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The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Świtalski, was invited to discuss the new round of the EU-Armenia talks with Armenian journalists on 9 February 2016. Ambassador Świtalski made an initial speech and answered questions from the floor. Below you will find the views he shared on key topics concerning EU-Armenia cooperation.

EU-Armenia relationship
Armenia and the EU have entered into a new, constructive phase of their relationship. The EU has a positive agenda – we are trying to build something new, to develop a new model of relationship. I am very glad that the political dialogue between the EU and Armenia is developing quite well – last year President Tusk visited Armenia, and this year we are expecting a visit of High Representative Mogherini quite soon. This is a good signal of the willingness of the EU to develop a productive relationship with Armenia. Last December negotiations on a new framework agreement between the EU and Armenia were launched in Brussels, during which both sides declared their readiness to conclude negotiations as soon as possible. We are also implementing a new revised Neighbourhood policy, which we hope will coalesce into a new framework agreement. The strategic objective the EU is pursuing in the negotiations is to show that it is possible to be a member of another supranational organisation and simultaneously have good relations with the EU. As you know, the EU is Armenia’s biggest foreign donor, we are spending over €50 million in Armenia each year. Our aim is to support Armenia in its efforts to stabilise, prosper and modernise. The main method of supporting those efforts is to help Armenians to design and benefit from proper institutions and laws.
The future framework of the new agreement
The framework agreement will create a solid legal basis for bilateral relations. We hope that the parts of the agreement relating to shared values, justice, and laws will be adopted without changes. However, other parts will need to be adjusted, particularly trade. This is because the Association Agreement was based on the logic of approximation, i.e. Armenia moving closer to the EU and opening its market to the EU and vice-versa. However, with the new reality of Armenia joining the Eurasian Union, this is no longer possible. Then again, we still hope that the new agreement will contain a number of provisions which will facilitate and encourage European investments in and trade with Armenia. We hope very much that all remaining aspects of cooperation from the Association Agreement will be adopted to the greatest extent possible. Let’s look at the new framework agreement as the floor and not the ceiling – it will be the basis on which we should develop practical forms of cooperation, political dialogue and a good climate for investment and trade. This should be the starting point and not the limit of our opportunities.
The revised Neighbourhood policy
The revised Neighbourhood policy is based on differentiation. This means that our cooperation with each country is based on the country’s own priorities. There are discussions with Armenia on every level: economic, security aspects, political, etc. We are now in a constructive, prodcutive phase of our cooperation, and there are no apparent gaps in that engagement. Everywhere I go, every Armenian official I meet from government and opposition confirms the willingness of Armenia to have close and good relations with the EU. This is something we take very seriously and we will be able to harness to achieve new, greater quality of our relations. The president of Armenia, on number of occasions, has said that Armenia wants to build relations with the EU on the basis of common values. This is a very important statement, which we take very seriously.
Armenia towards the 2017 elections
There are priority areas in which Armenia can use the best practices of the EU. With this in mind, we are now in the process of providing human rights budget support. This comprises concrete budget support, where the EU is putting money to help the Armenian authorities. Only a few days ago we had the opportunity to read the report of the OSCE/ODIHR mission on the last referendum in Armenia. The electoral process in Armenia needs improvements, and this report is a proof. Take this seriously – the Government of Armenia needs to do its homework – the Armenian state will benefit greatly if the comments and recommendations from the report are implemented.
We believe that the 2017 elections in Armenia constitute a crucial moment for the future of Armenia. This will be the first national elections to be conducted on the basis of new constitutional arrangements. Armenia will move from a presidential to a parliamentary model. One thing is the trust of every Armenian in the fairness of the election process and legitimacy of democratic institutions, and another is the international image of Armenia. When I talk to the Armenian state authorities or members of the oppostition we define two main problems in the electoral process. The first one is voter registration – stressed by the OSCE report – the second is the voting process on election day, including counting and tabulation. We urge all political parties, the government and members of the opposition to engage in dialogue, to adopt a new electoral code through an inclusive process, and to seriously address these weak points, all of which have been clearly described by the OSCE.
Issues and prospects
The EU respects Armenia’s secutity choices, we know it is a priority for the country. The EU doesn’t play geopolitics and we believe that a country like Armenia in this geographical and security situation should be interested in having as many friends as possible. The EU is coming here as a friend, there is no hidden agenda in our policy in Armenia. We believe that Armenia is a part of the European civilisation and it is an organic part of Europe. Armenians, in particular the younger generation, feel this way – they want to live like Europeans and therefore your link to Europe is quite natural. The EU takes this link it very seriously, because Armenia is a part of the European neighbourhood. The EU wants to have good relations in its neighbourhood, to have stable, modern, and prosperous societies. The new revised Neighbourhood policy is quite clear on this: the EU doesn’t want to protect itself from the neighbourhood, rather we want an organic relationship with it.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing a €8 million loan to Armenia to finance the construction of a solid waste landfill in Yerevan that complies with EU regulations. The EU will provide a matching grant of €8 million to the Republic of Armenia. A loan agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the EBRD was signed on 11 December 2015. Ambassador Piotr Switalski, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, attended the ceremony.
ARS_9756The new landfill will meet international standards and operate as a commercially sustainable unit. It will have modern solid-waste management systems and cover the collection and disposal of municipal solid waste. The facility, located on the outskirts of Yerevan, will provide major environmental and social benefits for the 1.1 million residents of the Armenian capital.
On the same day, Amabassador Switalski attended the signing ceremony of another loan agreement. This agreement is for €83 million for a project to be implemented by KfW, the Republic of Armenia, and High Voltage Electric Networks CJSC – the “Caucasus transmission network III (Project phase 2)” programme. The EU will provide a grant of €10 million to the Republic of Armenia to support this initiative.
12346440_935354769851786_3994090970218893544_nThe loan will have a 15-year repayment period, 5 of which are preferential. Loan funds are going to be used in Ddmashen to build a substation and transmission lines, to rehabilitate and reconstruct power grids, to operate equipment and machinery, and provide finances for consulting services during project preparation and implementation.

Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan received a delegation led by the Vice President of the European Investment Bank, László Baranyay, on 16 October 2015.
Welcoming the guests, the Prime Minister stressed that the EU has been and remaines one of the most important partners of Armenia. He welcomed the fact that on 12 October the EU Council gave a mandate to the European Commission and the EU High Commissioner to start negotiations on forming a new legal framework for EU-Armenia relations, which would help to upgrade EU-Armenia cooperation.
Abrahamyan expressed a high opinion of the Armenian government’s cooperation with the EIB and the joint projects implemented in power engineering, transport communications, road rehabilitation, water infrastructure, and other sectors.
ARS_3912The EIB Vice-President said he was honoured to visit Armenia, see the results of the previously implemented projects and ongoing programmes, and discuss the prospects of future projects. Baranyay was greatly impressed with the performance of the projects in Armenia, and assured those present that the EIB was ready to continue assisting the country in both technical and financial matters.
Welcoming the Prime Minister’s proposal to continue cooperation infrastructure development, Baranyay said that there was a need to increase funding, and that the EIB was ready to increase the amount of assistance required. Priority projects identified were road network improvement, water infrastructure, water management facilities, and education.
Abrahamyan stated that the Armenian government would ensure that all the agreements reached would be implemented. In conclusion, the interlocutors reaffirmed their willingness to build on the ongoing effective cooperation. The Prime Minister’s meeting with the EIB Vice President was followed by signing ceremony for cooperation agreements.
The parties first signed a €8 million financial agreement on “Yerevan Solid Waste Management: Stage 1”. The document was signed by Minister of Finance of the Republic of Armenia, Gagik Khachatryan, and the EIB Vice President, László Baranyay. The contract features three components aimed at improving the system of solid waste management in Yerevan.
ARS_3990A memorandum of understanding was signed next between the Government of Armenia, the Yerevan Mayor’s Office, the European Union and the EIB on cooperation on the management of solid waste.
The document was signed by the Minister of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations, Armen Yeritsyan, the Mayor of Yerevan, Taron Margaryan, the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Switalski, and the EIB Vice President, László Baranyay.
Minister of Transport and Communication Gagik Beglaryan, Minister of Finance Gagik Khachatryan and EIB Vice President László Baranyay signed a declaration of intent on the investment programme for the rehabilitation and improvement of the M6 Vanadzor-Alaverdi-Georgian border highway. The signatories reaffirmed their interest in and readiness to implement this modernisation programme which will rehabilitate a 60km-long stretch of motorway from Vanadzor to Bagratashen.

A meeting between Wilhelm Molterer, Vice President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), and Hovik Abrahamyan, the Armenian Prime Minister, took place on 16 March 2015 at the Prime Minister’s office.
ARS_4046The meeting was in the presence of Ambassador Traian Hristea, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia.
The meeting was followed by a signing ceremony of 3 agreements between Armenia and the EU First of them was the €10 million loan agreement for the “Caucasus Electricity Transmission Network” project, which was signed by Molterer and Gagik Khachatryan, the Armenian Minister of Finance, followed by a memorandum of understanding signed by Molterer, Ambassador Hristea, Yervand Zakharyan, the Armenian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jan Blum, the Director of the Department of Energy and Transport at KfW German Development Bank. The final document signed was a contribution agreement on Armenia’s membership in the “Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership Fund” (“E5P”). This was signed by Andres Land, Director of E5P at EIB, and Minister Zakharyan.
ARS_4181A press conference was held after the official signing ceremony with the participation of Ambassador Hristea, Zakharyan, Molterer, and Blum. Zakharyan and Molterer introduced the agreement for the “Caucasus Electricity Transmission Network” project. The EIB is lending €10 million to finance the construction of an electricity transmission line and a high-voltage direct current station to develop a link between Armenia and Georgia. This new electricity infrastructure will deepen regional integration by facilitating energy trade between the two countries, and provide Armenia and Georgia with better access to European electricity markets.
The project consists of the construction of a new back-to-back station in Ayrum (Armenia), close to the Georgian border, and a power transmission line linking the two countries. It is designed to provide secure and economically efficient coverage for growing electricity demand.
ARS_4385The project is also being supported by a €85.2 million loan from lead financier KfW German Development Bank, on behalf of the German government, a €10 million grant from the EU Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF), and the Armenian (€1.5 million) and Georgian (€6.6 million) governments.
Zakharyan stressed the importance of the signed documents: ‘Three important documents concerning the energy sector were signed, aimed at developing infrastructure in the energy sector and increasing energy efficiency. The Armenia-Georgia high-voltage transmission line will contribute to the interconnectivity between the two countries’ networks, as well as parallel operation with and integration into regional energy grades, which will facilitate economic development for both Georgia and Armenia. The third document is Armenia’s membership in the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership Fund, which allows additional funding for energy efficiency in the forms of soft loans and grants. This will be channelled to energy-efficiency improvement in the communities of Armenia and elsewhere. The documents signed today are extremely important for the Republic of Armenia’.
Mr Molterer also talked about the signed documents: ‘This is a really very important step, because it marks an important linkage between Armenia and Georgia, improving the capacity for positive regional development. It is important because energy efficiency is one of the priorities of the Government of Armenia, and we are more than happy to support this priority. Additionally, this is important because it shows what the EU can offer to countries like Armenia, because the joint initiative between the EIB and the European Commission is a real value of what we can provide. It shows the ability, the readiness and the capacity of international financial institutions to cooperate’.
Ambassador Hristea stated that the EU was one of the first international financial institutions, which supported the energy sector in Armenia in 1996: ‘This is an important day for EU-Armenia cooperation and an excellent occasion for the EU to reaffirm its commitment to supporting the Armenian energy sector and reforms. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are very important for the EU’s development activities in Armenia and it shows the EU’s willingness, as well as its support to Armenian citizens and authorities, to ensure their energy security and their energy independence’.
DAV_1336Earlier on the same day Serzh Sargsyan, the President of Armenia, met with Molterer and Ambassador Hristea. President Sargsyan expressed the hope that Molterer’s visit would give a new impetus to Armenia’s cooperation with the EIB, which is directed at ensuring stable economic growth in Armenia. Sargsyan praised the bank’s mission and current activities in Armenia, expressing satisfaction with the active and effective cooperation with the EIB. He also stressed that, taking into account the economic importance of the sectors financed by the bank and its current portfolio, EIB was as a strategic partner for Armenia. Molterer too expressed satisfaction with the bank’s cooperation with Armenia since 2007, emphasising that it set a good example for other working partners.

The signing of a loan agreement took place on 9 December at the Armenian Ministry of Finance. Gagik Khachatryan, on behalf of the ministry, representatives of KfW bank and “High Voltage” CJSC signed an agreement for a €85.2m loan; €75m will be provided by the KfW bank and another €10.2m by the Federal Republic of Germany for the primary stage of the “Caucasian energy supply network I” project.
Armenian and Georgian energy supply systems will be unified within the framework of the project through the village of Ayrum on the border between the two countries. The respective renovation works will lead to the synchronisation of Armenian and Georgian power supply systems and better import/export systems for surplus/scarce electricity.
Apart from the signed agreement a €10m co-funding loan will be provided by the European Investment Bank and another €10m worth grant through the European Union Neighbourhood Instrument. This will make the total budget allocated within the framework of the project €105.2m due to two “High Voltage” CJSC is the main beneficiary of the project and will receive the allocated loan and grant funds.