Today and tomorrow Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) Marko Mihkelson and Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu Hannes Hanso are on a working visit in Armenia. Their meetings with the representatives of the Government and the Parliament will focus on bilateral relations and the Eastern Partnership programme of the European Union.
“The Eastern Partnership programme of the European Union is one of the central foreign policy issues of the Estonian Presidency, and therefore the meetings in Armenia will focus on it,” Mihkelson said. “Although Armenia has decided to join the Eurasian Economic Union, which is led by Russia, there will certainly be room for cooperation also with the European Union.”
Mihkelson said that Estonia had shared with Armenia its best transition and reform experience practices in building up of democratic institutions, and was ready to do that also in the future. So far the development cooperation has concerned e-state and the educational sector. There have been several projects to support the development of democracy, the IT sector, and business.
Mihkelson emphasised that the main challenge of the Eastern Partnership policy of the European Union in the coming years was deepening the relations between Armenia and the EU, and the continuing democratisation of the country. He expressed the hope that the framework agreement between Armenia and the EU would be signed during the Estonian Presidency.
Chairman of the National Defence Committee Hannes Hanso admitted that in recent years the foreign and security policy priorities of Armenia had been aimed at the CIS and Russia. In his opinion, there is high potential for developing bilateral relations mainly in business, education, civil society and IT services sector.
“Keeping in mind the close defence cooperation between Armenia and Russia, we do not see the need or wish for closer defence cooperation with Armenia at the moment. But it is important to keep the communication channels open and to hear also Armenia’s positions. And we are always ready to discuss new ideas and initiatives,” Hanso said.
Hanso thinks that the relations between Armenia and Russia are good only conditionally, and actually Russia only wants to have more control in the region. “At the same time we know that nobody wants the status of a little brother,” he said. “The Armenian society is rather disappointed in Russia’s behaviour, and sees through the propaganda. Therefore it is very important to support the development of civil society.”
During the visit, Mihkelson and Hanso will meet with Vice-President of the National Assembly of Armenia Eduard Sharmazanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandyan, First Deputy Minister of Defence of Armenia Artak Zakaryan, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations of the National Assembly Armen Ashotyan and Chairman of the Standing Committee on Defence and Security of the National Assembly Koryun Nahapetyan, with whom they will discuss bilateral relations and also Armenia’s relations with its neighbours and the situation in South Caucasus in a wider context.
On Wednesday, Mihkelson and Hanso will attend a conference on the relations between the EU and Armenia, where the European Union’s neighbourhood policy and ties with Russia and China will be discussed. During their visit they will also get information about the Armenian e-learning portal Dasaran, which enables to provide equal access to education for all children in Armenia. At present the portal connects all public schools across Armenia and has nearly one million registered users.
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