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EU Envoys Discuss Political Reform With Armenian Speaker

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

The Yerevan-based ambassadors of leading European Union countries met with parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian on Thursday to discuss the fulfillment of Armenia’s commitments on political reform.

A brief statement released by Baghdasarian’s press service said the discussion focused on the ongoing reform of Armenia’s constitution, electoral code and law on public gatherings. “The EU ambassadors noted the importance of holding reforms and fulfilling the Council of Europe commitments,” it said, suggesting that they are not fully satisfied with the process.

Baghdasarian was cited as reaffirming Yerevan’s stated commitment to “carrying on with democratic reforms” in collaboration with European experts and organizations. No further details were reported.

Constitutional reform was among the conditions for Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe four years ago. The organization’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) urged the Armenian authorities last September to work out sweeping constitutional amendments and put them to a referendum by this June.

But with President Robert Kocharian and his top political allies still working on the final version of those amendments, that deadline is increasingly unlikely to be met. The referendum is now expected to be held in October concurrently with local elections.

The Council of Europe’s so-called Venice Commission expressed misgivings about a package of constitutional amendments which Kocharian and his governing coalition made public last fall, calling for more curbs on sweeping powers enjoyed by the Armenian president. The commission has also been pushing for major changes in Armenia’s controversial laws regulating the conduct of elections and street gatherings.

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