Tag Archives: reforms

Twenty-two trainers from the Justice Academy of Armenia received certificates on 4 October 2016 for successfully passing training-of-trainers courses. The certificate award ceremony was organised as part of the “Supporting the criminal justice reform and combating ill-treatment and impunity in Armenia” project, which is implemented by the European Union and Council of Europe’s Programmatic Cooperation Framework for Eastern Partnership Countries 2015-2017. The European Union provides EUR 377.415 (90%) of the funding for the project.
The training of 22 future trainers will help boost the knowledge and implementation of core human rights standards in Armenia in line with the Criminal Justice Reform process. The project and the development of a training programme, training material and the instruction of the 22 trainers are based on a thorough assessment of knowledge gaps and investigative practices among investigators and prosecutors conducted in 2015. The new teaching programme covers general criminal investigative methodology, investigations of alleged torture and ill-treatment, cases involving the right to life, investigations involving vulnerable victims/witnesses and suspects such as children and women and pre-trial detention, and other related investigatory issues courses. Additionally, the training sessions also helped them to link their newly acquired knowledge with their practical experience, further enhancing their skills.
The ultimate goal of the new courses to be offered is to contribute to the fight against impunity, strengthen human rights protection and the rule of law in the country.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia Ambassador Piotr Świtalski was present at the award ceremony and spoke about the EU’s support for justice reform: ‘The EU is very pleased to be associated with this project. In the past the EU has spent almost €50 million supporting the justice sector in Armenia. We are satisfied with how we contribute to reforms in Armenia, but we want to continue our engagement by working with the new Armenian government to determine and define new areas of cooperation on justice. This is an important project and Armenia needs good investigators. Thanks to this project Armenian investigators have learned about new developments in the standard-setting process, led by Council of Europe. I hope that Armenian law enforcement and justice agencies will benefit from this project and will be able to deal with the problems that exist not only in Armenia but also in Europe’.
Natalia Voutova, Head of the CoE office in Yerevan, highly appreciated the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the Justice Academy, highlighting the importance of well-researched courses and an established pool of trainers.
The new training material is publicly available and can be browsed or downloaded here:
http://justiceacademy.am/#791
http://www.coe.int/en/web/yerevan/publications1

The National Erasmus+ Office in Armenia, the EU Delegation to Armenia and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) organised on 11 December an information day for scholars, experts from higher education institutions, students, and representatives of non-governmental organisations. Participants were introduced to the EU Erasmus+ Programme (http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/index_en.htm) and to the launching of actions relevant to higher education from an international perspective.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Traian Hristea, highlighted that Armenia had been particularly active in terms of educational reform within the Eastern Partnership: ‘Erasmus+ will replace the Erasmus Mundus programme, and the EU is determined to do even more. Investing in education is the key to human potential, regardless of age and background. We would like to increase mobility among students between our regions and provide greater support to higher education institutions’.

IMG_9725The Minister of Education of Armenia appreciated the fact that the Erasmus+ programme will be available to future students and beneficiary organisations, and expressed the hope that the current level of positive cooperation would be enriched by new ideas and innovation: ‘This is quite an important programme for Armenia, and will help in accumulating, analysing and spreading any kind of information on educational reforms. Next year we will host the European Ministers conference in Yerevan; representatives from 47 countries will gather in Armenia to come up with strategies for the future of European higher education’.

IMG_9833The “Erasmus+” programme is aimed at boosting skills and employability, as well as modernising education, training and youth work. The seven-year programme was launched in January 2014 and will be financed by the EU with a budget of €14.7 billion. The programme shows the EU’s commitment to investing in education and employment. The mandate of partner countries’ national Erasmus+ offices under the Erasmus+ programme covers all support, promotion, monitoring and dissemination activities related to the international higher education dimension of the programme.

The signing of a loan agreement took place on 9 December at the Armenian Ministry of Finance. Gagik Khachatryan, on behalf of the ministry, representatives of KfW bank and “High Voltage” CJSC signed an agreement for a €85.2m loan; €75m will be provided by the KfW bank and another €10.2m by the Federal Republic of Germany for the primary stage of the “Caucasian energy supply network I” project.
Armenian and Georgian energy supply systems will be unified within the framework of the project through the village of Ayrum on the border between the two countries. The respective renovation works will lead to the synchronisation of Armenian and Georgian power supply systems and better import/export systems for surplus/scarce electricity.
IMG_0043
Apart from the signed agreement a €10m co-funding loan will be provided by the European Investment Bank and another €10m worth grant through the European Union Neighbourhood Instrument. This will make the total budget allocated within the framework of the project €105.2m due to two “High Voltage” CJSC is the main beneficiary of the project and will receive the allocated loan and grant funds.

A conference on the role of the Chamber of Control was held on 28 November, attended by representatives of various state institutions and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions. The conference was organised within the framework of the EU-funded “Public Financial Management in the South Caucasus” programme, implemented together with the German aid agency GIZ.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Traian Hristea, expressed hope that a strong Chamber of Control would be established in Armenia in the near future: ‘It is highly important to strengthen state mechanisms; this is why the EU continues to provide budget support. In this way we should see consistent reforms in the fields of justice, education, agriculture and others. Reforms must be implemented in accordance with declarations signed by international organisations’.
Participants discussed the role and importance of the Chamber of Control in the Armenian public finance management system; also the concept and principles of performance audit; considered establishing a professional network of regional and international partners and supporters dedicated to reforming the Chamber of Control.
Head of the Armenian Chamber of Control Ishkhan Zakaryan spoke on the perspectives of the programme and possible improvements in the Armenian audit system: ‘All the measures carried out are aimed at creating an environment intolerant to corruption. The Chamber of Control is not a punitive instrument; it has the objective to prevent possible crimes. I think we should leave the perception of an “overlooking” official behind – today the Chamber of Control has stepped onto the path of reform’. The European Union external actions plan, which provided support to the conference, is aimed at strengthening the independence, effectiveness and transparency of the Armenian external audit system.

The EU Advisory Group (EUAG) held its 16th and last Advisory Board Meeting on 11 November in the presence of the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Traian Hristea, and the Chief of Staff of the Office to the President of Armenia, Vigen Sargsyan.
The board gave a positive assessment of EUAG activities throughout the whole implementation of the project, which was echoed by Ambassador Hristea: ‘Today we hold the last formal meeting of the EU Advisory Group board, while EU assistance to Armenia is set to continue. During five years of EUAG activity, relations between the EU and Armenia have developed significantly. The EU remains committed to support Armenian reform efforts and appreciates Armenia’s willingness for further cooperation. Future directions will benefit from the policies, strategies and plans developed with support from the EUAG. We will jointly build on this impressive track record of achievements’.

Chief of Staff of the Office to the President of Armenia, Vigen SargsyanSargsyan spoke about the possible further development of EU-Armenia relations: ‘Despite the participation of Armenia in the Eurasian Economic Union, our country is determined to continue its association with the European Union in the spheres of mobility, good governance, democracy, human rights and multi-faceted economic relations. In April 2014 the President of Armenia adopted the list of activities on the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan. Our objective is to keep the context of previous discussions between the EU and Armenia, providing their compatibility with other integration formats’.
The Annual Report of the EU Advisory Group for January-September 2014 highlighted the support and recommendations provided by EUAG in the areas of migration and mobility, in particular regarding the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements, which came into force on 1 January 2014, as well as asylum reception capacity. Support was also given in the area of human rights, in particular advice on the upgrade and implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan adopted in early 2014, as well as recommendations on the national gender machinery and non-discrimination.
The EU Advisory Group presents final achievements  (1) The report highlights the policy advice provided to the National Assembly on enhancing its government oversight function, strengthening the role of committees in the law-making process and closer relations with national parliaments in the EU. The EU Advisory group also provided comments for improving the draft anti-corruption strategy, strengthening the coordinating and monitoring of justice reforms, as well as the overall quality of the national judiciary and prosecution. The Group also helped improve law enforcement capacities in the areas of crime analysis, financial investigation, cybercrime and human trafficking.
In addition, the EU Advisory Group delivered its last assessment on the key challenges and work ahead for Armenia, which summarized recommendations and findings on justice, migration, law enforcement, EU approximation and governance, EU-Armenia parliamentary cooperation and human rights.
The EUAG supported Armenia in the implementation of its reform agenda and the development of its international commitments. It provided tailored policy advice on legal, security, democratic, economic and institutional issues to the Armenian presidency and other institutions. The project was implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in Armenia.

On 18 October the official unveiling of the Armenian Electronic Civil Status Registry took place in Gyumri. This e-system was devised by the Armenian government with the support of the European Union through the “Transactional e-Government support in Armenia” project.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Traian Hristea, noted that the European Union attached great importance to the use of communications technologies and supports partner countries in this respect: ‘Using information technologies can promote the improvement of governance and provide better services to citizens. This new system in Armenia has established a one-stop-shop service for civil status registrations’.

The electronic civil status register unifies all separate offices throughout the country that register civil status acts. There are also over 15 million historical paper-based civil status acts at the e-Registry, which will all be digitalised as part of the project.

The Minister of Justice Hovhannes Manukyan highlighted issues connected with improving the justice system in his speech: ‘As a result of this project the government will have access to comprehensive data on civil status acts, which will spare citizens from providing piles of documentation in the future and will reduce the timeframes required for processing. Furthermore, this project is a significant step towards transparency and the development of the anti-corruption strategy’.

As a live presentation of the new system, the staff of the Gyumri civil status registry introduced birth registration information, demonstrating the speed of the new system and its ease of use.

The “Transactional e-Governance support in Armenia” project is funded by the EU with a total budget of €1,400,000. It was launched in August 2012 and it will continue until December 2014.

The “Golden Key and Rusty Lock” awards took place in Yerevan on 26 September dedicated to International Right to Know Day. The event was organised by the Armenian NGO “Freedom of Information Centre” in cooperation with the Armenian Young Lawyers Association, and was funded by the European Union within the scope of the “Multi-faceted Anti-corruption Promotion” project.

Prime Minister of Armenia Hovik Abrahamyan spoke on the Armenian government’s dedication to freedom of information: ‘The Armenian government is constantly seeking ways out to raise the efficiency of its administrative systems. The Open Government Partnership, which has entered its second stage, is a vivid example of our activity in this area. This project gives an opportunity to establish institutions that will promote citizen’s participation in decision making and policy development. Freedom of information in our country is ensured by law, and we will implement consistent efforts so that administrative transparency can be achieved’.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Traian Hristea, focused his comments on corruption: ‘Corruption within the public sector continues to be a large Armenian, indeed a global, challenge. According to recent reports, the world’s poorest countries are deprived of at least $1 trillion each year as a result of the siphoning of cash through money laundering, tax evasion and embezzlement. This is cash that could be spent to enhance citizens’ living standards and provide better and cheaper services and goods’. He added that, in recent years, the political leadership in Armenia had regularly expressed its readiness to fight corruption in public statements, various programmes and strategic documents, as well as through legal reform. On behalf of the European Union he expressed the hope that both an independent oversight system and new anti-corruption strategy would be established in Armenia.

An independent jury awarded institutions noted for transparency and significant anti-corruption activities over the last year with “Golden Key” prizes. Winners included the official website of the Armenian Police (the best official website in terms of access to information), Public Radio of Armenia and yerkir.am portal (contribution to freedom of information in the media). Additionally, the jury awarded two “Rusty Locks” to opaque institutions with poor transparency records: the State Economic University of Armenia (for the most ridiculous official answer) and the State Committee of Real Estate Cadastre of Armenia (the institution that provided the tardiest responses to citizens).

The “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” project is funded by the EU with a budget of €650,000. It is aimed at building the capacity of civil society organisations to engage in monitoring and watchdog activities, increase the effectiveness of monitoring of anti-corruption reforms, and strengthen anti-corruption institutional mechanisms. As an overall objective the project planners intend to increase the role of CSOs in promoting anti-corruption reforms.

The launch of the EU-funded twinning project called “Strengthening the Regulatory and Institutional Framework of Public Internal Financial Control and Supporting the Central Harmonisation Unit (CHU) in its role of operationalising the new system in the Republic of Armenia” took place on 11 September. The project is designed to support public internal financial control in the Armenian finance sector and to develop the capacity of the Armenian Ministry of Finance to adopt EU best practices in the field of public internal financial control (PIFC). The project is to be implemented with the support of Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV) and has four components: 1) reviewing of current legislation and other documents; 2) raising methodological capacity for PIFC system implementation; 3) supporting CHU in risk management; 4) supporting CHU in establishing internal audit services.

Deputy Minister of Finance Suren Karayan described the project aims: ‘This project was devised in order to support internal financial administration reforms. As a result we expect to have a solid foundation for PIFC. This, in turn, will strengthen the transparency and accountability of internal financial transactions’.

The Head of Cooperation Unit of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Hoa-Binh Adjemian, noted that PIFC was a model for a state government: ‘It is highly important for citizens, taxpayers to be aware and participate in this process. The EU believes that strong commitment from central government is the best way to improve PIFC. Communication strategy is to be built up to explain how public administration contributes to sustainability and prosperity’. He added that cooperation between the EU and ESV would allow the government and the ministry to realise their reform agenda.

Deputy Director of ESV Kristina Lundqvist gave a presentation of the company: ‘Being a twinning partner, we will do our best to ensure managerial accountability. Short-term experts will come to Armenia in order to consult local professionals’.

A working meeting was held on 26 August on the draft of the Republic of Armenia 2014-2018 Anti-Corruption Strategy. Representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) and government attended the meeting. The event was opened by Karen Zadoyan, head of the “Armenian Young Lawyers Association” NGO. He presented the concept behind the anti-corruption strategy, which had been devised with the support and active participation of both civil society and officials.

Zadoyan noted vivid interest in the issue and expressed hope that current activity would raise the effectiveness of the anti-corruption system, highlighting the importance of dialogue between official institutions and civil society.

The Deputy Minister of Justice, Suren Qrmoyan, on behalf of the Armenian Ministry of Justice, said that fighting corruption had been very high on the Armenian government agenda for the last 15 years: ‘Local and international research shows that significant progress has been realised [in Armenia], and we have created a solid judicial foundation. The Armenian government’s participation in numerous international anti-corruption agreements is crucial’.

The Head of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Hoa-Binh Adjemian, commented on the attitude of the Armenian political leadership: ‘The Armenian government has expressed its readiness to fight corruption through its inclusion in various programmes, strategy documents and the implementation of legal reforms. All branches of state power – legislative, executive and judicial – fully realise the importance of building a society free from corruption. This is a strong claim for change; that said, a change in management is required for this to be implemented as soon as possible’. Hoa-Binh Adjemian also stressed the importance of the inclusion of civil society in anti-corruption measures.

Qrmoyan stated that corruption risk reduction will be expanded to some new areas, included in the new draft – education, healthcare, the police, and state revenue accumulation processes: ‘We have big expectations from this working meeting, as the strategy will soon be concluded. We encourage our partners to express their ideas on the strategy itself and also on more general anti-corruption measures. Having the trust of society is the most important aspect in this process’.

The EU-funded “Multifaceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” project is aimed at increasing the role of CSOs in promoting anti-corruption reforms and their implementation. Within the framework of the project, the capacity of CSOs and the media to engage in monitoring and watchdog activities is being built. Small grants are being provided to raise the effectiveness of public monitoring and also implement appropriate monitoring and investigation. The duration of the project is 3 years with a total budget of €650,000.

On 26 August a public discussion on the procedure of judges’ appointments and testing system took place at the Armenian Ministry of Justice. Representatives of the ministry, civil society and international experts were invited to take part. The event was organised within the framework of the EU-funded “Support to Justice Reform in Armenia” programme.

The aim of the discussion was to establish sustainable dialogue between non-profit organisations and judicial experts. Minister of Justice Artyom Geghamyan noted the importance of the public nature of the event: ‘The Ministry of Justice highly appreciates the importance of open discussions, especially with representatives of civil society regarding judicial reforms. All the ideas and standpoints voiced during this meeting will be taken into consideration later during further judicial reforms’.

Representative of the Ministry of Justice Hovhannes Hovakimyan gave a presentation on improvements to the appointment of judges, to how they are tested and evaluated, to how their work is appreciated, to disciplinary penalties, and to their independence.