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The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, arrived in Armenia on a regional visit on 20 July, 2015. During his stay in Armenia he visited the “Memorial to the Armenian Genocide victims” and “Armenian Genocide Museum Institute”.
ARS_2686Later on the same day he had a meeting with the Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. The parties discussed a wide range of issues related to the strengthening and deepening of bilateral cooperation. Reiterating their commitment to continue the joint efforts in the fields of human rights, democracy, rule of law, public administration and a number of other spheres, the interlocutors discussed the progress in the talks on the new framework agreement between the EU and Armenia, looked at ways of promoting free communication and movement of citizens, reviewed the ongoing negotiations over a common aviation area with the EU and further more.
Both sides expressed confidence that the new framework agreement between the EU and Armenia will help to boost bilateral relations and develop a multifaceted cooperation.
“As President of the European Council, I am convinced that Armenia is an important partner in the region and the EU is ready to reinvigorate interaction in the wake of the Riga summit. We will help you push ahead with your reform agenda which is quite ambitious. I am confident that it will take effect owing to your personal commitment,” Donald Tusk noted.
ARS_2925“The EU has been and remains a major partner of Armenia due to the fact that our cooperation is first and foremost underpinned by shared values. Armenia is ready to continue cooperating with the EU in a bid to promote reforms, efficient governance, democracy, human rights, as well as to boost economic exchanges and cooperate in other fields of mutual interest,” the Prime Minister said.
After his meeting with Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the delegation led by him met with the Armenian President. After bilateral negotiations EC president and Armenian president held a joint press conference.
In his speech Donald Tusk talked about the EU-Armenia relations and regional issues. “Firstly, I would like to thank you for the possibility of visiting the Genocide Memorial. This was my second visit, and was as moved as during my first visit. We have had a good discussion on a wide range of issues; on EU-Armenia relations, the Eastern Partnership and wider regional issues. We discussed the situation regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. Recent negative trends are a cause for concern. The peaceful resolution of this conflict remains a priority for the European Union. The European Union supports the negotiations aimed at settling the conflict led by the OSCE Minsk Group.
ARS_3154Armenia has chosen not to make use of the European Union’s offer of an Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. This is a choice that the European Union fully respects. We still stand ready to deepen our relations by working together to open markets and by advancing on democratic reforms, economic growth, regional integration, a better business-investment climate, and sustainable development. We have just successfully completed the first stage of discussions on a new, comprehensive bilateral agreement. In this agreement we have identified areas for future cooperation. One important area in our cooperation is to make it easier to travel between Armenia and the European Union. Armenia can count on the European Union’s continued support to advance on a whole range of political and social reforms, and to improve the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The European Union supports the work of civil society in Armenia and I encourage a closer involvement of the civil society in the reform process to broaden the perspective and ensure common ownership. This year is decisive for our relations”.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan expressed his satisfaction with the talks that they had. “We are keen on broadening relations with the European Union, one of our key partners, during Mr. Tusk’s tenure, which, I am sure will contribute to the long-lasting constructive dialogue existing between us. We stated that Armenia-European Union relations keep on developing dynamically. This bears testimony to the fact that there are a mutual political will and commitment, and, most importantly, a set of shared values that underlie our development path. I am confident that we will continue to intensify our relations and work towards further deepening of democratic processes and reforms in Armenia. This is illustrated both by our active collaboration with European countries at a bilateral level, and by the ongoing work with different EU institutions. Touching upon the results of the fourth Eastern Partnership Summit held from 21 to 22 May this year, we expressed satisfaction with the fact that in Riga, we managed to confirm our commitment to promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and partner countries based on a differentiated approach. I am hopeful that in the near future we will start negotiations on a new EU-Armenia legal document the successful end of which will open a new chapter in our bilateral relations”.
After their speeches high ranking officials responded to the journalists’ questions. Most of the journalists were interested in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and EU-Armenia new bilateral agreement.

The EU announced on 25 March 2015 its assessment on the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) publishing Progress Reports for 16 partner countries, including Armenia. The European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued a press release stating that the EU and Armenia have reconfirmed their commitment to further developing and strengthening cooperation in areas of mutual interest within the Eastern Partnership framework. The EU and Armenia have recently successfully completed their joint scoping exercise for a future legal agreement compatible with Armenia’s new international obligations, after the country became a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. This will enable both sides to launch negotiations on a new EU-Armenia overarching agreement soon, once the respective negotiating mandates have been approved.
Traian Hristea, Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, presented the Progress Report for Armenia. Ambassador Hristea stressed that the report on Armenia underlines key main developments and reform efforts in 2014, and makes recommendations for the year to come: ‘In 2014 Armenia advanced on several bilateral agreements: the EU-Armenia visa-facilitation and readmission entered into force in January 2014 and, since March 2014, Armenia can participate in EU programmes and agencies. Armenia continued its democratic transition process, in particular with regard to constitutional reform. Certain human rights issues, fundamental freedoms and rule of law issues, however, still need to be tackled. Armenia has developed legislation in several areas in line with EU rules and standards or international requirements, but this legislation is yet to be adopted and implemented. Reforms have been developed but not put into practice. A lack of trust in the judicial system persisted. The fight against corruption remained a key issue. That said, progress was noted with regard to the right to free legal aid. Armenia continued to implement sound macroeconomic policies, such as poverty-reduction and social-cohesion measures. Economic activity continued to decelerate in 2014. Reforms in tax administration continued. More efforts to diversify the economy are recommendable. The European Commission received Armenia’s stress test on the Medzamor nuclear power plant, which will be reviewed in 2015. This procedure is in line with EU nuclear safety requirements. 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; however, the stalemate continues. The security situation on the ground remains a matter of serious concern amid unprecedented incidents and casualties since 1994, as well as rise in confrontational rhetoric and a continued arms race’.
Ambassador Hristea also talked about the Armenia-Turkey relations and the EU’s contribution to the further dialogue between the two countries. Later, he introduced ARS_5364several recommended actions to Armenia for the year to come based on the findings of the Country Progress Report:
– Initiating the amendment of electoral legislation in accordance with OSCE/ODIHR recommendations before the parliamentary elections in 2017;
– Adopting and implementing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation;
– Investigating cases of attacks on and intimidation of human rights defenders and ensuring effective law enforcement, including in cases relating to the deaths that occurred during the clashes in March 2008, allegations of ill-treatment in police custody, and violation of due process;
– Intensifying reforms to the judiciary and law enforcement, and implementing the related reform agenda;
– Continuing public administration reform, intensifying the prevention of and the fight against corruption;
– Stepping up efforts towards a comprehensive peace settlement in accordance with the commitments undertaken within the Minsk Group;
– Refraining from actions and statements that could heighten tension and undermine the Nagorno-Karabagh peace process;
– Progressing with regulatory approximation to international trade laws and standards in order to diversify Armenian exports with commodities of higher added value.

A workshop introducing the European credit system for vocational education and training (VET) took place on 6 March 2015 in Yerevan within the framework of the European Commission’s Technical Assistance Information Exchange Instrument (TAIEX). Its aim was to share experiences on the introduction and development of the European credit system for VET. The seminar was held by the Deputy Head of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation, Jose-Maria Medina Navarro, the First Deputy Minister of Education and Science, and EU VET experts on an official visit to Armenia.
Medina Navarro talked about the importance of the system: “One of the aims of the European credit system is to increase the employability of graduates and confidence among employers that each qualification requires specific skills and knowledge. It is also a powerful tool for increasing cross-border cooperation in education and training. The introduction of such a new concept generates not only new challenges but also opportunities to improve the current system, and to make it more flexible and efficient’.
The Deputy Minister of Education and Science mentioned in her speech that TAIEX was a very productive and important instrument, and that many programmes had been successfully implemented through it: ‘The European credit system has made large progress in education in Armenia. Higher education has benefited and gained greater experience in this area – now it is the turn of vocational education. The European credit system for VET is very important for improving the quality of education, as well as increasing the mobility of students and professors’.
ARS_2972The European credit system has been already integrated into several colleges in Armenia. It will help to understand where these educational institutions are both strong and weak, thereby helping them to improve.
Participants in the workshop benefited from the presentations made by the visiting EU experts and the chance to share relevant experience.