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Southern Armenia has hosted Europe Day events, with the EU Delegation stopping for celebrations in Kapan and Goris (Syunik marz), and Yeghegnadzor (Vayots Dzor marz).

Kapan

11On 19 May Kapan welcomed its guests with sunny weather. In the morning, the Deputy Head of Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Gregory Tsouris, held a meeting with Ashot Hayrapetyan, the Mayor of Kapan. The meeting was followed by an Information Fair on Garegin Nzhdeh Square. Nearly 10 stalls presented EU-funded projects to the residents of Kapan. A DJ provided music while people used this opportunity to learn more about the European Union and its activities; their children enjoyed themselves in a special booth for kids. Tsouris and Hayrapetyan also toured the booths and welcomed guests.

1Tsouris introduced the concept of Europe Day to Kapan residents: ‘It is a great pleasure to be in Kapan. We are celebrating Europe Day here for the second time. Europe Day is an important milestone for all Europeans; it is a day to celebrate our common values. You have the opportunity to see some of the projects we are implementing in Armenia. It is also an opportunity to discuss our cooperation and speak about the future. I want to thank the Mayor for the support we received organising the celebration and for the warm welcome’.

111Mayor Hayrapetyan was grateful that Kapan had been included: ‘It is an honour for us to implement projects in Kapan with the help of the European Union. Now we have a two-year project which started in January. Plastic waste will start being used in construction in Kapan – plastic waste will be a raw material. As a result, we will establish a culture of sorting plastic waste and find opportunities to benefit from it. The EU’s support is great and we hope to have more ambitious projects’.

The children of Kapan’s Aram Khachaturian music school performed the Anthem of Europe to get the crowd for special guests Hayk Petorsyan and Masha Mnjoyan, who made sure the people of Kapan enjoyed the concert.

Goris

2On 20 May, Europe Day reached another city in Syunik Marz. The morning started with a meeting between the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, and Vachagan Adunts, the Mayor of Goris. Grigor Tatevatsi Square hosted an Information Fair in windy, stormy weather. However, the weather swiftly turned and nearly 10 stalls then presented EU-funded projects to adults, while local children learned about the EU through drawing and other games. Soon they were joined by Ambassador Świtalski and Mayor Adunts.

22Ambassador Świtalski introduced Europe Day to the people of Goris: ‘We are happy to be in this beautiful garden town, where the most delicious beans are grown, to celebrate Europe Day together. There are several dimensions to these celebrations: firstly, we want Armenia to feel a part of the wider European family, as Europe Day is celebrated in all member states of the EU, as well as our neighbours. Secondly, we want to present the EU flag and our activities to people all over Armenia. Therefore, it is a great occasion for us to come to beautiful towns like Goris, show what we do in Armenia, and invite you to be more active in our projects. Thirdly, we want to promote different types of activity like music and sport’.

The anthem of Europe was performed before Hayk Petrosyan and Masha Mnjoyan. Despite the wet weather, the crowd filled the square to dance and sing along. While people were singing and dancing in the square, Ambassador Switalski and the mayor launched the European Night of Museums. The EU Delegation to Armenia opened an exhibition of paintings from the #Europe4Peace project at the Aksel Bakunts House Museum.

222The Ambassador highlighted the importance of the European Night of Museums: ‘It is very important that Armenia participates in this Europewide movement of museum nights. The initiative started in 2005 in France and was picked up by a number of international organisations, including the Council of Europe. At that time I was working with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I never thought this beautiful initiative would spread so far to one day be embraced Armenia. We normally associate museums with buildings where old artefacts are stationed; but in fact museums are centres of learning’.

For #Europe4Peace pupils from art schools in Armenia were invited to create topical paintings associated with Europe and peace. Final selected paintings from 98 schools, including from Goris, were selected by a non-official jury. These paintings were first displayed during the Europe Day classical concert on 6 May, which opened Europe Day celebrations in Armenia.

Yeghegnadzor

On 21 May Yeghegnadzor was excited to host Europe Day for the first time. Celebrations started with an Information Fair at the Yeghegnadzor amphitheatre. More than 10 stalls presented EU-funded projects, giving visitors the opportunity to discover Europe, the European Union, and its projects in Armenia. Ambassador Świtalski and the Mayor of Yeghegnadzor, Davit Harutyunyan, also visited the booths.

3The Ambassador celebrated Yeghenadzor’s inclusion in the celebrations: ‘It is the first time that the EU has come to Yeghegnadzor to celebrate Europe Day. I hope that we are starting a beautiful tradition. I wanted to greet the citizens of the town, in particular the young generation. For us, Yeghegnadzor is a city of kind and hospitable people, the capital of Vayots Dzor, the smallest marz in Armenia, but with the biggest heart. We are grateful that we can celebrate Europe Day here in Armenia together. We fell at home here and invite you to enjoy this day, a day of joy’.

After the Anthem of Europe the Information Fair was followed by an open-air concert with Hayk Petrosyan and Masha Mnjoyan.

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’.