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On 7 March the “Women in Business” programme (WiB) was launched in Armenia to promote women’s entrepreneurship and support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) led by women. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Union, the Early Transition Countries Fund and the Government of Sweden are funding this programme in Eastern Partnership countries. Armenia is one of the first countries to start WiB.
The programme will help women-led SMEs to access the finance and advice they need to grow, offer financing through local partner financial institutions, provide technical assistance for participating financial institutions, and impart business advice to women entrepreneurs. The programme also envisages individual advisory service projects, which will include mentoring and longer-term coaching. The EBRD is currently implementing WiB in 16 countries.
The EBRD made an initial contribution of $55 million, the Government of Sweden has allocated approximately €5.2 million, €4.5 million has been made available from the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility, and €0.9 million has also been provided by the EBRD’s Early Transition Countries Fund.
The Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, and the ERBD’s Head of Armenia Resident Office, Mark Davis, attended the WiB launch.

ARS_0336 Ambassador Świtalski highlighted the importance of women in all spheres of life: ‘We continuously support the empowerment of women, strengthening their role in politics, business and other spheres of life. We have supported and implemented different projects in different areas, in different regions. I am very happy that today we are continuing this tradition. I am very happy that Armenia is one of the first countries to benefit from this programme. We hope very much that we’ll be able to achieve the objectives and that the impact of SMEs in Armenia will increase. In this aspect, Armenia is lagging behind. Therefore, I hope this programme will be successful. Armenia is in the midst of an election period, so we are also supporting increased roles for women in politics. We encourage women not to be afraid to be active in politics, business and other spheres’.

ARS_0292Davis mentioned that if women-led SMEs were given equal opportunities, they could deliver in terms of economic performance and job creation: ‘There is a saying that a man is the head of the family and a woman is the neck. I believe that women can do a lot more. Armenia is ranked 102th among 144 countries in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Index, the lowest figure in the region. This figure highlights why women’s business comes such a fundamental focus of EBRD’.

On the eve of 8 March, Ambassador Świtalski concluded the day by meeting Euroclub members in Yerevan, where he congratulated women on the occasion of International Women’s Day. They had an informal discussion on various topics, particularly women’s and gender issues.

From 30 November to 5 December 2016, the “ARTerial Road” cultural project held events in Gyumri, Shirak marz to promote the European values of equality, freedom of speech, tolerance and democracy through art. During those days, lectures, training, and master classes for local artists and art critics were held, in which Jirka Pfahl, a European artist from Leipzig, Germany, took part.  This cultural project was implemented by the Berlin Art Hotel in Gyumri and funded by the European Union.
On 5 December, Piotr Świtalski, the EU Ambassador, paid a visit to Gyumri to participate in the final events. The Ambassador first met with Gyumri Euroclub members, students and CSOs at the Berlin Art Hotel, where he chaired a discussion on human rights and domestic violence in Armenia.He then took part in a joint press conference with Alexan Ter-Minasyan, the Director of Berlin Art Hotel, and Jirka Pfahl.

2Ambassador welcomed the choice to hold events in Gyumri: ‘Through supporting this project, the EU Delegation to Armenia would like to signal its intent to be more involved in working in the Armenian marzes. We want to support more local initiatives, particularly in Gyumri. Now we are discussing with the Armenian government the so-called “Single Support Framework for EU support to Armenia from 2017-2020” – we would like to start focusing our assistance in one or two marzes, and Shirak is one of the candidates. Gyumri is the cultural capital of Armenia, the only city where there is a “Europe Square”. Don’t be surprised to see me more in Gyumri, or to see more EU projects carried out in Gyumri and Shirak marz’.

3Pfahl was very happy with his invitation to participate: ‘I was invited to convey European values, such as freedom of speech and democracy. We have to concentrate on people in this materialised world, and through our two-day workshops with local artists and young people we explored long-term possibilities and how to connect democratic values. I hope that we will be one of the best examples in the world for how to live in an open and peaceful way where art, culture and our children’s future develop freely within the natural environment’.

“ARTerial Road”ended with the launch of an art exhibition on human rights at the Berlin Art Hotel, which, after the press conference, all invitees had the opportunity to enjoy.

On 25 November the world stood together against gender-based violence (GBV) by launching the ’16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence’ international campaign. This is an annual event which invites individuals and organisations to hold events aiming to draw public attention to this issue.
Representatives of the international community gathered to start the campaign and raise awareness about the verbal and physical violence and abuse that Armenian women and girls face. They also renewed their commitment to working with Armenian partners to protect the rights of women and girls, as well as to promoting women’s empowerment in Armenia.

ars_8098Dirk Lorenz, the Acting Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, welcomed the launch of the campaign: ‘Domestic violence and violence against women continue to be serious challenges. We are ready to help Armenia, and that’s why we have implemented the first human rights budget sector support programme. We are contributing to reform efforts, one of which is the adoption of the Law on Domestic Violence. While we welcome the efforts of the Armenian government, we feel that the situation is not progressing as quickly as we had hoped. We are looking forward to seeing a new Draft Law on Domestic Violence and renewed energy towards completing this process’.
Bradley Busetto, the UN resident Coordinator in Armenia, delivered a joint statement on behalf of the United Nations Armenia office, the US and UK Embassies, the OSCE office in Yerevan, and the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan.
On 2 December, within the framework of the campaign, the EU Delegation to Armenia held events in Vanadzor. That day Ambassador Piotr Świtalski met with Euroclub members, students and CSOs in Vanadzor. The Ambassador discussed domestic violence in Armenia and answered participants’ questions.
Ambassador Świtalski later attended the “Music plays against Domestic Violence” classical concert with Aram Khachaturian trio in Vanadzor, where he shared the EU’s vision for women’s empowerment in the country: ‘When you look at legislation in Armenia, women enjoy equal rights. However, in reality, pressure, discrimination and outdated thinking is still prevalent against women. The European Union promotes women’s empowerment – women are the biggest unused potential in Armenia. Therefore,we want to support the involvement of women in politics, business and all other sectors. It’s not a coincidence that most of the pieces of music we will hear tonight have been composed by women’.
The ‘16 Days of Activism’ campaign runs from 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, until 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

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In May 2016 the EU Delegation to Armenia launched the first Euroclub in Armenia. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Świtalski, promised that Euroclubs would be opened in all Armenian marzes by the end of the year. This is now a reality.
On 22 November 2016 the last Euroclub in Armenia was established. The concept of Euroclubs started more than 25 years ago in Portugal, and spread to other EU member states and beyond. Euroclubs now exist across the EU and have been established in Eastern Partnership countries.
The idea behind the clubs is very simple; it is about offering a possibility for young people to gain access to information and to conduct conversations about Europe and European values and opportunities.

333333The main goals of Euroclubs in Armenia have been be to inform and educate young people about the EU and EU-Armenia issues, offer assistance in establishing long-term partnerships with European youth NGOs, apply for and obtain EU resources, and support Armenian youth’s aspirations to strengthen relations with the EU. The Delegation of the European Union in Armenia decided to launch this project to involve youth from all Armenian marzes and create equal opportunities. The very first Euroclub in Armenia was launched in Goris (Syunik marz); the second was in Yeghegnadzor (Vayots dzor marz). The third was recently established in the capital, Yerevan. Autumn 2016 then became a month for launching Euroclubs as, by end of October, Euroclubs had been set up in Dilijan (Tavush marz) and Armavir (Armavir marz). In November, even more were established in Gavar (Gegharkunik), Gyumri (Shirak marz), Vanadzor (Lori marz), Abovyan (Kotayk marz), Artashat (Ararat marz) and Ashtarak (Aragatsotn marz). All Euroclubs were established and are run with the assistance of a local partner organisation.
222222At the opening of the clubs, representatives from the EU, including the Ambassador himself, welcomed the club members and answered to their questions on the EU and EU-Armenia relations. Ambassador Świtalski highlighted that the existence of more Euroclubs was a symbol of the strong European identity of young Armenians: ‘Young Armenians want to stay in touch, have contact and engage in dialogue and cooperation with young people in other European countries; I don’t just mean the European Union. We believe that, through Euroclubs, Armenian youth, in particular those in the regions, will get additional possibilities to learn more about EU projects in Armenia and establish links with these projects. At these opening ceremonies I have spoken to participants who praise the youth activism behind these clubs’.

The concept of Euroclubs started more than 25 years ago in Portugal, and spread to other EU member states and beyond: Euroclubs now exist across the EU and have been established in Eastern Partnership countries.
The idea behind the clubs is very simple; it is about offering a possibility for young people to gain access to information and to conduct conversations about Europe and European values and opportunities. The main goals of Euroclubs in Armenian marzes have been be to inform and educate young people about the EU and EU-Armenia issues, offer assistance in establishing long-term partnerships with European youth NGOs, apply for and obtain EU resources, and support Armenian youth’s aspirations to strengthen relations with the EU.
The Delegation of the European Union in Armenia decided to launch this project to involve youth from all Armenian marzes and create equal opportunities. The very first Euroclub in Armenia was launched in Goris (Syunik marz) and the second in Yeghegnadzor (Vayots dzor marz). Now it is Yerevan’s turn.
14702404_1134237206630207_6348905847760770808_nOn 18 October 2016 the opening ceremony of the Yerevan Euroclub took place. The Head of the EU Delegation, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, spoke to participants during the opening ceremony, praising the youth activism behind the clubs: ‘I’m very glad that young people in Armenia are interested in this idea and initiative. The fact that more Euroclubs are being launched in Armenia has symbolic significance – it shows that the European identity of young Armenians is very strong. Young Armenians want to stay in touch, have contact and engage in dialogue and cooperation with young people in other European countries; I don’t just mean the European Union. That said, we believe that, through Euroclubs, Armenian youth, in particular those in the regions, will get additional possibilities to learn more about EU projects in Armenia and establish links with these projects’.
After the opening ceremony, Ambassador Świtalski met over 30 members of the Euroclub in Yerevan. He chaired a discussion, during which they asked many questions and talked about the future of the Yerevan Euroclub.

This year’s Europe Day 2016 celebrations in Armenia have taken place in five marzes and will culminate in Yerevan on 5 June.
On 18 May 2016, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, paid a regional visit to Gegharkunik marz. He was accompanied by, among others, Nicolas Faye, Deputy Head of Mission of the French Embassy, as well as José Medina Navarro, Deputy Head of Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation. The delegation began its visit at the ENPARD project in Tsovaghyugh village meeting with buckwheat farmers; the local authorities of Tsovaghyugh village; Gurgen Martirosyan, the Mayor of Gavar; and the Governor of Gegharkunik, Rafik Grigoryan.
13230116_1026165467437382_5401231540686557703_nAt the end of the visit, the delegation met with civil society organisations and media representatives from Gegharkunik discussing, among other topics, increased EU cooperation with the regions, how to combat corruption, and the role SMEs can play in economic development. On the same day, Europe Day celebrations were held in Gavar for the first time. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski heralded the importance of the event for the town: ‘We are celebrating Europe Day for you, for young people in particular. We will be working together with your government and CSOs to help you to find a better future here in your beautiful country. I know very well that life is not simple in Gavar, but we hope very much that this evening you, together with us, will think about hope and a better future’. After the speech, Ambassador Świtalski awarded special prizes to the winners of the EU-Armenia cooperation quiz. In Gavar, the audience was so excited that they asked for the celebrations to continue – despite the rain!
On 21 May 2016, the EU Delegation to Armenia’s team was on the road again, this time to the south of Armenia. Ambassador Świtalski encouraged the efforts to combat gender-based violence in Syuniq marz coordinated by the Goris Women’s Development Resource Center Foundation. During the meeting, the women signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the government and civil society on fighting gender-based violence. Ambassador Świtalski stressed the EU’s commitment on this issue: ‘The EU is behind you in fighting gender-based violence – as part of our human rights budget sector support programme; we have agreed with the government that it will finalise new comprehensive legislation on domestic violence by the end of 2016. We are actively engaging with the government, encouraging it to sign up to the Istanbul Convention’.
13237734_1027649920622270_840783055480861527_nOn the same day, the Ambassador launched the first EU-funded “Euroclub” in Goris. The EU delegation will open Euroclubs in all marzes of Armenia to inform and educate young people about the EU and EU-Armenia relations. The initiative will include assistance in establishing long-term partnerships with European youth NGOs, applying and obtaining EU resources, and supporting Armenian youth aspirations for strengthening relations with the EU.
Additionally, Europe Day celebrations took place in Goris for the first time. Ambassador Świtalski opened the proceedings and spoke about the role of the EU: ‘I’m glad we are here in one of the most beautiful cities in Armenia. We are committed to support the efforts of Armenians to build a better society. The EU wants to help you to have better education, good jobs and to live in peace. Times are not easy for all Armenians, let’s hope for peace, for development and let’s enjoy this evening’.
On 22 May, Ambassador Świtalski made his first official visit to Kapan. On his way to Kapan, the Ambassador and Jerzy Nowakowski, the Ambassador of Poland to Armenia, took a ride on “The Wings of Tatev” cable car and paid a visit to the historic Tatev monastery, which is situated on the edge of the spectacular Vorotan river gorge. The two ambassadors were joined by a Polish choir, which celebrated Europe Day by singing the European Anthem and a couple of traditional Polish songs. The group was then briefed about Polish support for marking hiking trails in the beautiful surroundings and were served a delicious, homemade Polish cake. Upon arrival to Kapan, Ambassadors Świtalski and Nowakowski were met by the Mayor of Kapan, Ashot Hayrapetyan, and members of his team. Among the topics discussed were economic development in the regions, a feasibility study of the Armenian-Iranian Meghri border crossing point, potential EU support to innovative plastic disposal, seasonal migration, employment opportunities for women, and historical links between Europe and Armenia.
13240582_1028341080553154_8261934550474347955_nOn the same day, citizens from Kapan and the surrounding villages were in a great mood as they prepared to join the EU Delegation’s team at another outdoor Armenian concert experience. Ambassador Świtalski expressed his pleasure of making his first visit to Kapan: ‘I salute this great city of Davit Bek – a city of courage and resilience. I salute Kapan, the city on the border of Europe, which is also a gate to Europe. I would like to thank the Mayor of Kapan and the municipality for helping us to organise this concert tonight. We want to build a common future between the EU and Armenia based on common values. Our Europe Day celebrations 2016 are dedicated to youth and the future generation; this is why we are using the slogan “EU for youth”. The EU believes that young people are the future of Armenia. You are full of talent and very gifted; the EU wants to contribute by offering better opportunities for the younger generation here, we want to contribute to better job creation and better education. We want young Armenians to see a better future here and not outside of its borders. Most of all, however, we would like to work with the international community to ensure stability and peace for Armenia and the whole region’.