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Council Of Europe Envoy Urges Faster Reform In Armenia

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

A high-ranking representative of the Council of Europe urged the Armenian authorities on Monday to redouble their efforts to honor political commitments that earned Armenia membership in the respected human rights organization nearly four years ago.

Ambassador Roland Wegener, a Strasbourg-based German diplomat representing the Council’s governing Committee of Ministers, singled out the promised reform of Armenia’s constitution, judicial system and electoral legislation.

“We feel that progress has been made, but we also see that the most important projects still lie ahead,” he told reporters at the end of a fact-finding visit to Yerevan.

Wegener, who heads a special monitoring team formed by the Committee of Ministers, met with President Robert Kocharian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian as well as the leaders of the Armenian parliament factions during the three-day trip. Kocharian, according to his press office, assured the envoy that he is genuinely committed to bringing Armenian legislation into conformity with European standards.

The Armenian authorities are currently working on a package of constitutional amendments that are due to be put to a referendum next summer. Also, the Armenian parliament, dominated by Kocharian supporters, approved last month in the first reading a set of amendments to the country’s electoral code.

Those discussions have been boycotted by the Armenian opposition which refuses to recognize Kocharian’s legitimacy and accuses the authorities of creating a smokescreen of political reform to mislead the Europeans. Opposition leaders reaffirmed their stance in separate meetings with Wegener over the weekend.

One of them, Shavarsh Kocharian, argued that the authorities have not prosecuted any officials involved in vote rigging and human rights abuses and are refusing to abolish the Soviet-era practice of “administrative detentions” repeatedly condemned by the Council of Europe. “The obligations are not being met,” he told RFE/RL. “That’s one of the obsctales to the lack of a [government-opposition] dialogue urged by European structures.”

One of the leaders of the parliament majority, Tigran Torosian, said Wegener urged the top Kocharian allies to give the opposition a say in legislative reform. He said the majority is ready to do so and hopes that the opposition will drop its “preconditions” for the dialogue.

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