Tag Archives: ambassador

ARS_0639On 20 May the “EU4Shirak: Wool for Jobs” project was officially launched in Amasia, Shirak marz. The project is financed through the Pilot Regional Development Programme. The launch event was attended by the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, the Armenian Minister of Agriculture, Arthur Khachatryan, and the Armenian Minister of Territorial Administration and Development, Suren Papikyan. The experience of the “Wool to Carpet” studio in Shinuhayr community in Syunik marz was presented to the guests to give them the full picture of the expected results for Amasia.
The proposed action follows a value chain development approach for woollen products, from sheep to customer. A wool-processing factory will be established in the community of Amasia, creating at least 20 jobs. To create further new jobs and contribute to economic development, the project will finance 14 proposals offered by SMEs, providing at least 40 new jobs. About 150 job seekers registered in employment centres will develop their skills through training, raising their competitiveness in the labour market. This EU-funded project will also contribute to the development of sheep breeding in the region by providing a stable income for local farmers. The two-year project has a total budget of €549,819 (the EU contribution is €335,000). The project will be implemented by People In Need – Armenia (PIN), in cooperation with Women’s Development “Resource Centre” Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Shirak marz, and the Amasia Municipality.

ARS_0761EU Ambassador congratulated those who have worked hard for the project: ‘The EU is very committed to promoting regional development in Armenia. This project is one of several which we have launched in different marzes. To me, this region is one of the most beautiful corners of Armenia and I am so grateful that we can cooperate on new development ideas, create new jobs, and bring hope to the citizens of this marz. This commitment to regional development is long term; we hope very much that the new government can take this commitment forward, and that we can start new initiatives’.

ARS_0812Minister Papikyan welcomed EU support for the equal development of Armenian marzes: ‘The Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development attaches importance to the equal development of Armenia; we have been in constant dialogue with the EU since 2009. The aim of this cooperation is to ensure the implementation of projects and initiatives which complement regional development priorities and bring effective and sustainable results’.

ARS_0848Khachatryan spoke more about the implementation of the project: ‘This project is aimed at restoring traditional sheep breeding. In Armenia, we used to have over 2 million head of cattle – today’s number is barely a quarter of that. We should be able to develop sheep breeding, taking into account the ever-lasting demand for meat. To have good woollen products, we need to have good sheep, but we cannot imagine good sheep without a feeding base, without good cultivated lands, etc. The project take a value chain development; thousands of households will enjoy the impact of this indirectly. If we want to prevent emigration, we should not have more than 40% of non-cultivated land in the country. We need to support smaller producers and processors, not just large businesses. This project can be a great example’.

086A0559On 19 May Vanadzor was ready to host Europe Day celebrations. On Hayk Square people of different ages gathered to enjoy the many activities on offer. European cultural diversity was presented through shadow theatre, mini-shows on different European countries, delicious dishes, competitions, and surprise gifts. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, and the Mayor of Vanadzor, Mamikon Aslanyan, also joined participants.

ARS_0063The EU Ambassador was thankful for the opportunity to celebrate Europe Day in beautiful Vanadzor, Lori marz: ‘We have come here again to celebrate Europe Day. I hope you will enjoy your time throughout the evening as we have prepared a lot of activities for you. We believe it is a good tradition to save one day a year for this celebration. It is our common joy – we consider Armenia to be an integral part of the wider European family. This celebration is more than about projects implemented in Armenia. Of course, the EU is the biggest donor and investor in Armenia, but it is the European spirit which we share, the spirit of freedom, dignity and solidarity’.

ARS_0090Mayor Aslanyan wished everyone a good time: ‘May is a month of joy for all Armenians and Europe Day has been added to our many holidays. It is already the fourth year that we have celebrated this celebration of peace and unity in Vanadzor – it is becoming a good and awaited tradition for our citizens. I am happy that we have had the chance to share this joy with our European friends’.

ARS_1150The next day it was Gyumri’s turn to welcome the Europe Day celebrations. This year, the celebrations are being held under the slogan “Europe is here”. For these celebrations, the Europe Day Anthem is written which is performed by children from different Armenian marzes. The main message of this Anthem is that Europe is here and ready to work for the benefit of all Armenian citizens. Ambassador Świtalski and the Mayor of Gyumri, Samvel Balasanyan, welcomed the people gathered in the Theatre Square.

ARS_1362Ambassador Świtalski thanked everyone for coming and celebrating together: ‘This year we are targeting the younger generation. We have brought music, dance, theatre and gifts for you. I hope you will enjoy as for us these celebrations are about joy. We, of course, face many problems and challenges, but we believe that once in a year we should share our joy. Europe Day is about hope and a better future’.

ARS_1403Mayor Balasanyan welcomed guests and citizens of Shirak marz: ‘Europe Day has been celebrated in Gyumri for years, marking our friendly relations. Together with the European Union, Shirak marz and the city of Gyumri are cooperating and implementing various projects. We will develop sectors, such as energy, culture, tourism, and others. We have an arrangement with the Ambassador to develop this cooperation further’.

On 20 February the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski participated in the Community Resilience Forum in Yerevan, along with regional and community government representatives and development programme officers. Topics covered during the forum included how to strengthen community resilience; the results of the incorporation of disaster risk management into socio-economic development strategies and programmes; the importance of utilising new technologies.
The forum was organised as part of the “Institutionalisation, replication and dissemination of Disaster Risk Reduction interventions in the South Caucasus of the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department” project. This project is funded by the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department (DG ECHO). The European Union’s regional Disaster Preparedness Programme (DIPECHO) aims to make communities in areas prone to natural hazards less vulnerable, and to boost their resilience to natural and man-made hazards. The total DIPECHO funding in the South Caucasus since 2010 is over €10.4 million. In the present funding cycle (DIPECHO V, 2017-2018), the total funding for the Southern Caucasus (Armenia and Georgia) is €945,705 (EU contribution of €800,000) with approximately €520,000 for Armenia through two projects. Current DIPECHO partners in the South Caucasus are: UNDP, UNICEF, Save the Children, Danish Red Cross (implemented through Armenian and Georgian Red Cross societies), Oxfam, and Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB).

ARS_9312Ambassador Świtalski thanked all the partners for their active engagement: ‘The EU is proud to support such initiatives and we do it in the conviction that our engagement in disaster risk reduction is both important and necessary. Disaster risk reduction in this region is not an abstract topic – this year we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the tragic Spitak earthquake. Since then, the risks in the region have increased. We are confronted, for example, by climate change, pollution, and other factors which contribute to these regional environmental risks. So, for the EU, increasing disaster risk reduction capacities in third countries is very important. We are now in the fifth phase of DIPECO; I am very glad that there are dedicated projects for Armenia in this phase. Now we are in the process of discussing with the Armenian Government the inclusion of risk reduction preparation in our bilateral programmes, in particular in our annual Action Plan 2018′.

ARS_9288Davit Tonoyan, Armenia’s Minister of Emergency Situations, wished for fruitful discussion at the forum: ‘All potential actors should unite in their efforts and coordinate on common issues in disaster risk reduction. We must find more effective ways to cooperate and find mutual assistance mechanisms. Disaster risk management guidance at the local level has already been approved to identify hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities in communities, using their own finances. The inclusion of these activities in community development programmes is crucial for sustainable development and resilience. In this context, the allocation of financial resources, including from the community budget, is of great importance’.

On 9 February, Armenia’s Ministry of Justice presented two new e-tools developed with EU assistance. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, and Armenia’s Minister of Justice, Davit Harutyunyan, participated in and spoke at the “E-Participation Tools in the Ministry of Justice” presentation event.
With the help of the www.e-hotline.am website, a quicker response mechanism for complaints raised by citizens, organisations and other stakeholders has been created. www.e-request.am also provides opportunities to send applications, requests or complaints to state agencies, receive an online answer, and rate the content and timing of the response provided by the state agency. Statistics will be compiled on these data. E-governance and e-justice tools are aimed at improving public service delivery and making them more accessible and comfortable for end users, while ensuring transparency, reducing corruption risks and promoting good governance. Newly introduced e-tools in Armenia will complement other e-gov instruments already established through EU assistance, such as the recently inaugurated e-draft.am, e-civil registry, e-notary, e-police systems, etc.

DSC_7427Ambassador Świtalski congratulated the attendees on making one more important step in the field of e-justice and noted: ‘The main purpose of these activities is to help Armenians benefit in their daily lives; we are moving forward in that regard. For the European Union, this is a very pleasant occasion, as these projects put Armenia at the forefront of the international community in introducing these innovative tools. Armenia can be very proud of the e-tools it already has. The successful implementation of these tools shows many countries that, even with restricted resources, you can bring real results to the people when you have human capital and are determined to progress’.

DSC_7405Minister Harutyunyan thanked the EU Delegation to Armenia for its continuous assistance to the e-governance in Armenia: ‘These tools have important functions. First of all, e-governance enables a broad spectrum of people to be involved in the public governance system. Secondly, they are effective in combating corruption. In reality, we all know that there are different tools to fight corruption – some of them are effective and some are not. However, I think that the most important thing for combating corruption is access to information’.

ARS_5563Armenian civil society has received €1.74 million from the EU for new activities. On 19 January the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski publicised new grant agreements. This confirms European Union’s continuing support for Armenian civil society to promote active citizenship and protect human rights. The projects funded by the European Union will be implemented in Armenia in 2018-2019, with a total budget of over €1.9 million. They will cover a variety of topic areas, including youth, human rights in closed institutions, women’s organisations, national policy and budget implementation, and energy efficiency.

• “A Public Glimpse into a Closed World: Increasing Awareness on the Human Rights Situation in Closed Institutions” will be implemented by Public Journalism Club (PJC) NGO and For Equal Rights (FER) NGO over 2 years. The project has a total budget of €278,072 (EU contribution of €264,168) and will be implemented in all Armenian marzes.

• Freedom of Information Center of Armenia (FOICA) and Maastricht-based European Journalism Center will implement “Access to Information and Investigative Journalism for Better Informed Citizens” over 20 months, with a total budget of €390,000 (EU contribution of €343,200).

• The National Social Housing Association Foundation (ASBA) in cooperation with partners from the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic will implement “EU4Civil Society: Energy Efficiency in Armenian Communities” over 2 years, with a total budget of €372,231 (EU contribution of €335,000).

• Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation – Armenia (OSIAFA), the Institute of Public Policy, and the Union of Informed Citizens will implement “EU4HumanRights: Pursuing Positive Change through Empowering Civil Society” over 2 years with a total budget of €460,035 (EU contribution of €400,000).

• The Near East Foundation UK (NEF UK) and the Women’s Development Resource Center Foundation (WDRC) will implement “EU4Women: Economic Empowerment through Social Enterprise” over 2 years with a total budget of €446,797 (EU contribution of €400,000).

ARS_5570Ambassador Świtalski congratulated the successful CSO grantees and wished them success: ‘There are five winners today but there were many more applicants. I am addressing those who didn’t make it this time: we are determined to continue our support to your activities. I can promise that every good idea, every good project, will find, sooner or later, its way to this final stage. Therefore, today I am congratulating the winners. The projects look different but they are all important in different ways. Why are they important? These projects cover different issues and regardless of your personal interest these projects have something for everyone’.

“Tales of Neto” is already available to download for free on the App Store (goo.gl/skuRfJ) and Google Play (goo.gl/zGLnE8). On 12 December the Head of the European Union Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, launched the anti-corruption game at the Tumo Centre for Creative Technologies.
Two years were needed for 16-20-year-old students at Tumo to create this next-generation game. The process was funded by the European Union. On the fictional planet of Neto, the game has levels full of challenges for players to raise awareness about the risks of the corruption, and rewards players which confront it.

ARS_9792Ambassador Świtalski thanked Tumo for its cooperation and the quality of the game: ‘We started the year with the “Stop the Flow of Corruption” campaign. This launch is the crowning event of this campaign – we wanted to raise awareness of the negative effects of corruption and to highlight the EU’s efforts in supporting the fight against corruption in Armenia. Therefore, today is a big day for us. I am happy to be at the Tumo Centre for Creative Technologies, which has become a visiting card for Armenia. Tumo is regular agenda item for us when we invite colleagues from Brussels. Commissioners and other officials love to visit here, as Tumo is the example of a positive future of Armenia. The project was launched two years ago and we are naturally very happy that it has been so successful. I am looking forward to seeing the game in other languages. I hope people enjoy the game and say good things’.

ARS_9774Harmik Azarian, the Head օf Software Development of Tumo Centre for Creative Technologies and the project/game coordinator outlined three key factors of the project: ‘Firstly, we should not forget that this game was created by teenagers who learned everything at Tumo. As the project manager, I was always amazed by their professionalism. Secondly, we should look at the impact this project has had on Tumo itself. The success of the young people who worked on the game gives massive inspiration to the rest of the students who come to Tumo every week.  Thirdly, it’s all about fighting corruption. We hope that a lot of things in the fantasy planet of Neto will be remembered by young people, whether it be embezzlement, bribery, or money laundering. Later, we hope they will not be tolerant of corruption’.

ARS_0115On 9 December, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, paid a working visit to Ararat marz, where he met with the Mayor of Artashat, Karen Beniaminyan. In the framework of the visit Ambassador Świtalski learned about ongoing EU-funded projects in Ararat marz, especially about “Reduction of poverty in Urtsadzor community cluster by developing (self) employment opportunities” project implemented by the Fund for Organic Farming (FOF). This project began in February 2016, supported by the European Union and implemented by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC). The Urtsadzor community cluster includes Urtsadzor, Lanjanist and Shaghap communities in Ararat marz; the project also has beneficiaries in Lusashogh. The project will continue until the end of January 2018. The budget of the project is €563,000, out of which the EU has contributed €500,000, and FPWC €42,000. The four communities involved have also jointly raised €21,000. The project aims to bring about long-term economic growth at the community level through local business projects.

ARS_0151Ambassador Świtalski visited also Holani Agro Produce Processing Factory in Vedi. Approximately €2,000 of the project budget was spent on upgrading the factory’s electrical system and industrial capacity. In 2017, villagers collected 4 tonnes of fruits and 2 tonnes of herbs. These were dried and 120kg of dried fruits and 50kg of dried herbs have since been sold using unique packaging for Holani brand. FPWC has a plan to expand the production site and establish a larger factory. In Shaghap the Ambassador inaugurated a new bed and breakfast guesthouse owned by a local history teacher. The project had selected the house from a panel of potential sites for renovation.

ARS_0171Taguhi Manvelyan, the Project Coordinator of FPWC, presented the project results: The project has included more than 50 families as beneficiaries. It has focused on community development, poverty reduction, and job creation. We have started with training: people have received education, developed their capabilities in the fields of eco-tourism and eco-agriculture, and gained business skills to better manage small businesses. They wrote business plans based on their knowledge, we have chosen the best ones for implementation. At the moment, our beneficiaries are engaged in beekeeping, harvesting wild produce and working in agro-factories, as well as managing small businesses. Holani Agro Produce Processing Factory in Vedi produces dried fruit and teas. There is the Holani Honey Factory in Shaghap, as well as two guesthouses. At first, people were sceptical, but over time they began to believe in the project when they saw tangible results. Now many people want to join us. It is certain that we will have more beneficiaries next year.

ARS_0313Later, Ambassador Świtalski participated in the Rural Christmas Fair in Urtsadzor. The Ambassador congratulated all the producers, organisers and volunteers for their hard work. Residents of Urtsadzor, Shagap, Lanjanist and Lusashogh presented their own products at the fair, giving people the chance to buy fruit, vegetables, honey, dried fruit, canned food, nuts, and homemade soujukh and basturma at competitive prices. The event aimed to offer visitors to Urtsadzor high-quality fresh products for Christmas and New Year, thus creating additional income for the villagers.

On 27 November the campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence” (GBV) was officially launched in Matenadaran, Yerevan, to raise public awareness of and hold different events on GBV across Armenia. The campaign takes place from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day). This year’s campaign theme is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls”.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, Armenia’s Vice President of the National Assembly, Arpine Hovhannisyan, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, Arman Tatoyan, the UN resident Coordinator in Armenia, Bradley Busetto, the Head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, and the Ambassadors of France, Germany, United Kingdom and United States of America in Armenia took the floor to reconfirm their commitment to protecting the rights of women and girls and promoting women’s empowerment in Armenia.

ARS_9288Violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious human rights violations in the world. Almost one third of women in relationships report that they have experienced some form of violence, mostly from an intimate partner. According to the official data of the Armenia’s Investigative Committee, 215 criminal cases on domestic violence were investigated in the first half of 2017 in Armenia. Almost one third of criminal cases refer to violence used by men against their partners. The European Union and its member states place women’s human rights and gender equality at the core of all its external policies. The EU makes every possible effort to strengthen the voice of women, empower, and to assert their political, social, and economic rights women and girls. The 2016-2020 EU Gender Action Plan serves as the main guiding framework for EU actions and cooperation with partner countries, international and civil society organisations, and the private sector.

ARS_9384Ambassador Świtalski praised the work done by the Armenian government and civil society on this issue: ‘Last Friday we had a big event, as the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit was held in Brussels, Belgium. The leaders of EaP reaffirmed their commitment to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. What happened last Friday with the new EU-Armenia Agreement was also very important. Let me make very simple observations: firstly, from our perspective, the dignity of women is never relative, never conditional; secondly, human rights are indivisible, they should be applied equally; finally, let me make it very clear that the EU does not impose any values on our partners. We have never tried and there are no mechanisms to do it. Armenia is in a good situation, as we have declared that we share the values; therefore, there is nothing to impose as we are on the same page. We will continue our work on the basis of this new agreement and make these values strong and functioning for the benefit of ordinary citizens of Armenia, in particular for women’.

ARS_9372NA Vice President Hovhannisyan presented the situation in Armenia from a legislative perspective: ‘Any violence is chargeable, including violence against women and girls. Violence has a negative effect not only on an individual’s psychological, sexual or physical health, but also an institutional impact: it directly and/or indirectly affects the sustainable development of states. The high numbers in our country of GBV are worrying. The draft law on “Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence” is currently on the agenda of the National Assembly (NA). This week it’s on the agenda of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs and Protection of Human Rights,and where it will be discussed. Serious work has been done to address ongoing concerns. After the committee’s discussion, the draft law will be included in the agenda of the NA plenary session and will again be discussed. At present, the draft law is in line with international standards’.

On 6 September, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, participated in a press conference to launch an Erasmus+ Youth. Information Centre. A network of information centres was established in 2017 and the centres function in six Eastern Partnership countries, as well as the Russian Federation. The Gyumri Youth Initiative Centre (YIC) NGO is in charge of all Erasmus+ Youth. Information Centre activities in Armenia; one organisation in each participating country is selected to coordinate national activities based on an open call.
The main aim of the information centres is to inform young people and youth organisations about opportunities which come up through the Erasmus+ programme, as well as to support stakeholders to implement other projects.
Erasmus+ is an EU programme launched on 1 January 2014. It is aimed at boosting skills and employability, as well as offering more opportunities for cooperation across the education, training, youth and sport sectors. YIC was established in 2008 by five active young people experienced in youth work at the local and international level. The mission of YIC is to develop youth civic activism through promoting inclusive initiatives and active participation in civic life.

ARS_4608Ambassador Świtalski spoke about the EU’s perspective on youth: ‘The Erasmus programme is one of the success stories of the EU. We have spent millions of euros to make it possible for young people all over the world to access European education, to come to Europe, to enrich themselves not only with knowledge, but also culture and personal relationships, and to build strong networks. Erasmus is important as it is about the future. I am very glad that this information centre is being established because I believe that Armenia should be able to participate even more in this programme. The EU is planning to invest new resources in education in Armenia – we want Armenians to talk more about education and to think how the system can be improved. I think European experience, and that of Erasmus, will be very important’.

ARS_4642The Coordinator of the National Erasmus+ Office to Armenia, Lana Karlova, congratulated YIC on being selected to coordinate activities: ‘It is very important that an information centre is opening in Gyumri. We see great dedication to education in the marzes and want to link it with our experience with universities and other organisations. Many people are calling our office for more information and now there will finally be a centre that will give answers to all these questions’.

On 26 June, the “BRIDGE for CSOs” programme was officially launched in Yerevan. The programme goal is to strengthen the capacity of Armenian CSOs to better respond to citizens’ needs by linking Armenia CSOs with expertise in the Diaspora. The programme is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), in cooperation with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF). The three-year programme, launched in December 2016, offers a package of activities.
The project will conduct in-depth sector-related needs assessments of up to 200 CSOs to map their strengths and needs; offer tailor-made training to up 200 individuals from 80 CSOs; provide on-the-job consultation to 80 CSOs through pro-bono Diaspora- and Armenia-based experts; institutionalise capacity by launching an academic NGO Management Certificate Programme; provide grants to support small-scale projects; increase trust in civil society. The innovative skill transfer platform (www.together4armenia.am) will enhance cooperation between Armenian CSOs and the Diaspora. It will feature success stories of international cooperation, CSO achievements, reports, sectorial information and other information to bridge existing gaps between international and national CSOs.
The Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, and the AGBU Armenian president and Central Board Member, Vasken Yacoubian, attended the kick-off event and made opening remarks.

ARS_9994Ambassador Świtalski was excited to participate in the programme launch: ‘It is important to support the development of civil society. Armenia has more than 4,000 public organisations, almost 1,000 foundations; even if a portion of these organisations and foundations are active, this still harbours big potential. Armenia can be proud of its civil society activism; it is very important for the development of the country. As the EU, we see our priority to work with partners like AGBU to strengthen the fabric of civil society in Armenia. AGBU is a longstanding, respectable organisation; it is a big honour to work with them, we hope it is a beginning of a beautiful journey, and we believe strongly in the success of the programme’.

ARS_9935Vasken Yacoubian thanked the EU for the opportunity to implement the programme: ‘We were excited when the EU announced this call for proposals and we prepared a proposal that involved civil society both from Armenia and Diaspora. We are very happy that even the Armenian government understands the importance of civil society for the country. This shows the ranking of Armenia – we rank highly for civil society in the region. We are very honoured and happy that we were successful in getting this grant and that we are EU partners. AGBU will be a trusted partner for Armenia. We believe this will be the beginning of our cooperation, which will hopefully extend to different sectors’.