National Citizens’ Initiative Examines Armenia’s Road to Democracy

The National Citizens’ Initiative
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel: (+374 – 1) 27.16.00, 27.00.03
Fax: (+374 – 1) 52.48.46
E-mail: [email protected]

June 3, 2004

National Citizens’ Initiative Examines Armenia’s Road to Democracy

Yerevan — The National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI) today convened
a specialized policy discussion on “Armenia’s Current Phase
of Democratization: The Backdrop of European Integration.” The
assembled policy experts and public figures addressed the specific
characteristics of the Republic and its integration into the European
family of nations, as well as the three-year track record of its
Council of Europe membership and further development prospects.

Raffi Hovannisian, founder of NCI and the Armenian Center for National
and International Studies (ACNIS), greeted the capacity audience
with opening remarks. “Against the background of national interests
and geopolitical transformations, European integration has become
a principal part of Armenia ‘s policy agenda. Given the results of
ACNIS’s recent expert opinion surveys, the integration inclinations
prevalent in Armenian society are viewed largely within the context
of safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and preserving its national
value system,” Hovannisian said.

In a paper on “The Three-Year Track Record of European Integration:
Advance or Retreat?,” parliamentarian Shavarsh Kocharian, who serves
in Armenia’s delegation to the Council of Europe, focused on the fact
that the Armenian public shares the pivotal principles of the Council:
development of democracy, establishment of the rule of law, honoring
of minority rights, maintenance of unique cultural heritage, and other
provisions of the European system of standards which correspond to our
national mindset and historical experience. “We had rather favorable
conditions to integrate into all European institutions, ensuring
advancement in all relevant spheres. Unfortunately, our authorities
and a certain segment of society do not realize the real significance
of the Council of Europe, and thus the last three years have turned
into a period of lost opportunities,” Shavarsh Kocharian held.

Tigran Jrbashian, executive director of the Armenian-European
Policy and Legal Advice Center, delivered an illustrated lecture
on “Armenia in the Conception of ‘Enlarged Europe’: Promises
and Prospects.” European integration paves a way to the future,
he asserted, as the new and wider Europe is aimed at enhancement of
democracy and security of peoples. “Membership in the enlarged Europe,
apart from accounting for serious material support, offers an excellent
chance to partake in common European programs such as cultivation of
socioeconomic policy and close cooperation in the fields of energy,
transport, culture, science and education, and, most importantly,
the refinement of our own institutional values.”

MP Armen Rustamian’s presentation on “Armenia’s Fulfillment of Its
Council of Europe Commitments” did not take place because of his
absence, but the ensuing discussion considered in detail all the
issues flowing from it.

The second session was completely devoted to exchanges of views
and policy recommendations among the public figures and policy
specialists in attendance. Noteworthy were contributions by former
prime minister Khosrov Harutiunian of the Christian Democratic Union;
former ambassador and current Yerevan State University professor
Davit Hovhannisian; Haik Sargsian, dean of the economics faculty of
Yerevan State University; Hrant Khachatrian of the Constitutional
Law Union; Mushegh Lalayan of the Republican Party; Petros Makeyan
of the Democratic Fatherland Party; Levon Zourabian of the Capital
Markets Development Project; Vardan Khachatrian, theology professor
at Yerevan State University; Tamar Gevorgian of the United Labor
Party; law professor Hrair Tovmasian; and many others. The speakers
attached prime importance to democratization within the framework of
European benchmarks, institutional reforms, legislative improvements,
and Armenia’s fulfillment of its Council of Europe commitments.

ACNIS analyst Hovsep Khurshudian closed the seminar with summary
remarks and words of gratitude. “Armenia’s drive toward European
integration is not an end in itself,” he said. “It is based on
Armenia’s own vital interest, and among all else helps to resolve
its security concerns. In this respect, today’s deliberations have
been very useful.”

The National Citizens’ Initiative is a public non-profit association
founded in 2001 by former foreign minister Raffi K. Hovannisian,
his colleagues, and fellow citizens with the purpose of realizing
the rule of law and overall improvements in the state of the state,
society, and public institutions. The National Citizens’ Initiative
is guided by a Coordinating Council, which includes individual
citizens and representatives of various public, scientific,
and educational establishments. Five commissions on Law and State
Administration, Socioeconomic Issues, Foreign Policy, Spiritual and
Cultural Challenges, and the Youth constitute the vehicles for the
Initiative’s work and outreach.

For further information, please call (3741) 27-16-00 or 27-00-03;
fax (3741) 52-48-46; e-mail [email protected]; or visit