Tag Archives: EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski

On 22 July, the EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski gave a press conference on EU-Armenia relations and the completion of his diplomatic mission in Armenia. The Ambassador thanked everyone for attending: “Our cooperation between the EU and Armenia is on the right track. I believe that the Armenian people appreciate what we have done and continue to do. The EU NEIGHBOURS east project carries out opinion polls in the six EU Eastern Partnership countries every year. According to the 2019 survey, 62% of Armenians have a positive image of the European Union, 92% of Armenians feel relations with the European Union are good, 61% of people in Armenia trust the EU, 71% of Armenians are aware of the EU’s financial support to the country, and two thirds feel that EU support is effective. This high level of support is essential. I think people have a natural instinct to understand the logic of things, but only a minority of citizens are aware that the EU and its Member States are the biggest donor in Armenia, and we are probably the only donor which has increased our support in the recent months so drastically.

“When I look back at my job here, it has been very rewarding in professional and human terms. For a diplomat it is very difficult even now to reveal all sides of our activities that are not visible to the public. That said, from day one of my mission I tried to be as transparent as possible. It will not be a surprise for anyone that there was so much that went on that was not visible to the public. It is too early to sum up everything that has happened in Armenia on my watch, but overall I feel satisfied. People appreciate what we have done during the past, very important, years for Armenia.
“Before, the average level of our annual bilateral support to Armenia was €35 million. In 2019 this support will reach €70m. However, there are also other funds through which we support our neighbours. This money will be invested in concrete projects – we are currently discussing with the Armenian Government over where to direct this money. I believe that by the end of the year we will formalise all documents.
“The EU is very transparent and we are also talking with the Government about the future. The EU will start technical discussions on the next Multiannual Financial Framework. We know what we have till 2021, what will happen after that will be now discussed in Brussels. It is very important for Armenia that this level of support, which for 2019 was unprecedentedly high, is sustained in the future.
“Finally, I should express my deep gratitude to the media community of Armenia for very productive cooperation, I have enjoyed it. My messages to you – protect your freedom, expose fake news, make a distinctive difference between opinion and facts, and combat hate speech”.

 

ARS_2748_On 23 March, EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski inaugurated the EU-funded “Pilot initiative to promote inclusive approaches to engaging children with disabilities in society”. The event took place at Ashotsk Ski Centre, established within the frames another EU-funded project in the beginning of this year. The EU is strongly committed to promoting inclusive winter and summer sports that are accessible to all Armenians. Following the formal opening, Ambassador Świtalski participated in cross-country skiing training with children. The skiing trails were prepared by a snow grooming machine procured by the project that will allow for the expansion of the professional skiing area and the preparation of a dedicated area for recreational activities for children with disabilities at the ski centre.

ARS_2838_The Ambassador thanked everyone for coming and highlighted the importance of the project: “Today is a special occasion. We are introducing a project to engage people with disabilities, especially children, in winter sports. The EU would like to promote Ashotsk as a ski centre for ordinary people, a place where everybody, including people with disabilities, can come and enjoy winter sports. It is the end of March, but we can still see plenty of snow. It is an asset which should be used by Armenians! Our partners in this project are playing a very important role in promoting winter sports for people with disabilities. The machine which was procured through this project is very important, as people with disabilities need well-prepared tracks. I hope that young Armenians will win a lot of medals in the future, including at the Paralympic Games”.

The projectis aimed to promote outdoor activities and a healthy lifestyle among children with different types of disability in Armenia, as well as raise awareness of adaptive snow sports available for people with disabilities at Ashotsk and other ski centres in Armenia. The overall goal is to improve the quality of life and social inclusion of children living with disabilities. The project includes three pilot activities: alpine and cross-country skiing sessions for children with disabilities from different regions of Armenia at Ashotsk and Tsakhadzor resorts (attended by over 100 children and accompanying specialists and volunteers); a boccia (a popular ball sport for people with disabilities) competition involving children from 7 marzes of Armenia; a 4-day summer sports camp at Lake Sevan for children and young people with disabilities.

ARS_2588_As part of the project, the Armenian Ski Federation has procured snow-grooming equipment (Ratrak) to flatten snow and prepare specialised skiing tracks for children with disabilities. Ratrak is a unique machine that prepares specialised pistes for sitskiing, ski walking, and other winter recreation activities for children with disabilities. The project is implemented by the Coalition for Inclusive Legal Reforms, represented by its member organisation specialising in promoting disabled sports – Armenian Camp: Language and Sailing School NGO, and the Armenian Ski Federation. The project has a 9-month duration and a total budget of €47,900, of which the EU contribution is €44,900.

On 8 December, an Arts and Crafts Centre was opened in Dilijan, followed by the official opening of the Dilijan Winter Bazaar. From now on, artisans and craftsmen from Dilijan and adjacent communities can take advantage of the opportunities the centre opens to create interesting items and souvenirs. The centre was established as part of the “Dilijan and Adjacent Communities Development Initiative” project. This project is being implemented by the Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA) Foundation, DIS Properties Charity Foundation, the Dilijan Municipality, and Dilijan National Park. It is funded by the EU and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of Armenia through the Pilot Regional Development Programme (PRDP).

4The PRDP Grant Scheme in Dilijan helps local people to become involved in rural tourism activities and profit from it. Local stakeholders are encouraged to acquire the skills to become the architects of the future of their own areas by adding value to local products and facilitating their access to local markets; safeguarding the natural resources which are in danger of disappearing; promoting the image of Dilijan and Tavush marz in general; recapturing the socio-cultural heritage of local communities.

3Small workshops located in community schools have been opened in Gosh, Haghartsin and Teghut communities. Thus, school students can also take advantage of these workshops and being their creative talent to fruition. The Arts and Crafts Centre and the three community workshops are equipped with furniture and equipment, with the space for twelve people at a time. Besides providing necessary work space for artisans and craftsmen, specialists working in the centre can present and sell their products at the Dilijan Tourist Information Centre, which opened this summer in the framework of the same project. The opening of the Dilijan Winter Bazaar, the first large-scale event in Dilijan of its type, also marked the day. The fair gave residents from Dilijan and adjacent communities the chance to sell their handmade goods two days in a row, and allowed participants to take part in interesting events, listen to musical performances by UWC Dilijan students, and buy presents for New Year.

1EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski spoke of the support for the project and its implementers: “We are proud to be associated with this project. Almost two years ago we launched the PRDP Grant Scheme with the Armenian government. This was designed to help the Armenian marzes and boost economic growth. We selected several project in various marzes, and I am happy Dilijan’s project has been the most successful. This centre can help communities enjoy better lives, restore traditions, and promote Dilijan as a brand. It complements the picture alongside other activities made through the “Dilijan and Adjacent Communities Development Initiative”. You have wonderful taste and you can bring about change everywhere. People make this project successful and I want to thank you all. I hope you will be successful and Dilijan’s brand will be famous not only in Yerevan”.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage in Armenia was marked by a major event – the European Film Festival 2018. This enabled Armenian audiences to watch films produced in European countries over the past 2 years. The official opening of the festival was held at Moscow Cinema on 17 November with the screening of the British film “Colette”. Armenia hosted the festival till 30 November. 11 films from the main programme were screened in Yerevan, and 4 films in Gyumri and Dilijan. 10 more screenings were held as part of the festival side events, along with four discussions and two training sessions. The festival programme also included three competitions. European Film Festival 2018 was organised by the EU Delegation in Armenia and the EUNIC Armenia cluster. British Council Armenia was an implementing partner.

ARS_2628On 4 December, the Award and Closing Ceremony of the European Film Festival 2018 took place at the Parajanov Museum in Yerevan. The event was attended by the EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, EU member state ambassadors in Yerevan, and representatives of partner organisations. During the ceremony, winners of the festival competitions were rewarded, and Certificates of Gratitude were handed to representatives of partner organisations.

ARS_5743The EU Ambassador expressed the hope that the festival had brought something new to the calendar of cultural events in Armenia: “This is the first European film festival after a long break held in Armenia; hopefully there will be follow-on developments in the coming years. I hope very much that this festival convinced not only specialists, but also the ordinary public, that it is worth watching European films. I didn’t watch them all, but based on what I have heard we managed to bring a very diverse and rich offering. I believe that we were able to show films that are not normally shown in cinemas, films about which we do not have time to think. I am also very glad that we organised showings outside Yerevan, in Gyumri and Dilijan. I believe this is something that should be repeated in the future. The purpose of this festival is not only to disseminate European culture, the purpose of this festival is to make bridges between Armenia and the rest of us even stronger and more inspiring. I confirm that we will continue our support for other initiatives aimed at developing film culture in Armenia”.

On 30 October, the EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski visited Vayots Dzor marz to meet Armenian farmers and witness the results of EU sub-grant projects first-hand. The European Union has supported Armenian farmers for many years through the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) and the Organic Agriculture Support Initiative (OASI) project.

3The first stop was “Trinity Canyon Vineyards” (Aghavnadzor, Vayots Dzor marz). This is one of the 44 farms supported by the OASI project. To expand wine production, “Trinity Canyon Vineyards” received a grant of €29,941 from the EU. The OASI project has provided technical assistance to 27 small farmer groups, and 18 farmers received grants in Armenia. It has provided farmers, cooperatives and processors market information and direct marketing support (labels, brands, packaging, etc.), linked local and global markets (particularly European companies), supported the participation of national and international organic food fairs, as well as helped them to develop and implement awareness-raising campaigns.

27The second stop was in “Yerpin” Agricultural Cooperative (Yelpin, Vayots Dzor marz). It is one of the 6 European-style high-value cheese factories established in six Armenian communities through the ENPARD programme. The EU grant to “Yerpin” was €49,900. As a result of the ENPARD programme, 53 primary producer and processing cooperatives have been established; they have been trained in production and processing of crops, non-traditional vegetables, fruits and berries, cheese, dried fruits and herbs. 39 primary-producer agricultural cooperatives, including more than 580 farmers from 70 communities, had the opportunity to improve their livelihoods. Buckwheat and broccoli seeds, fertiliser, seedlings, processing tools, and agricultural equipment were provided to 39 of these cooperatives. Greenhouses have been equipped with drip irrigation systems in women-led cooperatives. 600 farmers have received extensive training and consultation on best agricultural practices and business plan development. 12 processing cooperatives were provided with laboratory and packaging equipment, as well as consultations from international and local experts on entrepreneurship, business planning, branding, sales and marketing. 2 buckwheat-processing factories have been established, combining 33 cooperatives. 6 dried-fruit and -herb cooperatives use a closed production cycle method to ensure quality products.

16Ambassador Świtalski thanked all sides for hospitality: “ENPARD and OASI have provided support to Armenian agriculture in terms of budget support, technical assistance and grants. We want to develop rural communities/areas, to improve the competitiveness and modernisation of the agri-food sector, and increase the living standards of Armenian citizens. Since 2015 the EU contribution to ENPARD has been €25,000,000; the EU has given €2,800,000 to OASI. “Trinity Canyon Vineyards” is a beautiful enterprise trying to revitalise the Armenian tradition of wine production. They put so much dedication and soul into this endeavour. “Yerpin” produces very delicious Armenian cheese with the potential to make it on the international market. Today is an opportunity for us to speak about the EU’s contribution to Armenian agriculture. The EU is the biggest donor to this sector in Armenia and we are determined to continue our support. We believe that products form Armenia can enter European and other markets, bringing extra benefit to farmers. The European market is competitive, requirements are tough, but it is worth the effort”.

12On 2 October the “European Union National Institutes of Culture” (EUNIC) cluster opened in Armenia. During the event, the official EUNIC Charter was signed by the eight founding members, which was followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between EUNIC Armenia and the European Union Delegation to Armenia. EUNIC is a global network of European Union national cultural institutes which includes 36 cultural institutes that represent 28 member states in over 100 countries. Established in 2006, the aim of EUNIC is to share best practice in culture, promote cultural diversity, and encourage mutual understanding. In Armenia, the EUNIC cluster was established in summer of 2018 by eight members: the Goethe Institute, Yerevan Committee of Dante Alighieri Associations, the Embassies of France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland and Bulgaria in Armenia. The responsibilities for the 2018-2019 presidency of EUNIC Armenia will be fulfilled by the British Council in Armenia and the vice-presidency will be held by the French Embassy.

ARS_7135The EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski congratulated all involved: “EUNIC is a global network, it exists in more than 100 states and it has found its way to a very cultural nation. The establishment of the EUNIC cluster in Armenia coincides with the European Year of Cultural Heritage, another symbolic coincidence. Establishing the EUNIC cluster in Armenia has been significant; it will unite our efforts. This is not just familiarising Armenia with European culture and identity, but using cultural relations to expand partnership and opportunities between our counties. I hope it will result in new activities and initiatives that will promote the European culture”.

ARS_7154The President of EUNIC Armenia, the Director of the British Council in Armenia Arevik Saribekyan, highlighted the cluster’s challenging agenda and its three main strategic directions: “Firstly, we want to introduce best experience and practice from the EU as well as expert knowledge to support the Government’s officials and institutions dealing with culture. The second priority is to promote cultural diversity. Our third priority is to strengthen the creative sector by encouraging and supporting creative initiatives”.

Katarína Mathernová, the Deputy Director General (DDG) for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission visited Armenia from 19-21 July. The visit was an important milestone in the EU-Armenia relations as it was the first high-level visit by the European Commission to the country since the new Government took office.

56On 19 July, accompanied by the EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski and the Head of the European Commission’s Neighbourhood and Enlargement Unit responsible for Armenia Vassilis Maragos, the Deputy Director-General had a meeting with civil society representatives to discuss key issues of governance and human rights, as well as the European Union’s support to civil society. Next day, Katarína Mathernová participated in the opening of the EU External Investment Plan (EIP) Conference in Armenia. The event was organised by the EU Delegation to Armenia to introduce the EIP and its components as well as opportunities to public and private stakeholders. On the same day, the Deputy Director-General had meetings with the RA Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan and the RA Minister of Economic Development and Investments Artsvik Minasyan. Katarína Mathernová also visited the EU Delegation to Armenia and met the Delegation’s staff.

DSC_2125Later, Katarína Mathernová participated in the launch of an EU-funded e-Governance project. During the event general interoperability platform for all e-gov services, starting with border crossing points of the country, combined with presentation of previous EU assistance in e-gov services were introduced. The EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, the RA Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan, and the Head of the European Commission’s Neighbourhood and Enlargement Unit responsible for Armenia Vassilis Maragos also participated in the event.

DSC_2335The Deputy Director-General summed up the day with a press conference and answered different questions on important issues: ‘It is great to be back in Yerevan, it is not my first time here. I was here in 1986 when some of you were not even born – it is fantastic to see the changes. Congratulations on the April revolution – it is very close to my heart as I come from Slovakia. In 1989 we had our own velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia. I would like to quote the words of EU High Representative Federica Mogherini: “Armenia and the EU have never been closer”. Indeed, we signed EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) back in November. The agreement has the potential to bring a lot more trade and economic exchange with the EU, from which Armenian businesses and citizens will benefit. We are very much looking forward to supporting the implementation of this important agreement. We are also very excited about the direction the new Government has outlined in its reform plan and we stand ready to support the Government, civil society and the citizens in this new direction with the means we have available. The timing of this visit is very fortuitous as the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, was in Brussels last week for the NATO Summit and held meetings with the EU officials. I thought this would be on occasion to continue the discussions with the Government’.

On 21 July, within the framework of her working visit, the Deputy Director-General participated in the “No-Tie Seminar: EU-Armenia Cooperation and the Way Forward”, which was co-chaired by the European Union and Government of Armenia. The EU-Armenia cooperation framework, as well as EU modalities and instruments, were discussed in light of enhanced collaboration and the possibility of tangible results for the citizens of Armenia. The three-day working visit of Katarína Mathernová was concluded with the visit to the production site of herbal teas and dried fruits opened in Geghard community of Kotayk marz with the support of the EU-funded ENPARD programme.

On 11 October the EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, made a working visit to town Armavir, Armavir marz. In the morning the Ambassador met with the Governor of Armavir marz, Ashot Ghahramanyan, and the Mayor of Armavir, Ruben Khlghatyan, to discuss bilateral cooperation.

ARS_6635Later the Ambassador was hosted by Armavir State Art College, accompanied by Governor Ghahramanyan. He then attended the official opening of a social enterprise printing house at the college; the latter was established through the EU-funded and Save the Children-implemented “Social Innovations for Vocational Education and Employability of Young People with Disabilities” (SIVEE) project. SIVEE has achieved tangible results in creating equal employment opportunities for youth with disabilities through promoting social innovation in Armenia’s vocational and education and training (VET) sector. As part of this project 40 students with disabilities have received vocational training at Armavir State Art College. Five alumni have already been employed at this printing house. Overall 5 technical VETs out of 7 were selected to set up innovative social enterprises (SE). Each SE will hire at least 5 employees with disabilities employing in total 25 young people.

ARS_6780The college also hosted a forum on VET reform, during which the Ambassador announced a budget support programme, “Better Qualifications for Better Jobs”, which will have a budget of €15.2 million from 2017-2019 and to be financed under European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI). The main implementers of the programme will be the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science, the Armenian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture, private sector organisations, and other civil society partners. The programme seeks to improve efficiency in Armenia’s labour market and the employability of its workforce, with a particular emphasis on agricultural employment.

ARS_6696The Ambassador spoke more on the EU’s continuous contribution to VET in Armenia: ‘Today we will talk about education – I want to confirm the EU’s commitment to supporting the development of education in Armenia at all levels. Today I am announcing a large programme aimed at offering modern and better-quality education. The EU has conducted many activities in Armenia related to education: we have completed a big programme that supported VET in many Armenian marzes, I myself visited many of the colleges involved and was impressed with the quality of project implementation. However, the sad side of the story is that not all alumni can then find jobs matching their qualifications. Therefore, this new programme has been formulated differently – we want to talk about matching demand and supply, qualifications, and jobs so that people graduating in VET can find jobs which will satisfy them and will fulfill their aspirations. On the other hand, employers must also find people with the right skills and education’.
Both the VET Reform Forum and the opening of the Social Enterprise took place as part of the “Learning is Cool” campaign initiated by the European Union Delegation to Armenia. Running from 9-13 October, the campaign has promoted the positive outcomes of EU-Armenia cooperation on education and employability through a series of events. It has highlighted the value of lifelong learning to the citizens of Armenia.
The Ambassador’s working visit concluded with a meeting at the Armavir Euroclub.