For the participants of the Forum for Democracy in Yerevan, EU Ambassador to Armenia Andrea Viktorin explained the importance of democracy and freedom of speech.
She said that democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedom are closely linked and that this relationship strengthens one another. Democracy is not a one-time process, it is the result of daily work and it is important that everyone participates in it. She explained that democracy is an environment in which anyone can enjoy equal rights, express their free will, have the opportunity to vote in decisions, and be able to hold accountable persons accountable. Democracy means active involvement in government activities in accordance with the rule of law. The ambassador said that this could not be achieved at once and would require long-term efforts.
According to the quiz, there are challenges that affect democracy around the world. Armenia has also faced such serious challenges as, for example, the Covid-Pandemic, the 44-day war, the post-war situation, and the recent impact of the Russian war on Ukraine. She noted that there is no peace and security without democracy. These challenges have important social, psychological and economic consequences and are difficult to overcome in terms of human rights. The ambassador named the organisation of transparent early parliamentary elections in 2021 as the most important achievement, despite the short pre-election time and the pandemic.
Victorin noted that the elections reflect the will of the people for the country to continue on the path of democracy and reform, in which the role of free media is great. She stressed that the EU supports media freedom and pluralism as one of the pillars of modern democracy and a forum for open and free debate.
Armenia needs a strong civil society, Victorin said. Active public involvement is important to achieve political change. She noted that human rights defenders and NGOs that defend the rights of women and children, fight domestic violence and support the LGBTQ community have become targets of criticism and hatred. The ambassador said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not selective, everyone has equal rights, regardless of race, nationality, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Victorin called the criminalisation of violence by parliament in 2020 a positive step and explained that under the close Armenia-EU partnership, the EU is helping Armenia strengthen democracy, strengthen the rule of law, protect human rights and create a peaceful and secure environment for its people.