Democracy pays, sometimes literally. According to Armenian news reports,
the European Union is dangling a hefty check before Armenia to motivate the financially struggling country to hold a clean parliamentary election in May.
The aid money, set aside by the EU for the 16 members of its European Neighbourhood Policy program, is not for Armenia alone. The funds will be distributed on a “more for more” basis; in other words, the more democracy, the more money.
“[T]hat means the partner countries will receive more money, more assistance from the EU, based on the progress in democratic reforms,” explained Peter Stano, the European Commission spokesman for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. “In [the] case of Armenia[,] this formula [more for more] means that one of the commitments to democratic values will be shown in the conduct of the elections,” Stano told EurasiaNet.org.
But Armenia will have to do its democracy homework before it can find out the size of its possible share. “When it comes to individual amounts for individual countries[,] nothing has been decided yet,” Stano said.
Yet even if the aid is far smaller than the millions dancing before some Armenian readers' eyes, it's still nothing to sneeze at for Armenia, rated last year by Forbes magazine as the world's second-worst economy. (The EU also has just formally begun talks with Armenia on a free trade agreement that can help open up lucrative European markets in exchange for economic reform.)
Armenia, though, has not had a squeaky clean record of late with elections -- the 2008 presidential elections ended in ten deaths and widespread arrests after a crackdown on opposition protests.