"As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe"
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here in Yerevan for the launch of this new and important joint Action Plan –
This is yet another step in the positive journey that Armenia and the Council of Europe are taking together.
Europe today is in deep crisis.
Russia’s ongoing, illegal and completely unacceptable war in Ukraine, is causing terrible suffering –
But this is in fact the most awful example of a broader trend.
The rise of aggressive nationalism poses a direct threat to the values and standards that the Council of Europe exists to protect –
At the same time, we should do more to sustain and strengthen European democracies throughout Europe.
Our response must therefore be to reassemble and focus upon the key building blocks of democracy and to build something stronger than ever before.
The Action Plan that we are launching today –
And the proactive approach of the Armenian authorities –
Are a very good example of what must be done in practice – and in all over Europe.
Of course, the AP is only a part – and a very important part – of the overall co-operation between the CoE and Armenia.
Armenia has been a member of the Council of Europe family for more than two decades now, continuously making important contributions to the organisation as such, and at the same time, benefitting from – the organisation’s expertise and our joint co-operation.
It has been interesting to follow the evolution of this relationship and relevant events in Armenia over the years, including the conduct of major reforms –
Often in difficult circumstances –
And to the benefit of everyday citizens –
The Council of Europe has very much appreciated the excellent co-operation with Armenia, and the progress made in several areas.
Not least through the most recent joint Action Plan, which concluded just last year.
What has been achieved within that framework is substantial and significant.
A new judicial code, for example, which improves the structure of courts and the evaluation of judges, while respecting judicial independence.
And a new criminal code and code of criminal procedure that move away from punitive punishments and towards rehabilitating offenders –
In addition to a revised anti-corruption strategy and other structures and tools that have increased the capacity, and the effectiveness, of investigations.
I also want to make special mention of the awareness-raising campaign and steps taken to enhance professionals’ ability to combat violence against women.
A fundamental priority in many Europeans countries today –
And also the creation of an Interagency Committee that is helping to improve the execution of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.
I mention these two in particular because they are issues of critical importance to the Council of Europe –
For all our member states –
And because the new Action Plan that we are launching today is designed to help Armenia take further steps forward in dealing with them.
In fact, there is, quite rightly and naturally, an overlap in themes between the previous Action Plan and this one.
That reflects the consistency and sustainability of our joint approach.
But there are also new areas of co-operation in the plan.
These include freedom of expression, not least for the media.
There will also be measures to protect personal data, social and labour rights, and of course the environment, seen through the lens of a human rights perspective.
Good governance and local government reforms, combatting cybercrime, preventing corruption and many other areas also feature high on our common cooperation agenda.
On these subjects, and more, the Action Plan is intended to make life better for the people of this great country –
Underpinned by the commitment from the Armenian authorities –
And with the support and co-operation of the Council of Europe.
Looking back, much has been achieved in this country in recent times.
But together we can achieve yet more.
I am grateful to the Armenian authorities for their firm determination and political commitment.
And to the European Union and other partners and donors, who are providing the financial support required.
This is an important investment of time, commitment and money, and the concrete results will be forthcoming.
Thank you for your attention.