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Commentary: Armenia Shall Overcome

By Serzh Sarkisian Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) Armenia made European headlines for two reasons in the past few months -- one bad and one good.

The first was unrest in our capital after presidential elections in February; the second was a meeting between myself and my neighboring Azerbaijani counterpart on June 7.

Both emphasize that Armenia is very much a country in transition, within Europe's neighborhood. Despite the numerous obstacles in our way, however, Armenia is deepening its reforms and strengthening its democratic institutions as part of a path toward sustainable good governance.

Postelection disagreements among parties led to an opportunity for me to work to bring together a wide political coalition, incorporating four of the five factions represented in parliament. An important part of that coalition's mission are the large-scale democracy-oriented, social, and economic reforms we are implementing at the moment. We are working together to comply with the letter and spirit of Resolution 1609 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the functioning of democratic institutions in Armenia.

Concrete Changes

Tangible reform steps in line with international standards include:

-- Amendments to liberalize the Law on Conducting Meetings, Assemblies, Rallies and Demonstrations,

-- Broadening the rights of the parliamentary opposition through concrete legislative changes, guaranteeing an inclusive role in the political system and decision-making processes,

-- The drafting of a comprehensive amendment package to the electoral code in line with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recommendations, which includes provisions for participation of intra- and extraparliamentary parties,

-- Significant legislative changes to the TV and radio law.

All of these reforms are conducted with positive expert assessment by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission.

These are, by any measure, decisive steps towards long-term reforms that will address the discontent that emerged after recent elections and guarantee more freedoms for the people of Armenia. We welcome any proposals from the European Union and the upcoming French presidency on supporting this reform process and ensuring that it is implemented effectively.

Independent Findings

Above and beyond PACE recommendations, we have embarked on major law enforcement reform, and a parliamentary ad hoc committee that includes all factions of the National Assembly has been established to investigate the tragic circumstances of postelectoral events. This committee will have the widest possible involvement to study all facts and come up with its own independent findings. Extraparliamentary groups, civil society institutions, and independent international experts are encouraged to participate in these efforts.

We, along with PACE's Monitoring Committee, have observed important progress to date, but there is still much work to be done. Fortunately, the political will exists within our coalition to carry through with our ambitious plans. We recognize that our attractiveness as a partner for Europe and the broader international community is at stake.

History has been cruel to Armenia. Our people have overcome enormous difficulties, both in the distant and very recent past. But we are determined that our country will not remain stuck in permanent transition. Taking our cue from the U.S. civil rights movement, I am confident in saying that, despite the challenges ahead in terms of our democratic development, we shall overcome.

As an enthusiastic member of the European neighborhood, Armenia will eventually ensure that its democratic governance is irreversible.

Serzh Sarkisian is the president of Armenia

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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