Tag Archives: EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski

The closing ceremony of the “First Inclusive Bakery and Coffee Shop in Gyumri” project, which was co-funded by the European Union, Caritas Austria, and the Austrian Development Agency, was held on 19 July in Gyumri. EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski, Governor of Shirak marz Tigran Petrosyan, Gyumri Mayor Samvel Balasanyan, Caritas Austria Programme Manager Robert Moosbrugger and President of “Armenian Caritas” Archbishop Raphael Minassian were present at the event and delivered speeches. Attendees had the opportunity to view a film about the project, as well as receive the report with stories, statistics, and pictures.

Ambassador Świtalski welcomed all the participants: “Thanks to this project a space has been opened to complement the symbols of Gyumri. I am particularly happy today and would like to thank Caritas Austria and the Austrian Development Agency, as well as Armenian Caritas and the Emili Aregak Centre. This is one of the best projects that has been implemented in Gyumri, making the city a better place for people with disabilities. I hope the centre will continue its activities by keeping its good reputation”.

Archbishop Minassian thanked the project implementers: “This ceremony is unique as it is an exceptional opportunity to say that we succeeded. I would like to thank all who were involved in this wonderful project. Also I would like to thank the parents who had the courage to direct their children to the centre and trust Caritas. I would like to thank not only the participants, the donors, but also all our children, who were able to express their abilities with enthusiasm, joy, and smiles”.

“First Inclusive Bakery and Coffee Shop in Gyumri” was co-financed by the European Union, the Austrian Development Cooperation, and Caritas Austria, and implemented by the Emili Aregak Centre of Armenian Caritas. The project had five major components: herbal gardening; training and cooperation; therapeutic handicraft work; public awareness raising and a bakery and coffee shop. The project’s overall objective was to create opportunities to involve young people with disabilities in the labour market. Target groups included youth and adults with disabilities, their parents and the Emili Aregak Day Care Centre for Children with Multiple Disabilities in Gyumri. The total project budget was €300,000, of which the European Union contribution was €269,187.

On 19 July the Amasia wool-processing factory, supported by the European Union, began operations. The factory was established within the framework of the “EU4Shirak: Wool for Jobs” project. The EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski, RA Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Vache Terteryan, and the Governor of Shirak marz Tigran Petrosyan, together with other officials of the state, regional organisations and guests participated in the official opening of the Amasia wool factory. They took a short tour in the factory to see the new equipment and wool-processing techniques, as well as to speak to employees.

Ambassador Świtalski thanked everyone for coming and mentioned that it was an honour for the EU to support such a project: “Greetings to the wonderful people of Amasia, who live in a wonderful corner of Armenia. I hope very much in the coming years this place will be the future of Armenia. This project has been developed and implemented by a consortium of partners and I want to thank them for the wonderful idea and for their dedication to make it real. For me the main advantage of this project was Amasia itself. I visited Amasia before and I thought this place needed new impetus. So I want to thank all the people involved in the implementation of this project”.

Deputy Minister Terteryan welcomed everyone and thanked them for their support: “The factory will promote economic activity, create new jobs, and reduce unemployment in the region. This project is unique among PRDP projects because it was more ambitious – the proposed action follows a value chain development approach for woollen products, from sheep to customer. If we succeed here, we will have a good base from which to solve this problem in other livestock breeding regions of Armenia. I hope the factory will not only expand its production volume, but also export geography”.

The wool produced in Amasia and neighbouring villages is known to be exceptionally thick, with up to 16 natural colours. This makes it ideally suited for the production of carpets, rugs and various textiles. Annual production capacity of the factory is 25 tonnes of wool.  Within “EU4Shirak: Wool for Jobs” project, wool-processing specialists were trained by professionals from Europe and Armenia. They gained the necessary skills to work in the new factory or elsewhere in the wool sector. Moreover, the project offers funding opportunities to local 14 small- and medium-sized enterprises operating within the newly established wool value chain. This will increase their market competitiveness and support economic growth in Shirak marz. The factory has 16 employees and is expected to have 23.

“EU4 Shirak: Wool for jobs” is being 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. It is co-funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure of the Republic of Armenia through the Pilot Regional Development Programme (PRDP). The project has a total budget of €549,819 (the EU contribution is €335,000) and it will run until 2020.

On 15 March the EU Delegation to Armenia organised an informational visit to innovative companies and start-ups which have received technical and financial support through the “Support to SME Development in Armenia” (SMEDA) project to get acquainted with the results achieved through the EU support. The visit was attended by the EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski.

20SMEDA is co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ’s Private Sector Development in South Caucasus Programme. SMEDA forms part of the EU4Business and EU4Innovation initiatives of the European Union in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. To enable broad-based growth in Armenia, SMEDA focuses on the main objective to improve the general business and investment climate in Armenia, and to create a supportive entrepreneurial environment which fosters development and creation of small- and- medium enterprises. The project has been supporting Armenian start-ups with two types of grant – Innovation Matching Grants (IMG) and Science and Technology Entrepreneurship (STEP) grants. The total budget of the project is €6.53 million (EU contribution is €6.4 million); it was launched on 1 January 2016 and will run till 31 December 2019 (48 months).

19The project achieved tangible results in supply side-orientated start-up support: 224 new jobs were created due to participation in the programme; there have been 45 new ideas in the market for new products and services; 22 companies were newly established due to participation in the programme; additionally, at least €400,000 in investment was attracted; 2,063 participated in training, workshops and boot camps; 65 startups were supported; 33 companies have received EU IMG and STEP seed grants. Both grants target tech-orientated SMEs and projects. In the first cycle, companies received 8 IMG and 5 STEP grants (selection in 2017) which offered €15-50k in funding for 12 months. In the second cycle, companies received 6 IMG and 15 STEP grants (selection in 2018) with up to €30k for 9 months and between €4-15k funding for 6 months.

1During the visit the EU Ambassador mentioned: “Our German partners are implementing this flagship project, SMEDA, it is still running. This project is very important for the EU. We want to show to Armenians that the EU wants to be seen as the ambassador for SME enterprise and innovation. We believe that SMEs can become a very important engine of growth in Armenia. They constitute great untapped potential for the economy. The way forward for Armenia is through innovation. Baring in mind Armenia’s intellectual potential and human capital, we believe that this fusion of SMEs and innovation can bring a lot of benefits to the country. We are glad that the current government shares this philosophy. The fact we are on the same page opens new possibilities for future cooperation. On our side, as a symbolic act, we will extend cooperation with GIZ, adding €3 million to support SMEs, particularly start-up initiatives in technology. Today we will inaugurate the Start-up Europe Week Yerevan 2019. This week is not only about publicising EU commitment and support, but also publicising the success stories of real Armenian businesspeople who are trying to put SMEs at the centre of attention”.

On 26 January, the EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski and representatives of the Armenian government participated in the opening of the Ashotsk Ski Centre in Shirak marz.  It is the first of three EU-funded demonstration initiatives from the “Citizens’ voice and actions in consolidated communities of Armenia” project.

DSC_4655This 30-month EU-funded activity aims to address communities’ capacity gaps and foster local development in a sustainable, participatory, and accountable manner. The project’s ultimate objective is to enhance community capacity to design and implement people-centered and sustainable local development projects, thereby supporting government reforms and managing a range of challenges. The project targets to strengthen the capacity of 52 recently consolidated communities – most of which are in rural and remote locations – to engage citizens in local tourism, namely outdoor activities and healthy lifestyles. The project will also pilot citizen budgeting in Armenia; this will provide citizens in 52 communities with the opportunities to implement small initiatives on their own through sub-grants. Communities will be supported through training and examples of best practice from Europe and Georgia. “Citizens voice and actions in consolidated communities in Armenia” is co-implemented by ALDA in partnership with the Communities Finance Officers Association (CFOA) and the Communities Association of Armenia (UCA), with the financial support of the European Union.

4Ashotsk already had a new ski piste, on which an international tournament was held. The ski centre is located right next to the piste and is easily accessible for training or competitions. The centre has bedrooms, a kitchen, leisure areas, and a high-quality heating system. On 26-27 January the Ashotsk Cross-country Ski Races event took place at the ski centre, with more than 400 people enjoying skiing and the races. The official opening was followed by classic-style races for children (2km), men (2km), and then women (1km). The programme included a show by Para Nordic Skiing, which provided lots of fun for all. Small children were able to celebrate the World Snow Day; people had the opportunity to compete in a media race with the EU Ambassador. The winners’ award ceremony closed the event.

DSC_5095EU Ambassador Świtalski highlighted the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles in Armenian communities and developing tourism: “The European Union wants people to be strong and healthy in Armenia and sport will help to achieve this goal. As Ashotsk has snowfall for 7 months a year, and now has a ski piste accepted by the International Ski Federation, we decided to make the Ashotsk residents happy and start a project that has great prospects. I think for Ashotsk residents it is very important to have such a centre – it will promote not only sport but also tourism. Our project does not have a big budget, which means that modest investment can and will have to make big changes in remote communities. This is one of 10 projects in remote communities in Armenia. In the future we plan to have a number of similar projects. The European Union plans to invest another €7 million in the development of tourism in the northern regions of Armenia”.