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The European Union regards small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the backbone of economic resilience in Armenia.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Armenia’s Central Bank signed an agreement on 18 November to support the Armenian economy. According to the agreement, EIB will provide a second €50 million loan to the Central Bank for various SME projects. The first loan, which was provided through the #EU4Business initiative,has already been disbursed.
A conference on “EU Support to Small and Medium Business in Armenia through EIB” was also held in Yerevan on 18 December. Piotr Świtalski, the EU Ambassador to Armenia, Jan Vapaavuori, the Vice President of the European Investment Bank, and Nerses Yeritsyan, the Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank of the Republic of Armenia all spoke at the event.

2Ambassador Świtalski highlighted the importance of SMEs for Armenia: ‘The European Union will do its utmost to help Armenia to develop further, and to build a modern and reformed economy. SMEs are the backbone of economic resilience in Armenia from our perspective. Those who have heard me before know that I sometimes quote OECD figures on the role of SMEs in Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. The figures reveal the huge, yet unused, potential of SMEs – Armenia ranks last among EaP regarding SMEs. In the EU,SMEs provide for 70 percent of employment and GDP contribution. In some countries it is as much as 90 percent. Armenia lags at around 30 percent, which shows us how much work needs to be done’.

3Vice President Vapaavuori built on Ambassador Świtalski’s support for SMEs and highlighted the role of European Investment Bank:  ‘EIB is the world’s biggest public bank, directly owned by all 28 EU member states. As a public bank, our mission is not to maximise profit but to contribute to EU policy goals for economic growth within EU states and in neighbouring countries. I come from a small country, Finland, and know that, in small countries, economies are often dependent on a few sectors and big factories.  In order to create sustainable growth you need to pay attention to SMEs’.

4Deputy Chairman Yeritsyan welcomed the EU’s support to promote SME development in Armenia: ‘We have come to this conference with a concrete decision. SMEs are the basis of our economy, the only way to build a viable economy. It’s a double honour for me to be here, because I have been involved in various EU and EIB programmes since 2007. I am glad that EIB is implementing at least a dozen projects in different sectors of our economy’.

A high-level conference was held on 26-27 October, 2016 in Yerevan to celebrate 20 years of local government in Armenia. Representatives of central, regional and local authorities from across the Eastern Partnership (EaP) gathered in Armenia’s capital to launch new EU support initiatives for local sustainable development and economic growth in EaP.
The EU has officially launched the new “Mayors for Economic Growth initiative” (M4EG) and the second phase of the Covenant of Mayors East (CoM East), which target business and energy efficiency respectively. These actions are aimed at fostering cooperation between local authorities and civil society organisations to enhance accountability, exchange good practices, and strengthen municipalities’ capacity to be efficient and effective administrators and promoters of local development. By encouraging public-private partnerships, these initiatives are also expected to contribute to the creation of new job opportunities at the local level and increase GDP per capita growth.
The event was organised by the European Commission, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia, the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP), and CoM East.
14522809_1141089429278318_1092564134457294953_nThe Head of the European Union Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, addressed conference participants, stressing the importance of effective and accountable local governance : ‘The European Union realises that the capacity of local authorities to be effective development players depends on the existence of effective relations with other levels of governance and conducive national frameworks. Local authorities are important agents which should have their own development agendas coherent with national policies. Regional development is essential, because the gap between Yerevan and the regions is high. The EU is trying to help Armenia narrow this gap’.
Armenian Minister of Territorial Administration and Development Davit Lokyan echoed the Ambassador’s sentiment: ‘Strengthening local democracy will create such conditions that will ensure more active participation in the formation of local authorities. Our goal is to have more vibrant communities, large and financially stable communities, and transparent and fair management at the local level to ensure that people are able to solve vital issues in cooperation with local government’.
The conference also marked the signing ceremony of 25 new local authorities from EaP countries joining the new Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. On the second day of the conference discussions focused on the prospects and benefits of a new Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy in EaP countries.

The “Armenia Model European Union 2015” youth conference (AMEU 2015) was organised on 14-15 November 2015 by the AEGEE-Yerevan and Yerevan European Students’ Forum NGO, with support from the EU Delegation to Armenia. During the conference participants filled the roles of heads of the EU member states and leaders of the Eastern Partnership countries, as well as the offices of several other high-level EU officials.
More than 80 Armenian students and activists from various regions of Armenia and 20 international participants participated in the project. They were selected from around 400 applicants through a competitive two-phase procedure.
10675508_924165990970664_3290856329734345821_nThe Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Switalski, gave advice from his own experience to the young people present at the conference: ‘All of you offer a better future for Armenia. Your fathers and grandfathers build the independence of this country after centuries, but now it is your turn, you must be the game changers, you must build the Armenia of the 21st century, you must build an Armenia capable of fulfilling your dreams. It is all up to you alone. Having a good diploma is not enough, you must believe in some very important values, European values. I hope that this event will help you to develop your understanding and consolidate your belief in these European values’.
Participants addressed recent political developments in the Eastern Partnership region and made decisions taking into account current trends and pressures within the European Union. Indeed, participants represented the national interests of their assigned state expressed during the EU-EaP summit. In the weeks leading up to the conference, participants had the opportunity to participate in 2 preparatory training sessions, learn about the activities of EU institutions, and acquaint themselves with the cornerstones of the EU common foreign and security policy. 12241390_924724680914795_3519069433732465066_nDuring the conference, participants also had the possibility to improve their negotiation skills. The main aim of the model conference was to stimulate civic activism and improve the EU-related knowledge and level of European awareness among young Armenians.
On the closing day of the conference, Ambassador Piotr Switalski presented the participants with certificates of appreciation.

“Women’s Entrepreneurship Week” is taking place in Yerevan from 8 to 11 June 2015, organised by the Armenian Young Women’s Association (AYWA) under the umbrella of the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (FCEM). The week is co-financed by the European Union in Armenia.
11390234_855879411132656_4648998405416274655_nAs the week began, the Head of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Hoa-Binh Adjemian, underlined the EU’s commitment to supporting Armenia in all areas of mutual interest: ‘The EU is the primary donor supporting Armenia and Armenia citizens, particularly women. EU cooperation with Armenia is gender sensitive as equality is at the core of EU-Armenia shared values. There are many projects currently being implemented in Armenia with the support of the EU – many of them are connected to the rights of Armenian women’.
Part of the week will be an international conference of women entrepreneurs entitled “Vision of new developments”. The conference is aimed at presenting the successful experiences of women entrepreneurs from different countries, and sharing ideas and best practices to establish a good basis for further cooperation between local and international businesswomen. This conference offers a good stage for women entrepreneurs to create new links with new potential partners, find opportunities for investment in Armenia, and network more widely with women entrepreneurs on the global level. The explicit goals of the conference are to:
• Create links and strengthen cooperation between women entrepreneurs and business owners in Armenia and abroad;
• Facilitate the development of women’s entrepreneurship;
• Improve the business environment for small- and medium-sized enterprises;
• Promote investment in business and the establishment of joint ventures in Armenia.
Target areas for investment and cooperation in Armenia from women’s entrepreneurship point of view include the education, culture, energy, tourism, and information technology industries, as well as mining, textiles, petrochemicals, and agriculture, among others. Members of FCEM, women entrepreneurs from Armenia and abroad, ambassadors, scientists, and business experts, as well as representatives of state bodies, financial structures, international organisations, the public sector, and mass media, have been invited and are expected to participate in the conference.
11401077_855879464465984_8082348570469790137_nThe President of AWYA, Lilit Asatryan, spoke ahead of the conference: ‘Our aim is to highlight the importance of female entrepreneurship, as well as to give women in business the opportunity to communicate with female entrepreneurs working in various international organisations and/or running large enterprises, which will lead to cooperation’.
“Women’s Entrepreneurship Week” will include other activities, among which study visits to businesses and corporations, a trade fair to facilitate bilateral and multilateral meetings, B2B sessions, exhibitions of work by female artists, and other cultural programmes.

The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) Ministerial Conference and Fourth Bologna Policy Forum took place on 14-15 May 2015 in Yerevan, Armenia. About 500 participants from 47 countries and international organisations, including 20 education ministers, arrived in Armenia to attend the event. Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, also came to Armenia to take part in the conference and join in the Europe Day celebrations.
During the opening ceremony of the conference, Commissioner Navracsics thanked Armenia for hosting the conference, as well as Iceland and Latvia for their chairmanship: ‘The very core of our societies has suffered serious blows this year: freedom of speech and academic thought have been under attack in Europe and beyond. From the shocking attacks in Paris and Copenhagen to the devastating killings of students in Kenya we have all been reminded that to maintain and nurture democratic values and academic freedom we have to work together and engage in constant dialogue. Universities have a vital role to play.
They provide an environment and prospective that enable citizens to think freely and critically, and they nurture open, tolerant societies. Higher education institutions played an irreplaceable role in rebuilding societies in Europe after 1989. Today, higher education and academic values remain crucial for the safekeeping of democratic freedoms. We must acknowledge these values and share commitments we will make here in Yerevan’.
The Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, also spoke: ‘Positive and progressive trends have been registered in our higher education institutions with regard to both the application of European quality standards and student mobility. The Armenian culture of education, which originated in ancient times, is an integral part of our country’s ancient history and has made global contributions. To build upon our educational traditions today we need accessible and adequate tools for contact and communication throughout the whole European Higher Education Area. In that context, the Bologna process-driven reforms have significantly supported the founding of a student-orientated system and efforts that provide today’s generation with the opportunity to be well equipped and competitive to respond to current challenges. Although we have not yet overcome all the obstacles, the accomplishments we have already registered and our will to achieve global goals signals a more active stage of dialogue. The important decisions you are going to make in Yerevan will have a positive impact on millions of European students and education beneficiaries, thus paving the way for new progress, economic development and stability’.
After the opening remarks of the chairmen and the Armenian Minister of Education and Science, participants started their discussions, one result of which was the Republic of Belarus becoming a member of the EHEA.
The conference concluded with a communiqué for Yerevan. For the first time in a EHEA ministerial communiqué, the right to student mobility and education in conflict areas was affirmed, a crucial principle in the context of European education policy.
ARS_3109The Armenian Prime Minister closed proceedings, stating that Armenia highly evaluated the participation of such an audience and delegations in Yerevan: ‘The Bologna process is a result of a successful cooperation. It has had a crucial role in the creation of the EHEA model, as well as enabled countries with different cultural and education traditions to create learning environments in line with European standards’.
A press conference attended by all participating ministers was held after the conference. Mārīte Seile, Latvian Minister of Education and Science, commented that the Bologna process was very important for Europe’s competitiveness: ‘The conference was a very clear message that higher education is not only about knowledge and skills, but also values and attitudes’. ARS_3312
The Armenian Minister of Education and Science, Armen Ashotyan, announced that the next conference would be hosted by France in 2018.

Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edvard Nalbandyan, held the joint press conference in Yerevan on 18 March 2015.
The two officials spoke to journalists about further EU-Armenia cooperation and then answered questions. ‘The EU and Armenia have successfully completed joint discussions on future cooperation frameworks and outlined possible ways forward. I hope that we can use these discussions as a basis, from which we can launch negotiations on a new agreement,’ stated Hahn.
Nalbandyan talked about Armenia’s approach: ‘The consultations, held between Armenia and the European Union, will outline the legal basis that in turn will be formed as a result of negotiations. Negotiations will resume, as soon as the European Union gives appropriate mandate to its team to negotiate. I think that there are prerequisites for the mandate to be given soon. In the results of negotiations we would draft the document – the new legal basis for Armenia-European Union relations. ’.
ARS_4804Commissioner Hahn again stressed the EU’s support: ‘Today we had a very comprehensive discussion touching a wide range of issues on EU-Armenia relations. Armenia can expect the EU’s further support to strengthen political and social reforms, to implement visa facilitation and the readmission agreement, and to enhance human rights and fundamental freedoms’.
Earlier on the same day, Hahn had met with the Armenian President and made a speech during the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly’s fourth ordinary session emphasising on working together to make partnerships between countries more effective.

A conference entitled “Fighting Impunity for Torture: from Words to Actions” took place on 22 January at the Armenia Mariott hotel, organised by the Civil Society Institute with support from the EU. The main topic of the conference was to introduce actions being taken to prevent torture in Armenia.
In his opening remarks, the Deputy Head of Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation, Jose-Maria Medina Navarro, talked about the EU’s human rights policy: ‘The EU’s emphasis on fighting torture is reflected in its substantial funding of civil society projects around the world. The prevention of torture and the rehabilitation of torture victims constitute a major priority for funding under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). We hope that, as a result of this project, an environment of non-tolerance towards torture will be instilled in Armenian society which, in its turn, will contribute to greater accountability of law-enforcement bodies and the courts’.
Over the last 5 years, an average of €12 million per year has been allocated to funding anti-torture projects, thereby making the EIDHR a leading funding source for the rehabilitation of victims and the prevention of torture worldwide. Themes selected for support are designed to reinforce EU policy, particularly the “ Guidelines to EU policy towards third countries on Torture” adopted by the Council of the European Union in 2001 (and revised in 2008 and 2012).
Arman Danielyan, President of the Civil Society Institute, introduced the results of the “Exclusion of Torture and Forced Confessions as a GROUND for Fair Trial” project, funded by the EU: ‘The problem of torture is that it is multilayered; it is impossible to solve it in one day. We need systematic actions in different fields. Some actions were taken in this field in recent years, but this is not enough’.
During the project, the organisers interviewed 30 experts in the field and 100 volunteers, as well as undertook journalistic investigations. IMG_8889
During the conference, speakers presented results of polls on torture and showcased applications for android phones, through which anyone could have access to information on their rights and the appropriate legislation.

The “Armenia Model European Union 2014” Youth Conference (AMEU 2014) was held on 8 November. More than 110 Armenian students and activists from various regions of Armenia as well as 18 international participants from different European countries participated in the project. These participants were selected through a competitive, two-phase procedure involving 450 applicants.

The key topic of the youth conference was “EU Common Foreign and Security Policy in Light of the Ukrainian Crisis”. Participants took on the roles of members of the European Parliament as well as the offices of several high-level EU officials.

Ambassador Hristea highlighted the importance of this type of event: ‘The EU believes in youth, because you are the ones with the potential to shape the future and be the initiators of changes. You have the opportunity to meet economic, cultural and social challenges head on. This is the reason that we have launched several projects concerning youth. The EaP Youth Programme that was founded in 2012 has sought and continues to seek to promote greater participation of young people in social, political, economic and professional spheres, and to develop dialogue between young people in EaP countries’.

The conference participants simulated the activities of the European Parliament, the only directly elected institution in the EU. Over the previous 4 weeks all participants in AMEU 2014 were divided into the respective political groups represented in the real European Parliament. During the event they made decisions in the context of ongoing political developments and pressures within the EU, also taking into account the national interest of the EU citizen groups represented at the parliament. The main aim of the model conference was to stimulate civic activism and improve EU-related knowledge and the level of European awareness among young people.