BERLIN — On January 29, members of the German-Armenian Forum gathered in a room at the Bundestag (Parliament) for their annual meeting. The Forum, which will celebrate its fifth birthday in May, was founded upon the initiative of Bundestag member Albert Weiler (CDU), as a vehicle to promote dialogue between Germany and the Republic of Armenia at all levels. This includes exchange programs and visits of persons active in the political and economic realm, as well as teachers, academics and students. The aim is to increase knowledge and understanding about the two nations, their history, culture and current political activities.
In response to requests by members to know more about the relations between Armenia and the European Union, President Weiler dedicated his keynote speech to this theme. Reporting on the advantages of the EU-Armenia Partnership Agreement, Weiler said the dynamic was definitely positive. In April and May 2018, he said, the peaceful protests had led to a new government, which received a mandate “to shape the present and future of the country for the well-being of the Armenian people.” Germans have displayed special interest in the foreign policy course the new regime would follow and are pleased to see “the enormous value placed on cooperation with the EU.” Weiler expressed his conviction that support for Armenia’s reform course will continue.
Reviewing the past years’ progress, Weiler noted that “on November 24, 2017 the in-depth and comprehensive Partnership Agreement between Armenia and the European Union was signed in Brussels, a document that defines the future of our cooperation.” The Bundestag presented a bill for its ratification, which was debated and passed by a vast majority on April 4, 2019. After President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Foreign Minister Heiko 7Maas signed the bill, it was officially ratified in August.
Weiler characterized the agreement as a “complex document,” in that it maintains the substance of an earlier association agreement, but excludes a free trade zone, due to Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. And yet a closer relationship to the EU’s system of norms and regulations should ensue in the interest of enhancing trade and investments. Fundamentally, Weiler said, it is a matter of providing support for Armenia’s sovereignty, its economic and social transformation and new political orientation based on democratic values, “securing universal human rights and individual freedom, supporting civil society, and strengthening the rule of law, separation of powers and representative democracy.”
Closer relations with the EU “means at the same time stable and peaceful regional cooperation.” Weiler noted Germany’s efforts at enhancing preconditions for this, by demanding open borders and good neighborly relations. He placed special emphasis on the commitment shared by Germany and Armenia to upholding existing formats for conflict resolution; for the EU these are the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group, dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Another important point he made was that the EU can intensify collaboration with countries that have strong economic and political ties to the Russian Federation; nations have the sovereign right to shape their relations to the EU, and regional associations are not aimed against any other country.
It is in economic and trade relations that Germany and Armenia have made significant progress. As Weiler reported, bilateral trade in 2018 grew 30 percent over the previous year, to 344.5 million euros. The Armenian government’s pledge to introduce economic reforms and fight corruption will further this positive trend.