Tag Archives: EU-funded

On 15 September, the annual “Rural life and traditions” festival was held in Yerevan for the fifth time. The importance of the harvest festival, the achievements of recent years, and anticipated events were presented. The European Union played a key role in the establishment of the festival. The EU-funded European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) and the Organic Agriculture Support Initiative (OASI) are the festival’s key sponsors. More than 200 farmers’ groups and individual farmers, cooperatives, women’s groups, and local entrepreneurs from Armenia and other countries, including GeorgiaUSAIranLebanonRomania, and Italy, participated in the festival. The producers presented their products, grown and processed in rural areas, to the citizens of the capital, Yerevan.

DSC_9293The festival is organised for residents of the capital to understand and experience Armenia’s regional agricultural achievements. This includes the results of projects implemented by international organisations, as well as the successes of farmers’ and women’s cooperatives. It is a good opportunity to purchase products that cannot yet be found in shopping centres in Yerevan. The festival serves as a unique platform for agricultural stakeholders and potential donors to meet, find new markets, exchange experience, and engage in new collaboration.

DSC_8953The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, paid his respects to hard-working Armenian farmers: “We are very proud that the idea for this festival came from the EU Delegation to Armenia. It is growing in size and more and more farmers are participating. The EU is committed to supporting agricultural sector. Our commitment is €25 million through the ENPARD programme. We also support the OASI project, implemented by our Austrian partners. We believe that organic agriculture has a bright future in Armenia, and we will be continuing down this path”.

DSC_8944Deputy Minister of Agriculture Artak Kamalyan congratulated all festival participants: “This festival is being held for the fifth time, which proves that it is already well established. I welcome all participants, both local and international. I am proud that more than 200 agricultural producers are presenting their products today, which shows the wide choice our citizens can enjoy. I assure you that, today, organic agriculture in Armenia is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Agriculture”.

On 15 November, a social enterprise that is running a refrigeration unit was officially opened at Yerevan State College #2 through the EU-funded and Save the Children-implemented “Social Innovations for the Vocational Education and Employability of Young People with Disabilities” (SIVEE) project.

ARS_8071This is the second enterprises officially opened within the scope of the SIVEE. The main objective of SIVEE is to promote social innovation in Armenia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector to create equal employment opportunities for young people with disabilities. SIVEE has selected 7 VET colleges and innovative social enterprises (SE) were established in 5 of them. Each SE will hire at least 5 employees with disabilities, employing a total 25 young people. 40 students with disabilities received vocational training at Yerevan State College #2, and five of them became staff of the refrigeration unit, filling the positions of storage facilities manager, administrative assistant, accountant, guard and driver. Managing a very large unit of frozen products will provide the college with revenue to be spent on expanding services, hiring new staff, and acquiring new products to store.

ARS_7975The opening of the social enterprise was attended by Irina Movsesyan, Project Officer from the EU Delegation to Armenia, who transmitted the EU’s commitment to continue supporting VET: ‘The EU was the first donor organisation to address VET and relevant reforms in Armenia. The EU has been working in this sector since 2004, and now there is a new programme: “Better Qualifications for Better Jobs”. This will run from 2017-2019 and have a global budget of €15.2 million, financed under the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI). The programme seeks to improve efficiency in the Armenian labour market and the employability of its workforce, with a particular emphasis on agricultural employment. Despite improvements, more needs to be done in this area to make the system more flexible and able to meet labour market requirements’.

ARS_8011Vahram Mkrtchyan, the Armenian Deputy Minister of Education and Science, thanked all partners for supporting Armenia’s VET sector: ‘Years ago there were special schools in Armenia for children with disabilities, established in the Soviet Union to separate people with disabilities and provide separate educational programmes. That legacy persisted, but now all of Armenia is shifting towards inclusive education. Now our policy is that every social group should be included in society. SIVEE has achieved tangible results towards this goal’.

A new border-crossing point (BCP) in Bavra (Shirak marz) will now offer Armenian citizens many advantages: simplified procedures, reduced waiting times, modern infrastructure, equipment, and improved security. It will enhance Armenia’s regional connectivity by promoting international trade, transit and tourism.

ARS_1542On 1 October the official opening ceremony of the Bavra BCP was attended by the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, the Chairman of the Armenian State Revenue Committee, Vardan Harutyunyan, the UN resident Coordinator in Armenia, Bradley Busetto, the Head of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Regional Representation for the South Caucasus, Sébastien Husson de Sampigny, Government officials responsible for border management, and representatives from International Organisations, Diplomatic Corps, and the Media. The construction and upgrade of Bavra BCP were done through the EU-funded and UNDP-implemented “Modernisation of Bagratashen, Bavra and Gogavan Border Crossing Points of Armenia” (MBBG) project.

ARS_1594The new Bavra facility, together with the Bagratashen and Gogavan BCPs that were officially inaugurated on 4 November 2016, is one more step towards enhanced security and the provision of more efficient services by border agencies. However, facilities are only one part of the story. This modern BCP and professional border staff will help facilitate trade and the transit of goods, reduce associated time and costs, as well as make cross-border movement of people for business and social purposes more comfortable. Previously, under the 2017 European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) survey of Eastern Partnership BCPs, Bagratashen BCP (together with Zvartnots International Airport) scored highest in terms of traveller satisfaction with the border-crossing experience. Criteria included infrastructure, safety, professionalism of border officers, access to additional information, and facilities for children and the elderly.

ARS_1774Ambassador Świtalski congratulated all project partners for opening the third crossing point: ‘Opening this completely reconstructed BCP in Bavra is an excellent example of EU-Armenia cooperation to improve Armenia’s connectivity and support to its trade and economic development. The upgraded Bavra BCP is in line with international standards and designed to be convenient for both businesses and citizens. Together with the Bagratashen and Gogavan BCPs it will ensure 3 alternative routes for the movement of goods between Armenia, Georgia and beyond. They will stimulate the development of the marzes through which the routes pass. The EU is committed to continue supporting these initiatives and will work closely with all Armenian counterparts to replicate this design at other BCPs on the Armenian borders’.

ARS_1730Chairman Harutyunyan thanked all partners for their assistance on MBBG: ‘I am convinced that efforts from the Armenian Government and Governmental partners will continue this BCP modernisation process. Now the modernisation of Armenia’s southern border has begun in Meghri. Design and other estimates for the BCP have already started’.

De Sampigny talked about EIB assistance: ‘Iam pleased that EIB funding contributed to the upgrade of the three border crossings between Armenia and Georgia. Based on my personal experience, this will greatly facilitate people’s travel and exchange of goods; thus, it will benefit the whole region, as well as the European Union’.

ARS_1162Armenia received a €30.8 million EIB loan for MBBG to upgrade infrastructure and equipment at the three BCPs. This loan was complemented by a grant of €17.2 million from the European Union, and a Government contribution of €4.44 million. UNDP was the main implementer of the project and also made a financial contribution of €1.9 million.

On 1 September, the EU-funded “Biomass Heating Solutions for Rural Development – BioRuralHeating” project came to an end with a discussion of the project outcomes and perspectives at the Barva Innovation Centre in Talin, Aragatsotn marz. The “Green Energy Association” implemented the project from September 2015 until September 2017. The Barva Innovation Centre was the main industrial partner of the project.

ARS_2242The overall objective of BioRuralHeating was to promote biomass as a source of thermal energy in rural communities, create biomass-processing markets, create jobs, and provide new income sources. The specific objectives were: to build strategic partnerships between farmers, research and development centres, the public and private sectors; to strengthen capacity among these stakeholders; to raise the level of local public awareness and promote biomass for domestic heating and to develop a set of decision-making tools for social enterprises to produce and use biomass in heating applications in rural areas. Beneficiary and target groups of the project included state and local self-governing bodies, farmers, and other individuals and organisations engaged in biosynthesis for energy generation.
The Barva Innovation Centre was established in 2005, and its operations involve: high-quality technological manufacturing; device building; information technologies. The centre has the most up-to-date equipment for biomass processing. In the framework of the project 6 communities have been provided with devices producing energy with the help of biomass.

ARS_2358Hoa-Binh Adjemian, the Head of the Cooperation section of the EU Delegation, attended the project closing event. He toured the facility and spoke of his satisfaction with the project’s achievements: ‘I came here 3 years ago, and it was a completely different experience – there was nothing like this! It is very good to come back and see the project’s results. What is more important, however, is the pilot nature of the project – we have many lessons to learn. If a pilot project is successful, this needs to be shared, particularly with Government agencies to expand the project. But it’s not just as simple as that – we need to make sure that the financial business model is working as well. A third, impartial set of eyes is necessary to confirm this. With biomass, there is a marketing issue because politicians prefer solar and wind energy, as they are easier to sell. Therefore, for biomass, more active work must be done with investors and government representatives’.

ARS_2389Aram Vardanyan, the CEO of Barva Innovation Centre, spoke of his hopes for the future: ‘In our opinion, the project has been quite successful. I recently had the opportunity to present our project at the 25th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Stockholm, Sweden. Our project received good feedback. Giuliano Grassi, the Secretary General of European Biomass Industry Association, highly appreciated our achievements and is going to send a representative to Armenia at the end of this month to discuss how we can integrate into other EU programmes. Through the project we have also published 2 books on the use of biomass in Armenia. The conclusion is that Armenia has so much renewable biomass waste, enough to produce three times the current energy demand of the entire country – this is highly promising. This waste can be obtained from sanitary cleaning of forests, agricultural waste, and the gathering and harvesting of wild plants’.

On 26 April, the EU-funded “Promoting the Integration of Syrian Armenians” project officially ended. A presentation on the project’s achievements, which began in April 2015, was also held. The aim of the project was to promote the integration of Syrian Armenians into economic activities and children’s education, and was implemented in Yerevan, Shirak, Lori, Kotayk, Aragatsotn, Ararat and Armavir marzes.  Armenian Red Cross managed this project financed by the European Union (94.1 %) and co-financed the Austrian Red Cross (5.9%).
The http://www.job-syrianarmenians.am webpage was created to promote economic integration; the site allows employers to find Syrian Armenian employees quickly. Based on labour market research, consultations were organised for Syrian Armenians, enabling them to get acquainted with labour market requirements and legislation. They were also provided with necessary working tools to renew and develop businesses more easily.
Socio-cultural events were organised in schools and public places to raise awareness and to integrate. Over 5,000 schoolchildren were involved in educational activities, including 800 Syrian Armenians.
Junior Professional of Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia Caroline Steiner and Secretary General of Armenian Red Cross Society Anna Yeghiazaryan also attended the event.

IMG_1201Steiner thanked all partner organisations involved in the project and passed on messages on behalf of the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Świtalski: ‘This project was launched at a time when Armenia was receiving a substantial number of Syrian refugees. The government estimates that as many as 23,000 Syrian refugees have come to Armenia. Many have now left, but a substantial number are still here and have been trying to integrate. The European Union sees it important to support the integration of Syrian refugees. While most Syrian refugees in Armenia are living in Yerevan and wish to stay here in the capital, the project has had important outreach to those refugees who went to the marzes. The EU has supported their further integration, employment and other efforts to generate family income and will be continuing the support to Syrians in all countries where they have sought protection’.

IMG_1200Yeghiazaryan praised the project’s results: ‘The Armenian Red Cross initially responded to the issues of Syrian Armenians in April 2012 in cooperation with the Armenian Ministry of Diaspora. We have tried to integrate refugees into our existing programmes, so that our efforts ensure they can have dignity and live in security. The European Union’s financing allowed us to expand our activities in 2015’.