All posts by admin

On 30 November, the EU Ambassador to Armenia Andrea Wiktorin participated in the closing ceremony of the EU-funded “Access to Renewable and Efficient Energy in Municipalities Vayk and Spitak” project, implemented by Habitat Armenia in partnership with Spitak and Vayk Municipalities.

The Ambassador highlighted the importance of energy-efficiency activities in Armenia: “This is an important event. In March the EU launched a High-Level Energy Efficiency Initiative to deliver on reforms and increase energy-efficiency capacity. Political engagement at the highest level is needed to make this a success, to reduce energy consumption, to improve citizens’ health and living standards and combat climate change. Increased awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency by decision makers is key. We all understand it is high time we engaged in this direction. Armenia is moving forward on its sustainable energy pathway with strong support from the EU; we are actively collaborating with the Government and all stakeholders”.

Since December 2014 the Habitat for Humanity Armenia Foundation has been implementing the “Access to Renewable and Efficient Energy in Municipalities Vayk and Spitak” project with the financial support of the EU. The main purpose of the project was to assist the municipalities of Spitak and Vayk to develop and test energy-saving models through energy-efficiency measures and the use of solar energy in public and residential buildings. During the project, detailed energy audits in 16 residential buildings and Vayk Culture House were carried out; studies into building maintenance services, energy-efficiency awareness, and residents’ willingness to participate in the project were carried out in 45 residential buildings; technical assessments and evaluations were undertaken in 57 residential buildings. All these studies have shown that residential and public buildings in Vayk and Spitak did not meet current energy-efficiency standards. In total, energy-efficiency improvements were carried out in 45 residential buildings (12 in Vayk, 33 in Spitak) and in 2 public buildings (Vayk Culture House and Spitak Nursery #2). The total project budget was €1,687,539, of which the European Union contribution was €1,350,000.

On the initiative of the EU Delegation to Armenia and the Government of the Republic of Armenia, a joint press conference was organised on 26 November to mark the 2nd anniversary of the signing of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Luc Devigne, the Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia and OSCE at the European External Action Service, Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East and Institution Building at the European Commission, who were in Armenia on a working visit and Avet Adonts, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia held a press conference. The EU representatives welcomed Armenia’s commitment to reform and to the implementation of the EU-Armenia Agreement.

“We very much welcome Armenia’s commitment to reforms and to implement CEPA, which we signed 2 years ago. We have been positively impressed by the professionalism and seriousness with which Armenian authorities have taken this Agreement. It’s motivating to see that what we do will deliver benefits for people of Armenia and the EU. CEPA represents modernisation reforms and EU standards in all key areas. We are happy that Armenian civil society is actively monitoring and contributing to CEPA’s implementation. We are looking forward to the next EU-Armenia Partnership Committee meeting on 16 December in Brussels, where the CEPA Implementation Roadmap elaborated by the Armenian Government will be discussed. We are looking forward to continuing our support to Armenia and the Armenian Government’s reform efforts”, said Director Luc Devigne in his speech.

“I would like to highlight three things. Firstly, how does Armenia benefit from CEPA? We strongly believe that this will create new opportunities for people, new jobs and will help to shape an economy that works for all. Secondly, the EU is investing substantially in support of ambitious reforms to make Armenia ready to benefit from the potential of this Agreement. The CEPA Reform Facility will advise the Government on strategic reforms through EU High-Level Advisers and a series of twinning projects. Additionally, CEPA banking facility will support the private sector to adjust to CEPA requirements. Thirdly, why to invest in Armenia? We see an ambitious vision from Armenia in terms of reform. Armenia is a country famous for innovation; we are investing in young people – the future of Armenia is in their bright, hospitable hands”, mentioned Director Lawrence Meredith.

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Foreign Minister Avet Adonts highlighted the importance of CEPA, the ongoing process of its ratification and full implementation. The Deputy Foreign Minister also touched upon the importance of launching of visa liberalization dialogue between Armenia and the EU, as well as the vision of the Republic of Armenia on the future of the Eastern Partnership. The press conference was followed by the inclusive “Stronger Together” fashion show with participation of people with disabilities.

On 20 November, on World Children’s Day, the EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, the Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of the Republic of Armenia Lusine Araqelyan and the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia Janna Andreasyan participated in the #TakeAction Ideathon at Vanadzor Technology Centre, which was organised with the support of the European Union. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of local communities on human rights protection by engaging children in addressing the issues in the field. The event offered 150 children aged 13-17 from Shirak, Lori and Tavush marzes a platform to learn more about their rights and responsibilities, as well as collaborate on developing creative ideas to enhance the lives of their communities. Children developed 30 projects; three projects won the contest, one per marz.

The EU Ambassador welcomed all the participants: “The EU attaches great importance to the protection of human rights. As a teacher in my first profession, I would like to highlight that it is important for a teacher to continue learning and accepting criticism positively. Students also have the right to make their voice heard. The purpose of today’s event is to teach how to present an idea and make it available”.

The winning projects will be brought to life with the financial support of the European Union. They will promote equal rights in the marzes through community engagement. Coaches from human rights NGOs and educational institutions guided the children in the process of putting together a comprehensive project. The jury was comprised of representatives of regional administrations, NGOs and youth projects.  As a result of the implementation of the winning projects, Azatan community of Shirak marz will have an inclusive playground to ensure equal opportunities of entertainment for all children. The football field of school N23 in Vanadzor city, Lori marz, will be renovated, wheelchair ramps will be installed in the school. Veterans’ Park in Azatamut community of Tavush marz will be renovated as well.

On 15 November, the EU Ambassador to Armenia Andrea Wiktorin participated in the “Challenges and Reform: Human Rights in Closed Institutions” conference, which was organised within the framework of the EU-supported “A Public Glimpse into a Closed World: Increasing Awareness on the Human Rights Situation in Closed Institutions” project. The conference presented the results of a 2-year project, funded by the European Union (EU), co-funded by the Open Society Foundation Armenia and implemented by Public Journalism Club (PJC) and Investigative Journalists (IJ/HETQ). The conference included two panel discussions: the human rights situation in closed institutions of Armenia and human rights issues revealed by investigative journalists.

The EU Ambassador was impressed with the results of the project: “I want to thank all who are implementing this important project, who are contributing and shedding light on one of the most sensitive issues in the human rights sector. I am impressed to see so many journalists interested and taking part in the project; I highly appreciate the project’s media angle. It is easy to say that the government has to change the situation but civil society also has a responsibility. Change will only occur if we discuss the issue publicly – it is not enough just to change the law, we need to change the mindset of the society”.

The Co-founder of PJC, Seda Muradyan, thanked the participants of the conference: “About two years ago when we launched the project in Armenia it was a different political situation; now the situation has changed drastically. During our project the Government of Armenia has changed and there have been major changes in the ministries which deal with this sector. However, this process has not prevented us from achieving the goals set before us, as our supporters were with us. We hope that human rights will become part of our national value system”.

The conference was followed by an award ceremony for media coverage of human rights situations in closed institutions, special care facilities, mental health centres, special schools, and the army. “A Public Glimpse into a Closed World: Increasing Awareness on the Human Rights Situation in Closed Institutions” was launched in December 2017 to shed more light on the daily life of Armenians living in closed institutions. The total project budget is €278,072, of which the European Union contribution is €264,168.

On 6 November, the newly established IRIS Business Incubator was launched through the EU-funded “Increased Resilience of Syrian Armenians and Host Population” (IRIS) programme. It was co-fund ed by the Austrian Development Cooperation and the Austrian Red Cross, and implemented by Armenian Caritas and the SME Cooperation Association.  With an overall budget for the EU IRIS programme of €3.3 million (€3 million funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis, the ‘Madad’ Fund), €1.9 million has been allocated for the IRIS Business Incubator.

Andrea Wiktorin, the EU Ambassador to Armenia, highlighted that she was very excited to be present at the event: “This is a very important project. We are showcasing the EU’s commitment to supporting Armenia in key areas to develop a knowledge-based economy. We want to contribute to strong, innovative SMEs delivering high added value, creating jobs as well as boosting productivity and competitiveness. EU’s support to innovative SMEs is in line with the Government’s aspirations. It is an interesting field for the younger generation to get involved, to get good jobs and to help develop the country. The IRIS Business Incubator will also bring a new entrepreneurial mindset and positive changes to the business environment of Armenia. A major part of the support will be aimed at facilitating the businesses of Syrian-Armenians”.

The President of the SME Cooperation Association, Ruben Osipyan described how the idea came about for the IRIS Business Incubator: “The SME Cooperation Association has been promoting the improvement of the business environment in Armenia, in particular the development of SMEs. About 500 people have come together for our idea, and I think we will expand. The problems of SMEs in Armenia are many and are related to lack of financial resources but also lack of knowledge. We value infrastructure like IRIS Business Incubator to help SMEs become literate. This incubator will become an important link through which we will achieve success and show how to run a competent business”.

The mission of the IRIS Business Incubator is to enhance the economic integration of Syrian-Armenians and host populations through raising the competitiveness of the local economy, stimulating innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout the EU IRIS Programme more than 300 entrepreneurs will attend training and have the opportunity to work with coaches and mentors. 140 of them will get access to finance as well as a co-working area.

On 4 October, the 2nd meeting of EU-Armenia Strategic Policy Dialogue on Armenia’s justice reform strategy took place with participation of the delegation led by Vassilis Maragos, the Head of the European Commission’s DG NEAR Unit responsible for Armenia, who paid a two-day working visit to Armenia, the EU Ambassador to Armenia Andrea Wiktorin and the RA Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan.

The EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, the RA Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan, and the Head of European Commission’s DG NEAR Unit responsible for Armenia Vassilis Maragos delivered welcoming speeches during the event. Representatives of the Supreme Judicial Council, Chamber of Advocates, Academy of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office, representatives from the EU Member State Embassies, international and civil society organisations were present at the event.

In light of the RA Government’s ambitious agenda to carry out comprehensive justice reforms, the EU expressed its readiness to support the Government. This strategic policy dialogue on justice reforms aims to develop justice reforms aligned with European standards and commitments under the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. As a follow-up to the first policy dialogue in September 2018, the meeting was devoted to the recently published draft 2019-2023 Judicial Strategy and 2019-2022 Anti-Corruption Strategy. The dialogue linked EU support to strategy-related activities and joint agreements on the EU instruments to be made available to implement them.

Vassilis Maragos welcomed the Government’s efforts to improve public trust in the justice system. He underlined the importance of inclusivity and ownership of all stakeholders, as well as governmental capacity and active engagement, for the successful implementation of this ambitious reform programme, as they are key to bringing about tangible benefits for Armenian citizens.

Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin reiterated that the European Union stood ready to support the government’s commitment to justice reform and anti-corruption measures, as these would contribute to more efficient and effective administration of justice as well as a better business and investment climate.

Minister Rustam Badasyan re-confirmed the Government’s will and ambition to justice and anti-corruption reforms, as these would lay the foundations and serve as an umbrella for both high-level dialogue with the European Union on justice and broader cooperation at the technical level. The Minister emphasised the importance of coordinated and prioritised actions to deliver mutually beneficial results.

The dialogue also served as a platform for engaging with civil society organisations, business sector representatives, and the international community present in Armenia in finalising the shape and future directions of reforms.

The whole spectrum of the EU-Armenia partnership and cooperation, including EU-supported projects implemented in various sectors and beneficiary stories, are now available online. The EU4Armenia.am platform was officially launched on 10 October. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, and the RA Minister of High-Tech Industry Hakob Arshakyan, were present at the launch alongside the guests from the Government and National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, diplomatic missions, international and civil society organisations, beneficiaries of the EU-funded projects, partners, media representatives and other stakeholders.

Ambassador Wiktorin highlighted the huge work done to make the platform a reality: “I am impressed that we can launch this important platform today. We want to show what we do together. EU for Armenia means EU and Armenia. This is the best way to present what we do together and what we do for the benefit of Armenia’s citizens. This e-platform can be considered as an online dictionary; it has been launched to raise the awareness of Armenia’s citizens about EU activities in the country, as well as to make this process more transparent”.

In his speech Minister Arshakyan noted that accountability and transparency were priorities for the Armenian Government: “This newly created platform is a great opportunity to show what programmes are being implemented, what progress they have made, and their efficiency. We want to emphasise transparency of the implementation of the programmes, along with the development of technologies that can make our cooperation more effective”.

The EU4Armenia.am is an electronic map which showcases EU-Armenia cooperation and EU-funded multisectorial projects implemented in different regions and communities of Armenia. EU-Armenia relations began as early as 1999, based on the EU-Armenia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. To enhance the volume and depth of cooperation, the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed in November 2017. The content of the website will be updated regularly.

The EU Delegation to Armenia has a new Ambassador. German diplomat Andrea Wiktorin, who was the Ambassador of Germany to Armenia from 2007-2009, is the new Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia. Before her nomination as Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Wiktorin was the Head of the EU Delegation to Belarus. Andrea Wiktorin was born in Bonn in 1957. She joined the diplomatic service in 1989.

On 13 September, Ambassador Wiktorin presented the copies of her credentials to the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Minister Mnatsakanyan congratulated the EU Ambassador on assuming this important position and expressed his confidence that her appointment would contribute to further deepening and development of the EU-Armenia partnership and cooperation. The Foreign Minister briefed the Ambassador on the ambitious reform agenda adopted by the Government of Armenia, highlighting the importance of the support of the European Union for its implementation. The interlocutors discussed a wide range of issues related to the EU-Armenia partnership agenda, in particular forthcoming high-level reciprocal visits, the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement and the roadmap for its implementation. The importance of taking practical steps to promote people-to-people contact was underscored. Parties exchanged views on the joint elaboration of the Eastern Partnership agenda from 2020 onwards, as well as discussed other topics related to EU-Armenia cooperation. On the same day, the team of the EU Delegation to Armenia welcomed their new Head of Delegation, Ambassador Wiktorin in the office.

On 17 September, Ambassador Wiktorin presented Letters of Credence to the President of the Republic of Armenia Armen Sarkissian. President Sarkissian welcomed Ambassador Wiktorin back to Armenia, stressing the shared values that underpin EU-Armenia relations. Ambassador Wiktorin mentioned that she was really happy to be back in Armenia and that she was looking forward to fruitful collaboration. The Ambassador expressed confidence in the reforms Armenia is currently implementing and reiterated EU’s readiness to enhance support in all areas of cooperation. They discussed the challenges Armenia is facing and opportunities that lie ahead. They agreed on the importance of education reform to prevent the migration of young people, of judicial reform, and of the promotion of economic growth, among other topics.

 

 

On 28 September, the official opening of European Heritage Days 2019 took place at Amberd fortress, Aragatsotn marz, organised by the EU Delegation to Armenia jointly with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport of the Republic of Armenia. The theme of this year was “Arts and Entertainment”. The EU Ambassador to Armenia, Andrea Wiktorin, and the RA Minister of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport, Arayik Harutyunyan, opened the event and held a press briefing with journalists.

Ambassador Wiktorin spoke of the importance of cultural heritage: “We are happy to visit here again and see the wonderful Amberd fortress. This fortress is one of the jewels of your country. The EU attaches great importance to cultural heritage, as we think it is one of the ways which can unite us. For years, the EU Delegation to Armenia has supported the implementation of European Heritage Days in Armenia and I am extremely grateful for our cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport”.

Minister Harutyunyan was excited to launch European Heritage Days: “Amberd is one of our most important historical and cultural sites. I am glad that a number of events will be organised in different places in Armenia for European Heritage Days. It is a great opportunity to present the present and the past of Armenia’s cultural heritage. As for our general cooperation, we are implementing a number of projects with the EU to marry culture with entrepreneurship, in which we have had some success”.

European Heritage Days this year has featured various cultural events, concerts, video shows, marches, literature and music events, educational, and interactive programmes. These events have involved more than 100 Armenian cultural organisations.

European Heritage Days are held annually in the 50 European countries which joined the European Cultural Convention (1954). The idea appeared in France, in 1984, under the motto “Monuments’ Open Doors”. The “European Heritage Days” programme was officially established by the Council of Europe in 1991, and the European Commission joined the programme in 1999. This initiative started under the motto “Europe: A Common Heritage”. Annually, more than 70,000 cultural events are held throughout Europe to increase public awareness about European heritage, to emphasise its uniqueness and diversity, and the importance of its preservation.

Amberd is a former fortress built in the 10th century. It is located in Aragatsotn marz, on the north-eastern slope of Mount Aragats. There are ruins of cyclopean masonry and fish-like obelisks at Amberd and the surrounding area. As a result of excavations, various metal items, weapons, jewellery, ceramics, coins, and other materials of high cultural value have been found; these are key to studying and understanding the economy, military and cultural life of medieval Armenia. Vahramashen church, which was built under the sponsorship of the Prince and Sparapet (Commander) Vahram Pahlavouni in 1026, is located near Amberd.

 

On 19 September the European Commission’s Deputy Director-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Katarína Mathernová  visited Armenia on a two-day working visit, during which Eastern Partnership (EaP) Post-2020 Consultations took place in Yerevan. The Deputy Director-General Mathernová, the EU Ambassador to Armenia Andrea Wiktorin, and the RA Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Avet Adonts delivered speeches encouraging all the participants to actively contribute to the discussions and feel ownership for the EaP’s future beyond 2020, ensuring that the EaP remains relevant and inclusive. The event was attended by representatives from the RA National Assembly and Government, EU Member State Embassies, Civil Society, private sector organisations, think tanks, academia, media, youth, and other stakeholders.

Later, the Deputy Director-General Mathernová and Ambassador Wiktorin held a meeting with the RA Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan and the RA Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.  The Deputy Director-General expressed the EU’s readiness to step up the support for the implementation of the reform agenda in Armenia; this would include cooperation with Government and building on joint CEPA commitments.

On 20 September the launch event of the EU External Investment Plan (EIP) took place in Yerevan during which the Deputy Director-General Mathernová, the EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin and the RA Deputy Minister of Economy Varos Simonyan delivered opening remarks. The financial instruments and main components of EIP were presented, alongside the policy objectives of investment opportunities in Armenia and ways to enhance the business environment to unlock investment. The Deputy Director-General Mathernová and Ambassador Wiktorin then met with representatives of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and with Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan. In the evening, the Deputy Director-General Mathernová held a press briefing and launched a private equity fund for Armenia. This fund was established with the support of the EU and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). €16 million was provided for the launch of the Amber Capital EU-Armenia SME Fund. This fund seeks to raise a total of €70 million for investment in small- and medium-sized enterprises in Armenia.

The Deputy Director-General Mathernová highlighted the importance of this newly launched fund: “The EU is a key partner for economic development and prosperity in Armenia. The EU is proud to be adding this new innovative tool to unleash the potential for SME development in Armenia, creating jobs and providing concrete benefits to the people. We are confident that the EU-Armenia SME Equity Fund will support the growth and competitiveness of the Armenian economy, attract foreign direct investment, and help develop innovations based on the talents of Armenians”.

Deputy Prime Minister Avninyan expressed confidence that the fund would contribute to the development of Armenia’s economy significantly: “The Armenian Government has started building an innovative and inclusive economy, where SMEs will play an important role. In this period of fundamental changes, the newly established EU-Armenia SME Equity Fund will contribute significantly to the economic advancement of the country and will create new opportunities for entrepreneurs”.

The Deputy Director-General Mathernova’s two-day working visit concluded with the meeting with the RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan alongside Ambassador Wiktorin. During the meeting, they discussed EU-Armenia relations and the EU’s commitment to support the reform agenda. Mathernová highlighted, that even with the change of leadership in EU agencies, the commitment to support Armenia will not change.