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Artashes Geghamyan: Constitutional reforms are necessitated by serious challenges for Armenia’s security

Photo: Photolure

I have just scrutinized the articles written by various Armenian experts and politicians concerning the first seven chapters of the new constitution of Armenia and have found lots of interesting ideas both proving and disproving the need for constitutional reforms. Some of the comments had nothing to do with the reforms and contained only low-quality criticism of the huge work done by the Armenian President’s Commission on Constitutional reforms. But in this article we will try to understand what the reforms are about and if they are needed.

The views of most of the commentators are based on comparison of the new constitutional articles and paragraphs with the realities shaped by the old ones. You may ask, “What else should they compare them with?” This question may seem quite logical but only at the first glance.

Let me explain what I mean. 

As a result of the parliamentary elections held on May 12 2012, the Republican Party of Armenia formed a faction having 50%+1 votes. Hence, being the leader of that party, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan can be sure that all of his initiatives will be supported by the parliament. As a result, he has appeared with a number of crucial decisions over the last eight years, including the protocols on establishment of diplomatic relations and on development of bilateral relations with Turkey.

One more such decision was to join the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union and, at the same time, to continue the Eastern Partnership with the EU and the talks to sign the association agreement.

The time that has passed since then has proved that Sargsyan’s decision to join the Eurasian Economic Union had no alternative. One has only to think about the events that have taken place in Ukraine after the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. Here we should also remember the joint declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga (May 22 2015), which says that “Summit participants welcome the steps taken since the Vilnius Summit in 2013 in developing differentiated bilateral relations between the EU and each of its partners. Participants welcome the common understanding reached on the scope for a future agreement between the EU and Armenia aimed at further developing and strengthening their comprehensive cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.”

After Sept 3 2013, Armenia’s policy on this issue has not changed, while the EU’s policy has become more pragmatic. I think they in Brussels keep in mind the events in Ukraine. Here I would like to remind you the statement made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Vilnius. She said that despite Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union, the EU would be looking for ways to cooperate with that country as it was an important partner for Europe. Two years later, before the Riga Summit, Merkel said that the EU respected the right of each Eastern Partner to choose its own development paths and particularly, Armenia’s choice to be economically closer to Russia.

It was not a coincidence that I mentioned the Armenian-Turkish protocols. That step showed to the whole world the high level of Armenia’s political mentality. Due to its constructive position on such a sensitive issue, our country gained a lot of sympathy around the world, which could be seen during the commemorations of the 100th year of the Armenian Genocide.

Here, one just cannot overestimate the words pronounced by the Pope on Apr 12 2015. His Holiness qualified the events that took place in the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the 20th century as the first genocide of the century.

And now imagine what would happen if President Sargsyan had no majority in the parliament. We remember that not all parliamentary forces welcomed the initiatives to improve relations with Turkey and to join the Eurasian Economic Union. Had those decisions not been approved, Armenia would have appeared as unreliable partner in the eyes of the world. And the consequences of this would be really disastrous.

The consequences related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would be no less dangerous. The Armenian president and the Republican Party have repeatedly stressed the need to find ways to settle the conflict peacefully under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group, while one of the parliamentary factions keeps insisting that Armenia should recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Should this happen, the many-year efforts of the president and the foreign ministry would be wrecked, while the Azerbaijani authorities would get the gift they have been waiting for so many years: no more OSCE Minsk Group as the mediator of the Nagorno-Karaabkh peace process. It is not hard to imagine what a response this would receive from the MG co-chair states. And this might well have happened, were it not for the majority of the Armenian parliament.

And now we are coming to the most important point. The constitutional changes concerning the powers of the president, the parliament, the prime minister and the government make it almost impossible for them to have different views regarding Armenia’s vital problems. What mechanisms this implies is a question for the constitutional law experts that are drafting the amendments. I think those people are real professionals.

Any unbiased politician, expert or just citizen of Armenia can find confirmation of my words in the video of the press conference given by Vardan Poghosyan and Hrayr Tovmasyan in the Constitutional Court on July 17.

 Artashes Geghamyan, MP representing the Republican Party of Armenia, the head of the permanent delegation of Armenia to the OSCE PA, the leader of National Unity Party

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