Tag Archives: Serzh Sargsyan

On 24 November in Brussels, Belgium, the 5th Eastern Partnership Summit took place to mark the achievements of the last two years of the EU’s relationships with its six Eastern partners. The 5th EaP Summit was long awaited by participants.
On the same day in Brussels, the Armenia’s Foreign Minister, Edward Nalbandian, and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, signed the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement in the presence of Armenia’s President, Serzh Sargsyan, and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. Negotiations on the new EU-Armenia agreement started 2 years ago and successfully concluded on 26 February 2017. Once it enters into force, the new agreement will replace the EU-Armenia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
On the occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit, the European Union also concluded negotiations with Armenia for a new aviation agreement. It is estimated that this agreement will bring up to 87.000 additional passengers and will generate more than €16 million in the first five years. Under the agreement, Armenia will join the EU Common Aviation Area. This will liberalise the market in a mutual manner, allowing airlines to operate routes with no restrictions and enjoy the equal opportunity of servicing a market of 500 million people. European standards will be introduced into Armenian legislation and foreign airlines will be allowed to choose air routes commercially, without political interference.

ARS_9523On 27 November the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, held a press conference to speak about the mutual benefits and deeper cooperation the agreement should bring: ‘Let’s congratulate each other because it was a mutual success: many people have worked very hard to achieve this success in Armenia, in Brussels and in the capitals of our member states. For me it is an unbelievable pleasure to speak to you about this agreement, because this agreement is very important for both of us. I hope very much that it will boost our relations, consolidate the basis of our relations, and enlarge the scope of our relations. I hope, with time, all Armenian citizens will be able to benefit from this new chapter of our relations. The leaders of Armenia and the EU have commented upon the agreement and the experts have studied the contents. The agreement is different from the Association Agreement, but it retains its ambition. The EU is always taking on board the aspirations of our partners; therefore, it is wrong to speak about the EU pursuing either one or the other policy. This is an agreement that takes into account Armenia’s international commitments and obligations and is cooperative in nature; this means it is a joint commitment. The EU encourages but never imposes. Under the agreement, Armenia will undertake different commitments: fighting corruption, implementing judicial reforms, freeing up competition for businesses, etc. I can tell you, from a local perspective, that we, the EU Delegation to Armenia, are all set to do our best to implement the agreement as it creates new opportunities and opens new doors. However, the essential benefit from the new agreement is to ensure its successful implementation. We are all motivated to implement the agreement and establish cooperative ties with all Armenian partners. We have no time to rest, it’s a stimulus to intensify our work and make our contribution more effective and visible from the point of view of ordinary Armenian – we are doing it for ordinary Armenians. There is no need to talk about failure at this time because I am optimistic that this agreement will bring new quality to our relations and I’m very optimistic about implementation. I am confident that we will succeed’.

A new border-crossing point (BCP) in Bavra (Shirak marz) will now offer Armenian citizens many advantages: simplified procedures, reduced waiting times, modern infrastructure, equipment, and improved security. It will enhance Armenia’s regional connectivity by promoting international trade, transit and tourism.

ARS_1542On 1 October the official opening ceremony of the Bavra BCP was attended by the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, the Chairman of the Armenian State Revenue Committee, Vardan Harutyunyan, the UN resident Coordinator in Armenia, Bradley Busetto, the Head of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Regional Representation for the South Caucasus, Sébastien Husson de Sampigny, Government officials responsible for border management, and representatives from International Organisations, Diplomatic Corps, and the Media. The construction and upgrade of Bavra BCP were done through the EU-funded and UNDP-implemented “Modernisation of Bagratashen, Bavra and Gogavan Border Crossing Points of Armenia” (MBBG) project.

ARS_1594The new Bavra facility, together with the Bagratashen and Gogavan BCPs that were officially inaugurated on 4 November 2016, is one more step towards enhanced security and the provision of more efficient services by border agencies. However, facilities are only one part of the story. This modern BCP and professional border staff will help facilitate trade and the transit of goods, reduce associated time and costs, as well as make cross-border movement of people for business and social purposes more comfortable. Previously, under the 2017 European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) survey of Eastern Partnership BCPs, Bagratashen BCP (together with Zvartnots International Airport) scored highest in terms of traveller satisfaction with the border-crossing experience. Criteria included infrastructure, safety, professionalism of border officers, access to additional information, and facilities for children and the elderly.

ARS_1774Ambassador Świtalski congratulated all project partners for opening the third crossing point: ‘Opening this completely reconstructed BCP in Bavra is an excellent example of EU-Armenia cooperation to improve Armenia’s connectivity and support to its trade and economic development. The upgraded Bavra BCP is in line with international standards and designed to be convenient for both businesses and citizens. Together with the Bagratashen and Gogavan BCPs it will ensure 3 alternative routes for the movement of goods between Armenia, Georgia and beyond. They will stimulate the development of the marzes through which the routes pass. The EU is committed to continue supporting these initiatives and will work closely with all Armenian counterparts to replicate this design at other BCPs on the Armenian borders’.

ARS_1730Chairman Harutyunyan thanked all partners for their assistance on MBBG: ‘I am convinced that efforts from the Armenian Government and Governmental partners will continue this BCP modernisation process. Now the modernisation of Armenia’s southern border has begun in Meghri. Design and other estimates for the BCP have already started’.

De Sampigny talked about EIB assistance: ‘Iam pleased that EIB funding contributed to the upgrade of the three border crossings between Armenia and Georgia. Based on my personal experience, this will greatly facilitate people’s travel and exchange of goods; thus, it will benefit the whole region, as well as the European Union’.

ARS_1162Armenia received a €30.8 million EIB loan for MBBG to upgrade infrastructure and equipment at the three BCPs. This loan was complemented by a grant of €17.2 million from the European Union, and a Government contribution of €4.44 million. UNDP was the main implementer of the project and also made a financial contribution of €1.9 million.

086A2301On 2 October Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, visited Armenia to prepare for the Eastern Partnership Summit on 24 November in Brussels, Belgium. In the morning, Commissioner Hahn met with representatives of civil society and discussed EU-Armenia relations, the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement and Partnership Priorities, human rights, and democracy in Armenia. During his meeting with the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edward Nalbandian, Hahn discussed similar topics, including the “20 deliverables for 2020” to be prepared for the upcoming summit. After the official meeting, they made statements to the press.

086A2406Commissioner Hahn spoke about upcoming Summit and future relations between the EU and Armenia: ‘We have discussed bilateral issues which are partly embedded into the Eastern Partnership Summit which is scheduled for the 24th of November in Brussels. It is in Brussels for the first time also to demonstrate the strong commitment of all the 28 EU Member States on the further development of the Eastern Neighbourhood. And it is not only on the particular interest of our Eastern European Member States, but it is in the interest of all the 28, expressed by the fact that we have convened this summit for the first time in Brussels. And that is why I have already referred in a particular item on this famous deliverables for 2020 which aim to bring tangible results and benefits to the daily lives of Armenian citizens’.

Full transcript of the statement is available: http://bit.ly/2zahLnb

086A2412Minister Nalbandian once again welcomed Commissioner Hahn to Yerevan and talked about the many EU activities in Armenia: ‘Armenia enjoys close ties with the European Union and intends to expand comprehensive cooperation in all areas of mutual interest. The EU provides valuable assistance for the ongoing reforms in our country. The agreement has been reached over the Partnership Priorities Document between Armenia and the European Union. I would like to specifically highlight that the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement has been finalised. The signing of the Agreement could become one of the main achievements of the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels in November. The preparatory work for the Brussels Summit has been an important part of our discussions with Commissioner Hahn. We exchanged views on the Final Declaration of the Summit. Encouraging people-to-people contact is an important part of the Armenia-EU agenda. We exchanged views on sectorial cooperation and touched upon the “20 Deliverables for 2020” document, which outlines the main Eastern Partnership directions for the next three years. I also briefed the Commissioner on the joint efforts of Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries towards the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the preparations for the upcoming meeting of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Commissioner Hahn reaffirmed the full support of the European Union for the efforts of the Minsk Group’.

Full transcript of the statement is available: http://bit.ly/2zbOyYZ

After the press conference Hahn met the Armenian Prime Minister, Karen Karapetyan with whom he discussed the future of EU-Armenia cooperation. This covered delivery of the Riga priorities for economic development and enhanced market opportunities, strengthening institutions and good governance, increasing connectivity, energy efficiency, environmental protection, and greater mobility and people-to-people contact.

22135635_1501482579905666_3896535799773529772_oDuring a meeting with the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, the Commissioner discussed the priorities of the Eastern Partnership Summit and the deepening of EU-Armenia relations. This improvement of relations is reflected in the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement and Partnership Priorities, which will set joint policy priorities for the coming years and provide new opportunities for close cooperation, trade and reform.

After the meeting Hahn met students at TUMO Centre for Creative Technologies, accompanied by Armenian Minister of Education and Science Levon Mkrtchyan. The visit culminated in a presentation of the EU-funded anti-corruption mobile game “Tales of Neto”. Commissioner Hahn’s day ended with a cultural visit to the Megerian Carpet Museum.

On 24 May the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee delegation, led by its Chair David McAllister (EPP, DE), arrived in Armenia as part of a regional tour to the South Caucasus. After landing in Armenia, the 8 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) first went to Tsitsernakaberd, laid a wreath at the Genocide Memorial, and visited the Armenian Genocide Museum and Institute.

ARS_2886The next day working agenda was busy. The delegation met with Armenian civil society representatives to exchange views on the current domestic and regional political situation, as well as on human rights protection in the country. Later, the MEPs met with the representatives of international organisations in Armenia. The next stop was Yerevan Regional State College #1. The MEPs were excited to visit the college and learn about its activities. The college is one of the 12 pilot vocational and educational training (VET) colleges included in the European Union’s budget support programme.

ARS_3286McAllister and the committee members met the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, the Chairman of the Armenian National Assembly, Ara Babloyan, parliamentarians from the ruling and opposition parties, and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Edward Nalbandian. The committee’s visit concluded with a press conference.

ARS_3362McAllister thanked his Armenian hosts for their hospitality and spoke about the state of EU-Armenia relations: ‘Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and at the same time, it is signing this ambitious agreement with the European Union. This is the demonstration that our Eastern Partnership is not a zero-sum game, in competition against other regional actors. Instead, I strongly believe that cooperation of all responsible players is needed to find common solutions to problems that affect many people’s lives – I am thinking in particular of the relationship between Armenia and its neighbour Azerbaijan.
This next government will have many challenges to tackle, starting with the implementation of necessary reforms such as the reform of the judiciary, fight against corruption and anti-discrimination. Improving the business climate and creating economic growth opportunities to boost employment – especially of the young Armenians – is a strong expectation from the society, and rightly so’.

McAllister and the EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, answered many journalists’ questions, including those on the latest announcements of the OSCE Minsk Group, the closing of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, and alleged human rights violations.