Tag Archives: Piotr Świtalski

ARS_0115On 9 December, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, paid a working visit to Ararat marz, where he met with the Mayor of Artashat, Karen Beniaminyan. In the framework of the visit Ambassador Świtalski learned about ongoing EU-funded projects in Ararat marz, especially about “Reduction of poverty in Urtsadzor community cluster by developing (self) employment opportunities” project implemented by the Fund for Organic Farming (FOF). This project began in February 2016, supported by the European Union and implemented by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC). The Urtsadzor community cluster includes Urtsadzor, Lanjanist and Shaghap communities in Ararat marz; the project also has beneficiaries in Lusashogh. The project will continue until the end of January 2018. The budget of the project is €563,000, out of which the EU has contributed €500,000, and FPWC €42,000. The four communities involved have also jointly raised €21,000. The project aims to bring about long-term economic growth at the community level through local business projects.

ARS_0151Ambassador Świtalski visited also Holani Agro Produce Processing Factory in Vedi. Approximately €2,000 of the project budget was spent on upgrading the factory’s electrical system and industrial capacity. In 2017, villagers collected 4 tonnes of fruits and 2 tonnes of herbs. These were dried and 120kg of dried fruits and 50kg of dried herbs have since been sold using unique packaging for Holani brand. FPWC has a plan to expand the production site and establish a larger factory. In Shaghap the Ambassador inaugurated a new bed and breakfast guesthouse owned by a local history teacher. The project had selected the house from a panel of potential sites for renovation.

ARS_0171Taguhi Manvelyan, the Project Coordinator of FPWC, presented the project results: The project has included more than 50 families as beneficiaries. It has focused on community development, poverty reduction, and job creation. We have started with training: people have received education, developed their capabilities in the fields of eco-tourism and eco-agriculture, and gained business skills to better manage small businesses. They wrote business plans based on their knowledge, we have chosen the best ones for implementation. At the moment, our beneficiaries are engaged in beekeeping, harvesting wild produce and working in agro-factories, as well as managing small businesses. Holani Agro Produce Processing Factory in Vedi produces dried fruit and teas. There is the Holani Honey Factory in Shaghap, as well as two guesthouses. At first, people were sceptical, but over time they began to believe in the project when they saw tangible results. Now many people want to join us. It is certain that we will have more beneficiaries next year.

ARS_0313Later, Ambassador Świtalski participated in the Rural Christmas Fair in Urtsadzor. The Ambassador congratulated all the producers, organisers and volunteers for their hard work. Residents of Urtsadzor, Shagap, Lanjanist and Lusashogh presented their own products at the fair, giving people the chance to buy fruit, vegetables, honey, dried fruit, canned food, nuts, and homemade soujukh and basturma at competitive prices. The event aimed to offer visitors to Urtsadzor high-quality fresh products for Christmas and New Year, thus creating additional income for the villagers.

On 27 November the campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence” (GBV) was officially launched in Matenadaran, Yerevan, to raise public awareness of and hold different events on GBV across Armenia. The campaign takes place from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day). This year’s campaign theme is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls”.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, Armenia’s Vice President of the National Assembly, Arpine Hovhannisyan, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, Arman Tatoyan, the UN resident Coordinator in Armenia, Bradley Busetto, the Head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, and the Ambassadors of France, Germany, United Kingdom and United States of America in Armenia took the floor to reconfirm their commitment to protecting the rights of women and girls and promoting women’s empowerment in Armenia.

ARS_9288Violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious human rights violations in the world. Almost one third of women in relationships report that they have experienced some form of violence, mostly from an intimate partner. According to the official data of the Armenia’s Investigative Committee, 215 criminal cases on domestic violence were investigated in the first half of 2017 in Armenia. Almost one third of criminal cases refer to violence used by men against their partners. The European Union and its member states place women’s human rights and gender equality at the core of all its external policies. The EU makes every possible effort to strengthen the voice of women, empower, and to assert their political, social, and economic rights women and girls. The 2016-2020 EU Gender Action Plan serves as the main guiding framework for EU actions and cooperation with partner countries, international and civil society organisations, and the private sector.

ARS_9384Ambassador Świtalski praised the work done by the Armenian government and civil society on this issue: ‘Last Friday we had a big event, as the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit was held in Brussels, Belgium. The leaders of EaP reaffirmed their commitment to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. What happened last Friday with the new EU-Armenia Agreement was also very important. Let me make very simple observations: firstly, from our perspective, the dignity of women is never relative, never conditional; secondly, human rights are indivisible, they should be applied equally; finally, let me make it very clear that the EU does not impose any values on our partners. We have never tried and there are no mechanisms to do it. Armenia is in a good situation, as we have declared that we share the values; therefore, there is nothing to impose as we are on the same page. We will continue our work on the basis of this new agreement and make these values strong and functioning for the benefit of ordinary citizens of Armenia, in particular for women’.

ARS_9372NA Vice President Hovhannisyan presented the situation in Armenia from a legislative perspective: ‘Any violence is chargeable, including violence against women and girls. Violence has a negative effect not only on an individual’s psychological, sexual or physical health, but also an institutional impact: it directly and/or indirectly affects the sustainable development of states. The high numbers in our country of GBV are worrying. The draft law on “Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence” is currently on the agenda of the National Assembly (NA). This week it’s on the agenda of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs and Protection of Human Rights,and where it will be discussed. Serious work has been done to address ongoing concerns. After the committee’s discussion, the draft law will be included in the agenda of the NA plenary session and will again be discussed. At present, the draft law is in line with international standards’.

On 29 September with the participation of the EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski, the Armenian Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Arsen Karamyan, and the Armenian Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Tadevos Avetisyan, the campaign of four roundtables devoted to Civil Society Day in Armenia was summed up. This awareness raising campaign was organised through the EU-funded “Support to Civil Society Facility Programme”.

ARS_1990This campaign highlighted the dedicated work that civil society in Armenia is undertaking and the initiatives the European Union is implementing to encourage the development of the sector. The four roundtables entitled “Social Entrepreneurship as an Alternative Route to Economic Development in Armenia” presented by the EU funded “Restoring living conditions in Armenia” project; “Social Inclusion Issues in Armenia” presented by EU funded “First inclusive and barrier-free Bakery and Coffee Shop in Gyumri” project; “The Role of CSOs in Shaping Public Policy” presented by the EU funded “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” project and “Empowered Youth for Armenia’s Future: New Partnerships, New Bridges” presented by the EU funded “BRIDGE for CSOs” project achieved significant results. The roundtables involved lively discussion, with participants contributing innovative ideas with clear practical use. Each roundtable tackled important issues and created new opportunities to bring about positive social change.

ARS_0399During the final roundtable Ambassador Świtalski emphasised the mutual reliance and collaboration between the EU, the Armenian government and CSOs: ‘The topic of youth is very important, not only for Armenia, but for many countries. For Armenia, young people constitute the most important untapped potential for the country’s development. Young people are the future of any country, but in Armenia it has a deeper meaning, a meaning that the government is now taking seriously. We, the EU, want to be helpful – you know how we are offering support. However, if you were to ask me to systematise our assistance, it is about three critical issues: education, jobs, and voice. If these three aspects are addressed properly, then we can expect positive results’.

On 6 September, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, participated in a press conference to launch an Erasmus+ Youth. Information Centre. A network of information centres was established in 2017 and the centres function in six Eastern Partnership countries, as well as the Russian Federation. The Gyumri Youth Initiative Centre (YIC) NGO is in charge of all Erasmus+ Youth. Information Centre activities in Armenia; one organisation in each participating country is selected to coordinate national activities based on an open call.
The main aim of the information centres is to inform young people and youth organisations about opportunities which come up through the Erasmus+ programme, as well as to support stakeholders to implement other projects.
Erasmus+ is an EU programme launched on 1 January 2014. It is aimed at boosting skills and employability, as well as offering more opportunities for cooperation across the education, training, youth and sport sectors. YIC was established in 2008 by five active young people experienced in youth work at the local and international level. The mission of YIC is to develop youth civic activism through promoting inclusive initiatives and active participation in civic life.

ARS_4608Ambassador Świtalski spoke about the EU’s perspective on youth: ‘The Erasmus programme is one of the success stories of the EU. We have spent millions of euros to make it possible for young people all over the world to access European education, to come to Europe, to enrich themselves not only with knowledge, but also culture and personal relationships, and to build strong networks. Erasmus is important as it is about the future. I am very glad that this information centre is being established because I believe that Armenia should be able to participate even more in this programme. The EU is planning to invest new resources in education in Armenia – we want Armenians to talk more about education and to think how the system can be improved. I think European experience, and that of Erasmus, will be very important’.

ARS_4642The Coordinator of the National Erasmus+ Office to Armenia, Lana Karlova, congratulated YIC on being selected to coordinate activities: ‘It is very important that an information centre is opening in Gyumri. We see great dedication to education in the marzes and want to link it with our experience with universities and other organisations. Many people are calling our office for more information and now there will finally be a centre that will give answers to all these questions’.

On 26 June, the “BRIDGE for CSOs” programme was officially launched in Yerevan. The programme goal is to strengthen the capacity of Armenian CSOs to better respond to citizens’ needs by linking Armenia CSOs with expertise in the Diaspora. The programme is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), in cooperation with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF). The three-year programme, launched in December 2016, offers a package of activities.
The project will conduct in-depth sector-related needs assessments of up to 200 CSOs to map their strengths and needs; offer tailor-made training to up 200 individuals from 80 CSOs; provide on-the-job consultation to 80 CSOs through pro-bono Diaspora- and Armenia-based experts; institutionalise capacity by launching an academic NGO Management Certificate Programme; provide grants to support small-scale projects; increase trust in civil society. The innovative skill transfer platform (www.together4armenia.am) will enhance cooperation between Armenian CSOs and the Diaspora. It will feature success stories of international cooperation, CSO achievements, reports, sectorial information and other information to bridge existing gaps between international and national CSOs.
The Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, and the AGBU Armenian president and Central Board Member, Vasken Yacoubian, attended the kick-off event and made opening remarks.

ARS_9994Ambassador Świtalski was excited to participate in the programme launch: ‘It is important to support the development of civil society. Armenia has more than 4,000 public organisations, almost 1,000 foundations; even if a portion of these organisations and foundations are active, this still harbours big potential. Armenia can be proud of its civil society activism; it is very important for the development of the country. As the EU, we see our priority to work with partners like AGBU to strengthen the fabric of civil society in Armenia. AGBU is a longstanding, respectable organisation; it is a big honour to work with them, we hope it is a beginning of a beautiful journey, and we believe strongly in the success of the programme’.

ARS_9935Vasken Yacoubian thanked the EU for the opportunity to implement the programme: ‘We were excited when the EU announced this call for proposals and we prepared a proposal that involved civil society both from Armenia and Diaspora. We are very happy that even the Armenian government understands the importance of civil society for the country. This shows the ranking of Armenia – we rank highly for civil society in the region. We are very honoured and happy that we were successful in getting this grant and that we are EU partners. AGBU will be a trusted partner for Armenia. We believe this will be the beginning of our cooperation, which will hopefully extend to different sectors’.

On 28 June, Hrazdan High school #13 hosted the final event of the “Support to EU Courses in Secondary Schools and Universities” project. The project is funded by the European Union and implemented in cooperation with the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science.

ARS_1005The project is aimed at expanding teaching on the EU in Armenian secondary schools and higher education institutions, based on the results of the educational component of the EU-funded “Support to the EU communication on reforms in Armenia” project from 2012-2014. Courses on the EU, its institutions, and EU-Armenia cooperation were introduced in 17 secondary schools and 5 higher education institutions across Armenia. The project’s main results included:
• an updated and improved school manual and course programme on the EU recommended by the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science;
• an updated and improved university handbook on the EU; reinforced capacity of teaching staff involved;
• a methodology for students with special learning needs, as well as new student-centred teaching and learning approaches;
• increased awareness and understanding of the EU, its values, policies and institutions, as well as EU-Armenia cooperation, among young Armenians;
• networking opportunities for Armenian schools and universities with counterparts in EU Member States for further cooperation.

ARS_1641The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, attended the event with EU Member State ambassadors, who were greeted with bread and salt. Pupils and teachers form participant schools also came to Hrazdan, where they gave cultural presentations to the guests. After a short concert, Ambassador Świtalski and other ambassadors toured an information fair held at the school, where different EU countries were presented.

ARS_1151Ambassador Świtalski spoke about the role of the EU in promoting education: ‘I want to thank you all for participating and making this project so important. Europe may look very distant to you, few of you may have ever set foot on the territory of the EU; yet, Europe is very close to Armenia. The EU is the biggest donor to Armenia – the contribution of the EU and its member states amounts to almost 60% of all international assistance delivered to Armenia. The EU is important for Armenia, because a strong European Union is good for all Armenians. I hope very much that the legacy of this project will last for a long time, so that the pupils of schools and students of universities will have the opportunity to learn more about the EU, its history and future. Our mission is to develop your country’.

ARS_1194Nune Vardanyan, the advisor of Levon Mkrtchyan, the Armenian Minister of Education and Science, transferred the Minister’s message: ‘Over the past 15 years, the EU has actively supported reforms in Armenia’s education sector. The scope of that cooperation includes science, school education and secondary vocational education. I think that the “Support to EU Courses in Secondary Schools and Universities” project has allowed them to have a complete picture of the potential of EU educational programmes. Cooperation with the EU will continue, which will give our young people access to quality education’.

On 19 June the European Union Delegation to Armenia welcomed the students, selected under #Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programme, before their departure to study in Europe. Armenian students will have the opportunity to obtain an MA degree in European universities and get a double European diploma.

ARS_8551The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, welcomed students and representatives of embassies of EU member states followed by a series of presentations on Erasmus+ educational opportunities, as well as the Erasmus Mundus Alumni experience exchange. The students had the chance to ask any questions they had. Erasmus+ is an EU programme launched on 1 January 2014 aimed at boosting skills and employability, as well as to offer more opportunities for cooperation across the education, training, youth and sport sectors. As something new, the programme for the first time provides support for sport. As an integrated programme by 2020, the programme will grant €14.7 billion to mobility and strategic partnerships for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience, and volunteer abroad. To achieve its objectives, Erasmus+ follows 3 strategic directions: learning mobility of individuals; cooperation for innovation and exchange of good practices; support for policy reform; Jean Monnet activities and actions in the field of sport.

ARS_8611Ambassador Świtalski congratulated the guests: ‘We consider Erasmus+ as a very important part of our activity in Armenia. We hope that you will profit from this opportunity, come back to Armenia, and be able to put all you have learned to practice. I hope you will get good jobs, a problem in Armenia. I have met some alumni that have been struggling to get jobs – Armenia has to work on its unemployment rate and the EU is ready to help. We hope you will enjoy your experience and become good ambassadors of the EU’.

Read more about Erasmus+ on the website of the European Commission and visit the website of the National Erasmus+ Office in Armenia.

_V1A0241On 27 May the Europe Day celebrations reached their final stop: Northern Avenue, Yerevan. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, welcomed the Mayor of Yerevan, Taron Margaryan, to launch the final celebrations and addressed a large crowd in the centre of the city: ‘During Europe Day we celebrate the values, the foundations of the EU which link us with Armenia. We have done a big tour over the last three weeks. We started on 6 May here in Yerevan with the “Europe for Peace” concert. We then travelled throughout Armenia: Gymuri, Vanadzor, Dilijan, Kapan, Goris, and Yeghegnadzor. Today we have a closer meeting with the residents of Yerevan, a beautiful European city. I want to thank our member states embassies, the people involved in the implementation of our projects, and the team who organised these events for their hard work during the last month. We want to demonstrate to you that Armenia is very important to us. We want Armenians to learn what the EU is doing here – we are, by far, the biggest donor to Armenia and we want to make progress together. The atmosphere is good for our relations, for example, a few days ago, the EU-Armenia Cooperation Council took place in Brussels in a very friendly and constructive atmosphere. A very ambitious agenda has been charted for the future and I think it is good for Armenia. The EU will stay engage here and we will work hard to ensure you all benefit’.

ARS_3877The TmbaTa folk band from the TUMO Centre in Yerevan performed the Anthem of Europe to kick off the musical celebrations, while Ambassador Świtalski, Mayor Margaryan and other diplomats toured an information fair divided into several zones: EU4Business, EU4Agriculture, EU4Education, EU4CivilSociety, EU4HumanRights, EU4Youth, EU4Enviroment, EU4Energy and EU4Innovation. More than 50 EU-funded projects and EU member states embassies presented their activities.

_V1A0390Projects which attracted the most attention included the “Stop the Flow of Corruption” anti-corruption awareness campaign, which began on 1 February 2017, launched by the EU Delegation to Armenia. This campaign will continue throughout 2017 to raise awareness of the negative effects of corruption and to highlight the EU’s efforts in fighting against corruption in Armenia. Sergey Sargsyan from Arm Comedy and Marat Atovmyan from the Armenian Lawyers’ Association gave examples of the negative effects of corruption to the attendees.

_V1A1022Alongside the information fair there were award ceremonies for the ICMPD MIMBA photo exhibition, the #EUAroundU contest and the Europe Day Street workout performance. This involved a dance performance by “STRONG CSOs for a Stronger Armenia” project representatives and more performances by TmbaTa and the Armenian Progressive Youth band, as well as UFAR Tempus and Erasmus+ students. The Street Workout team organised a flash mob and invited people to join in their workout. The final concert involved performances by Polish singers Adryan Jan and Cesco, who filled Northern Avenue with nice music and dancing. To finish they performed a special new song dedicated to Armenia to show their love and respect to all Armenians.

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.

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’.