Although Armenia declared its commitment to European values as far back as the 1990s, joining the Council of Europe in 2001 and other European organizations later, Armenia has no shortage of people trying to undermine this commitment. Some of them oppose Europe against Armenia’s ally Russia, attempting to misinterpret the essence of European values. Others believe that Armenian people won’t be able to preserve their national values and identity if they adopt European values. I would like to add my personal voice to this debate on Armenia’s European prospects and system of values.
First, what do European values state? Pro-Russian preachers immediately raise the issue of respect for the rights of sexual minorities in European countries. Meanwhile, the European Union respects not only sexual, but all other minorities as well, including ethnic ones, which allows Armenian organizations not only actively to work in many EU countries, keeping the national identity of the community members, but also to receive state funding in certain places.
It should be noted that Europe is based on the main values of liberty and democracy, and that these are not just words. The European values were formed during the Renaissance and found political expression in the French Revolution of 1789. They are stated in the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted by Armenia and Russia too when they joined the Council years ago, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Political liberties, democracy and the concept of constitutional state were later adopted by many more countries and now stand as the values of each EU state and the EU itself.
The EU stated its principles in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was solemnly signed in 2000 and became a part of the Treaty of Lisbon signed in 2009. Let us consider what Article 2 of the EU Treaty states:
“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”.
I repeat - respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Add the freedom of speech and civil society that we cannot imagine our public life without. Could you clarify which of these values contradict our Armenian system of values? Did any EU country lose its national identity and traditions by adopting these values? Did the Italians become less Italian, and the Swedish less Swedish? The opposite occurred, as far as I can tell - open borders, free markets and travel, and complete priority of democracy created a situation where nations and states, being members of one family, also have constant free competition and keep their own values and traditions while taking the best from others.
Do not think that I idealize Europe. I don’t. It’s widely known that any EU country and the EU itself have a lot of unsettled issues of their own, which are in need of urgent resolution. Unfortunately, our country suffers from almost the same issues. However, contrary to the European countries, Armenia has to solve them alone.
I personally believe that the number one advantage of the European system of values is the availability of educational programs. In the 1990s, when I myself was a student, we could only dream about that. Today, many students and young specialists easily find professional and developing educational programs in Europe, apply and participate, often for free, communicating with peers from European and other countries, finding common interests and sharing mutual values in the process. Young people who participate in such programs usually have a very different view of life – discovering their motherland as a part of a bigger world living by the same values.
Is there an alternative to the European prospect in Armenia? I do not think there is. The fact that our country joined the Eurasian Economic Union in 2013 doesn’t contradict my words, since organizations based on economic interests cannot mean more than an entire system of values. Even being a member of the EAEU, we didn’t stop yearning for a constitutional state and democracy. And let us not forget that the word “Eurasian” has “Europe” in it.
Davit Alaverdyan is Chief Editor at Mediamax, Associate Professor at YSU.