encouraging, and we as the European Union stand ready to help.”