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discussing eastern european integration in armenia

On 20-21 October 2011, 150 civil society delegates, high level experts and decision makers gathered in Yerevan, Armenia, at a Congress organized by the European Movement International (EMI) in cooperation with its National Council in Armenia (EMA), to discuss the theme “Fostering Civil Society’s role for further European integration in the Eastern Partnership”. The participants came from the six countries of the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), as well as from ten other European countries. Among the delegates were three women from  ICJW's affiliate in Georgia, the International Foundation LEA. 

EMI Georgia.JPG 
Marine Solomonishvili reports that welcoming remarks and opening speeches were given by Charles Ferdinand Nothomb, Belgian Minister of State and vice-president of the EMI, and chair of the Political Committee of the European Union and its Neighbours;Vigen Sargsyan, Chief of Staff of the President of Armenia; Garik Tsarukyan, Honorary President of the European Movement in Armenia; Raul de Luzenberg, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia; and Pat Cox, EMI President.
Pat Cox, EMI President, noted that “Our values are our shared beliefs in a pluralist democracy, in multi-party systems, based on free, open and fair elections; in the rule of law with a separation of powers between the executive and the judicial branches of government; in respect for individual human rights and the dignity of the person and in the classic freedoms of expression, association and religion”. 
He continued that “Our identity as Europeans matters to us wherever we come from and to be European together does not require us to be less of who we are but ideally permits us to be more of who we wish to be. Respect for diversity is an important aspect of contemporary European values. So too is solidarity between the richer and the poorer within Europe and globally between the North and the South”. 
Mr. Cox stressed that “The Yerevan Congress hopefully will encourage civil society deepen its network and roots encouraging it to educate, to motivate and to advocate. Our congress reminds us also that integrating Europe is not just a top down elite project but rather must be legitimized and built on consent from the bottom up”. 
He underlined that “The European Movement is politically active but is not politically partisan, not party political. It is necessary to understand this distinction as it is not the role of civil society organisations to be political parties but rather they should play a different and complementary role to representative democracy. Moreover Civil Society needs a system of good governance, one that permits the ability to rotate and to renew its leadership. In order to be able to assure such minimum standards funding has to be made available to guarantee sustainability but without so many strings attached that it compromises autonomy”.
With regards to the free movement of people and the visa question,Naira Zohrabyan, Chair of the Committee on European Integration of the National Assembly of Aremenia, said that “Armenia is ready to conclude visa agreements with several states and that in the framework of the visa facilitation process 16 professional groups have been allocated”. She underlined that of course some security problems remain, and that for the process of European integration and migration those problems would need to be solved. Ms Zohrabyan was nonetheless hopeful that given the current cooperation process between the European Union and Armenia future and current challenges will be managed.
Zdzislaw Raczynsiki, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Armenia, referred to the fact that “Poles have a long history in striving for their freedom and rights. One of the most memorable moments in Poland’s history was written by Solidarnosc. Solidar means one together with the other never one against the other. This is what the Eastern Partnership and the Civil Society is about. This is the very idea that stands behind the European integration”. He continued that “the fruitful discussions and the exchange of opinions during this congress have given us new incentives for cooperation and will stimulate greater solidarity”.  
Hovik Abrahamyan, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, welcomed the Yerevan Congress in Armenia as a step to strengthen Civil Society. He said that “Armenia was the first Eastern Partnership country to join the European Movement. Recently an association agreement was launched between Europe and Armenia. Armenia is ready to embrace the human rights and democracy agenda. He pointed out that the National Assembly has adopted a new code for the elections in conformity with democratic standards soon to enter force”. He promised that Armenia will seek to deliver good results and that he expects Armenia to participate more fully in the European integration process. 
President Pat Cox concluded that “The European Movement International Eastern Partnership, which has been born here in Yerevan over the last few days, provides us with a well of good practice from which we can draw together inspiration and motivation and develop our capacity to act”.  
During the two day program, the participants had the opportunity to share best practice and work on a political strategy aimed at providing recommendations on the further development of regional civil society dialogue. The strategy will be published on the EMI website reflecting the weekend’s unprecedented exercise in cooperation in the history of the post-Soviet states of the region.
ICJW delegates were present at the official reception hosted at the office of the EU in Yerevan by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia.