Tag Archives: EU-Armenia relations

ARS_4924On 29 January Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for EU Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, visited Armenia. During the visit the EU Commissioner met with Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. During the meetings, the parties discussed  EU-Armenia relations, EU assistance to Armenia, the Eastern Partnership (which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year), the implementation of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), the necessity of fostering broader regional cooperation, and the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Commissioner Hahn also met with the representatives of civil society and gave a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mnatsakanyan.

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner 5During the press conference Commissioner Hahn congratulated the Armenian government on the parliamentary elections held on 9 December 2018: “These elections reflected the people’s will. These were elections accepted by the international community as fair and transparent. Based on them, we must look to the future, which means economic development – we need to have a stronger, more resilient, more democratic society. We have identified some areas where we can focus and make a European contribution, particularly agriculture, technology, judicial reform, education, and others. Our whole cooperation is based on a solid framework. Currently we have projects worth €300 million being implementation and another €100 million allocated for upcoming projects. Additionally, grants and loans have generated over €800 million in investments across various sectors. This will be further enhanced as we are working with the government to identify areas requiring further support. I would like to announce the signature of a €23 million assistance package to Armenia on education and innovation. I am proud to say that we have invested a lot in education and will continue to do so. We are already in the midst of the negotiations concerning the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) within the EU. We are talking about a 7-years budget, 2021-2027. It takes some time but I can already reassure you that support to Neighbours will be in financial terms bigger than the current allocation, and this should have also very positive effect for Armenia”.

ARS_5081Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs thanked Commissioner Hahn for his visit and the quality of dialogue with the EU: “We talked about all issues concerning the current stage of the EU-Armenia agenda. Once again we emphasised the importance we attach to our relations, to those fundamental, main causes and values underpinning the basis of our relations with the European Union. We highlighted the legal foundation of our current relations, CEPA, which remains an essential legal instrument. We evaluated the dynamics of CEPA implementation in Armenia and programmes envisaged for the coming months, so we can efficiently continue the implementation process. We also touched upon how to being visa liberalisation dialogue and the steps we need to take. We also touched upon regional issues, an ongoing process. We have a clear programme of dialogue and contact for the coming months, which we will present more precisely after the dates are fixed. In March we are planning to continue high-level dialogue. This year is going to be very significant, because it marks the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. Accordingly, a high-level event will be held in Brussels, in May, to mark this important anniversary, which will serve as a platform for our dialogue”.

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 16 July, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, gave a press conference, during which the EU-Armenia relations were discussed.

Opinion Survey 2018: Armenia

ARS_3701_Ambassador Świtalski thanked Armenians for their recognition of the work the European Union does in the country, presenting the results of the “Opinion Survey 2018: Armenia”: ‘The EU conducts an annual survey of perceptions of the EU in Eastern Neighbourhood countries. The results concerning Armenia are very satisfactory – here are just a few figures. According to 1,000 face-to-face interviews in March 2018: 70% of people in Armenia trust the EU; 80% feel that relations with the EU are good; 69% of Armenians appreciate the financial support; 66% of Armenians believe that this support is effective; 53% believe that the EU brings tangible results to the everyday life of Armenian citizens; 55% believe that the EU is committed to fighting corruption in Armenia… There were, of course, points in the survey which point out our weaknesses as well. We will take them very seriously, analysing them and factoring them into our future planning. However, the most important thing is the dynamics – we will remain committed to engagement in Armenia as long the citizens want it – their voice is decisive’.

EU-Armenia relations

ARS_3706_The EU Ambassador also spoke about cooperation with the new Government of Armenia: ‘A few days ago, Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, met top EU officials in Brussels. The message sent by the EU was very clear – the EU welcomes the changes that have occurred in Armenia and is ready to support the Government’s dedication to reform. We will be constructive in our support and help Armenia to transform this dedication into concrete action. We are very open to hearing the expectations of the Government. I have been meeting Government representatives – at every meeting we ask a very simple question: “How can we help? What do you expect from us?” We would like to hear concrete ideas from our Armenian partners. When we have a comprehensive perspective we will discuss how we can help in real terms. Our preliminary mission is to help ordinary citizens. As of now, the EU is the biggest donor to Armenia. We are a very complex organisation and operate through specific frameworks. The legal and political basis of our relations with Armenia is the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Partnership Priorities document. We have a long-term vision and our financial instruments, including for Armenia, are reviewed every 7 years through the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). The current one expires in 2020, and a serious discussion has started in Brussels on the new MFF. Now we have the opportunity to look at the structural elements of the MFF and discuss figures. The 7-year period is divided into two sub-periods which we call “Single Support Frameworks”. Last April the Single Support Framework 2017-2020 for Armenia was adopted – this is where we stand. This framework is transparent and has provided a 25% increase in support for Armenia. The Single Support Framework itself is split into annual Action Plans. With the previous Government we were in advanced discussions on the 2018 and 2019 plans. The new Government now has total control of this process. As the previous talks were not finalised we are awaiting proposals for the plans, particularly 2018. We hope they will correspond with the reform agenda and the expectations of Armenian citizens’.

On 8 May the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski gave a press conference on Europe Day 2017 celebrations in Armenia. He discussed EU-Armenia relations and the embezzlement case of EU grants.

EU-Armenia relations

ARS_6004May will be a busy month for the EU Delegation to Armenia due to the Europe Day celebrations from 6-27 May. Ambassador Świtalski mentioned that Armenia was considered part of the wider European family and that all the values embodied in Europe Day were shared: ‘We hope very much to use this opportunity to conduct direct dialogue with the Armenian population, youth in particular. Europe Day celebrations started in Yerevan on 6 May, when Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan honoured us with a visit to the office of the EU Delegation. We will hold events in seven Armenian cities. The last event will be in Yerevan on 27 May. Europe Day is an occasion to talk about the achievements of and important documents created as a result of EU-Armenia cooperation. The EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement was announced on 21 March in Yerevan. I hope that, by the autumn, the agreement will be ready to be signed. However, the key will be implementation. These agreements offer opportunities, but how we use them is up to us. In January I spoke about another important document, Partnership Priorities. I can tell you that the draft has already been agreed between the European Union and Armenia. Armenia is the first Eastern Partnership country to negotiate with the European Union on this new type of document. I hope very much that this agreement will be signed soon. The third important document is the Single Support Framework. These are the areas of EU development assistance in Armenia until 2020. The draft has been submitted to the European Parliament and has received good feedback. I hope that the final version will be officially finalised soon. We are currently very busy working on the next Action Plan, our annual commitment. We plan to include some new areas of cooperation, areas where the European Union has not so far invested its resources. We are very happy to expand our cooperation and development assistance. I hope these new documents will produce very tangible results for ordinary Armenians – for me that is the most important challenge’.

Embezzlement case

ARS_5992The Ambassador also answered questions concerning the embezzlement case of EU grants in Armenia. On 27 April, the Delegation disseminated a press release on the detention of the Delegation’s staff member. Ambassador Świtalski clarified the information provided: ‘Our announcement contains four elements. Firstly, this embezzlement case was discovered by the EU Delegation – this shows that our verification and control mechanisms work well, which is very important. Secondly, the EU Delegation has passed the information on to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). Many Armenians may not have heard of OLAF before – it carried out an independent, internal analysis of the case. OLAF is an independent anti-corruption body within the EU which investigates dozen of similar cases around the world. I would use this case to support my recommendation to the Armenian government to establish a similar independent anti-corruption body. OLAF is proof shows that such bodies can be very effective. If Armenian government is interested how OLAF works, we are open. Thirdly, OLAF has informed the Armenian authorities about its investigation and they have been conducting their own investigation. One member of our staff was detained in connection with this ongoing investigation. I think that the cooperation between the EU and Armenia will become stronger thanks to this joint work. I hope that the Armenian investigative committee will treat other corruption cases at a similar level of seriousness. As for the fourth element, I cannot jump to any conclusions as the trial has not yet begun and everyone has the right to be presumed innocent before being potentially proven guilty. Let’s wait for the decision of the court’.