Armenia's EU Delegation Head: Visa-Free Travel On the Horizon
Piotr Świtalski, Head of the European Union Delegation to Armenia, told reporters today that the EU would do its best to see that the recently signed Comprehensive and Enhanced Cooperation Agreement with Armenia is implemented and that it wasn’t time “to rest on our laurels”.
The Agreement, signed in Brussels on November 24, seeks to deepen ties between Armenia and the EU despite Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.
When asked if Armenian would be penalized if it fails to meet its obligations as specified in the Agreement, Świtalski responded that it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about such possible measures.
“I am an optimist. I was so inclined before the signing of the Agreement. We will succeed,” said Świtalski.
Świtalski skirted around answering a question as to whether Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was correct when, during an interview with a Radio Liberty in Brussels, he said that it wasn’t Armenia who refused to sign an Association Agreement with the EU in 2013, but the EU itself.
“Is this important today? Friends, let’s look towards the future. It’s not the time to look towards the past and relive those emotions we experienced in 2013,” said Świtalski.
The EU official said that while the new agreement lacked many facets of the 2013 arrangement, it is, nevertheless, promising.
Świtalski said the Agreement wasn’t a magic wand and that citizens in Armenia wouldn’t see improvements in the life overnight, but that it could be used as a tool to better defend their rights.
Hetq’ reporter reminded Świtalski that he previously had said that Armenia should not look forward to visa-free travel to EU countries, given that a few legislative initiatives hadn’t been passed in Armenia, specifically, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Law.
The reporter asked Świtalski if he was familiar with the bill before the Armenian parliament and if it met with EU standards.
“The EU’s position is clear. There are several conditions that must be met. Afterwards, there will be a decision on visa liberalization. You know me from my past statements. You know that I’m an optimist.”
Świtalski said that visa liberalization is a privilege, not a right, and those countries that wish to be called European must believe in Europe.
“This is that pivotal speech that must come from you. They must hear your voice in Europe; that you want to freely travel to Europe. I believe that free travel will also extend to Armenia. Thus, I advise patience and a European mentality,” said Świtalski.
The EU official didn’t wish to comment on the domestic violence bill, but expressed hope that the hearings could be successfully concluded on “the basis of a national consensus”.