EU Launches Negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with Armenia
February 27, 2012
In February 27 the European Union, represented by the European Commission, and the Government of Armenia, represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched negotiations on two agreements to facilitate respectively the procedures for issuing short-stay visas, as well as the readmission of irregular migrants between the European Union and Armenia.
The visa facilitation and readmission negotiations with Armenia follow the political commitment taken at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit in May 2009 regarding the improvement of people to people contacts. In September 2011, the European Commission proposed opening negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Armenia. The agreements on visa facilitation and readmission will enter into force simultaneously.
The Visa Facilitation and Readmission agreements provide for:
– lower visa fee for all citizens,
– fee waivers for certain categories (e.g. family members, pensioners),
– a maximum processing time of 10 calendar days,
– simplified supporting document requirements,
– wider issuance of multiple-entry visas for certain categories (e.g. business people),
– visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports and
– enhanced mobility in a secured and well-managed environment.
On the other hand, the Readmission Agreement provides for reciprocal obligations on the contracting parties to readmit their national and also, under certain conditions, third country nationals and stateless persons which are in an irregular situation on the territory of the other party. They also set out in detail the operational and technical criteria for this process.
The EU has already launched a Mobility Partnership with Armenia in October 2011, a non-legally binding framework for managing movements of people, in which ten EU Member States participate (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Sweden).
The EU’s visa policy is aimed at achieving a proper balance between internal security and external stabilisation, acceptable to all sides. One of the EU’s foreign policy instruments for achieving this aim are the visa facilitation and readmission agreements. So far, the EU has concluded visa facilitation agreements with nine non-EU countries, three of which are our Eastern partners the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine. Based on these agreements, citizens from these countries will benefit from facilitated procedures for issuing visas.
Armenia’s representative elected member of the Gender Equality Commission of the Council of Europe
27 February, 2012
Representative of Armenia has been elected member of the Gender Equality Commission of the Council of Europe at a closed voting. Press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia told Armenpress the new commission established with the instruction of the Council of Europe Ministerial Committee must deal with gender equality issues.
The commission is comprised of 16 members out of 47 Council of Europe member-states. Armenia’s representative is the only one from the region. Armenia will be represented in the commission by head of the human rights and humanitarian affairs department of the International Organizations Karine Sujyan.
Meeting of the EURONEST PA Committee in Yerevan
On February 22 in the Session Hall of the National Assembly the meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly of the Eastern Partnership began for the first time outside the European Parliament premises.
Artak Zakaryan, presiding over the meeting, Co-Chairman of the Committee welcomed those present and thanked the NA Speaker Samvel Nikoyan for organizing the visiting session, the EU Advisory Group to Armenia, the EURONEST Secretariat and the Staff of the Parliament. The representatives of the Armenian Platform of the Civil Society Forum were also invited at the meeting.
The speaker stressed the important role of the EURONEST both with respect to the integration into the European Union, and having dialogue with each other, noting that the interest towards the Eastern Partnership and, in particular, its parliamentary format, increases. Within short period Armenia has successfully integrated into all four committees of the Assembly and also actively works within the framework of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society, and important directions in the sphere of the activities. To Artak Zakaryan’s conviction, the involvement and cooperation should be the spirit of the EURONEST, giving no space to the contradictions. He called upon the Eastern Partner Countries to work together within the framework of the EURONEST in conditions of understanding and being mutually beneficial.
The NA Speaker Samvel Nikoyan welcomed the participants of the meeting.
At the Second Day Meeting of the EURONEST Committee
On February 23 the meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly continued the work presided over by the MEP Ms Laima Liucija Andrikiene.
Karine Harutyunyan, RA Deputy Minister of Education and Science, delivered a speech on the role of the youth in the country. She introduced the educational reforms designed by the Bologna programme, investment of the educational two-degree and credit systems, procedure of implementation of the RA national qualification programmes and emphasized the high level of involvement of the youth in those works.
The representatives of the Youth Parliament fucntioning in the National Assembly also expressed their views. They highlighted the creation of the Youth Parliament with respect of having better picture about the existing challenges, and they feel responsible for the future of the country.
Jatiner Cheema, Director of the USAID Mission to Armenia, delivered a speech on social inclusion policies and poverty reduction strategies. She has noted that their organization fulfils different social programmes, and their task is to support the procedure of pension reforms in Armenia, inform the citizens about the features of the law. The organization is also engaged with integration of the citizens with invalidity problems in the labour market and employment issues, cooperating with different structures of the civil society.
Artur Grigoryan, RA Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, has delivered a speech about the processes of the social sphere and existing problems in Armenia, noting that the reforms of the social sphere are consonant with the provisions touched upon in the report. According to him, one of the most important problems is the improvement of the pensioners’ social situation through radical reforms of the pension system.
The Minister also touched upon the activities of the national, regional and community three-degree system created for the children’s protection.
Artak Zakaryan, Co-Chair of the Committee, and the MEP Inese Vaidere presented the main direction of the draft report “Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Eastern Partner Countries.”
Trian Hristea, Head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, gave a speech within the framework of the theme “Mobility as a catalyst for cultural, education, social exchanges and promotion of integration between the EU and the EaP.” According to him, the mobility is a catalyst of exchanges, and it is a factor facilitating the inter-cultural initiatives. The speaker noted that the process of the mobility facilitation between Armenia and the EU began in October 2011, and the process started earlier with Moldova and Georgia. As to the speaker, the partnership in the sphere of mobility assists the people’s effective return and organisation of re-integration, by which the migration has a positive impact on the economic development of the country and enables to fight against the illegal migrants. Mr. Hristea has expressed conviction that the EURONEST PA is the best platform for elaboration of general and united approaches of the Eastern Partner Countries and for presenting new initiatives.
Tatjana Zdanoka, from the Greens Group of the European Parliament, Rovshan Rzaev, representative of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Borys Tarasyuk, representative of the Ukrainian Parliament, Harutiun Azgaldyan, member of the Armenian Youth Parliament, Inese Vaidere, from the European People’s Party of the European Parliament, presented their views, proposals and remarks on the theme.
Michael Murphy, representative of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Armenia Office and Jemma Hasratyan, Chairwoman of the Association of Women with University Education, delivered speeches “On Empowering Women in Parliaments and Civil Society.”
Michael Murphy has noted that their organisation functions in Armenia from 1995. According to him, Armenia has a rich resource of women with university education. A campaign council of women’s leadership was created by the NDI in 2005, where representatives of different layers of society are involved. The Head of the NDI Armenia Office said that in 2010-2011 schools of women and youth leaders were set up: 150 young people have already finished schools of women’s leadership, and 80 the schools of youth leaders.
Jemma Hasratyan touched upon the problem of women’s representation in the management system and in the issue of making political decisions. In the rapporteur’s opinion, by the final adoption of the bill “On Women’s and Men’s Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities” an opportunity will be created to balance the women’s and men’s participation in all the spheres.
Artak Zakaryan, Co-Chair of the Committee, RA NA deputies Larisa Alaverdyan, Karine Achemyan, Lilit Galstyan, Hovhannes Sahakyan, Naira Zohrabyan, the Ukrainian deputy Volodymyr Lemza, Tatjana Zdanoka from the Greens Group of the European Parliament, Rovshan Rzaev, representative of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Margarita Hakobyan and Hayk Konjoryan, members of the Armenian Youth Parliament presented their views and experience of the countries on the issue under discussion and touched upon the events being implemented.
Vahan Hovhannesyan, Head of the RA NA Delegation to the EURONEST PA, Deputy Chairman of the EURONEST PA, Member of Bureau, in his concluding word highlighted the participation of the representatives of the international organisations in the works of the Committee. In the upcoming meeting of the Committee he proposed to discuss the problems concerning the gender equality. Mr. Hovhannesyan thanked the participants of the meeting for visiting Armenia. ”This first event, which was held outside the European Parliament premises, proved that the Eastern Partner Countries are absolutely able to hold such events,” Mr. Hovhannesyan stressed.
Borys Tarasyuk, Co-Chair of the EURONEST PA, the representative of the Ukrainian Parliament, expressed a word of gratitude to his Armenian counterparts for excellently organising the meeting.
At the end of the meeting Co-Chairs of the Committee Artak Zakaryan and Laima Liucija Andriekene delivered final speeches.
Mr. Zakaryan thanked the delegations of the parliaments of the Partner Countries for participation and effective work, and the European Parliament for support. He expressed his gratitude to the NA Speaker Samvel Nikoyan for organizing the meeting of the Committee in Yerevan.
Laima Liucija Andriekene also expressed her gratitude to the Armenian side for good oragnisation of the meeting. She said that the next meeting will take place in Baku on April 2, 2012.
The meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly of the Eastern Partnership ended the work.
Press Conference of the EURONEST PA Committee With Co-Chairs’ Participation
On February 23 the Committee Co-Chairs wounded up the works of the two-day meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly at the press conference.
Artak Zakaryan informed the journalists about the two reports discussed in the meeting, which was dedicated to the problems of the development of the civil societies in the Eastern Partnership Countries and the problems poverty reduction. After summing up the proposals received on the first report the Co-rapporteurs will submit the final and specified document to the Bureau with expectation of adopting it in the plenary meeting being held in Baku in April. According to Artak Zakaryan, the report is of advisory nature and is a guideline to ensure the rights of the civil societies and freedoms, increasing abilities in the Eastern Partnership Countries on the way of consolidating and cooperating with the Government. The next report relating to combating poverty of social importance was preliminary, and it still needs passing additional phases of discussion. Artak Zakaryan noticed that the index of participation in the works of the Committee was high, the Azerbaijani delegation was also attending. This Committee, by the Co-Chair’s presentation, is the only one in the EURONEST PA, where it is possible to come to an agreement and make joint decisions.
Laima Liucija Andrikiene, Lithuanian Co-Chair of the Committee, has told the journalists that she is pleased with the outcomes of the works of the visiting meeting organised for the first time. Ms Andrikiene appreciated the two-day discussions fruitful and as a feature she noted the open dispute, which became more interesting with the participation of the representatives of the Armenian Platform and the Youth Parliiament, the EU, international missions and the Human Rights Defender. Issues concerning the human rights, the assistance of education and television, freedom of the people’s move were also discussed. The MEP deemed remarkable that the discussion connected with the rise of the women’s role was the hottest and lively.
The Co-Chairs answered the journalists’ questions. In connection with the possibility of involving the EURONEST PA in the settlement of the conflicts Artak Zakaryan noticed that the issue has been discussed while elaborating the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, and the Armenian side had claimed to avoid touching upon the settlement of the conflicts in the wordings. The European counterparts have agreed that the settlement of the conflicts, and particularly, the NK issue are out of the frameowrks of the EURONEST activities. In the Lithuanian Co-Chair’s opinion, the parliament is the environment, where it is possible to come to mutual agreement and we should do that, but not find solutions. In response to the question on cooperating with the civil societies of the non-recognized states, Ms. Andrikiene promised to pass information after discussing it in the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Mr. Zakaryan has said that the Armenian delegation has desire to take part in the work of the plenary meeting being held in Baku.
In the end Ms. Andrikiene has noted that she is not only pleased with the results of the Yerevan meeting, but she is also impressed with the beauty of our country.
EU launches deep and comprehensive free trade area negotiations with Armenia
The EU Trade Policy Committee comprised of 27 member-countries made a unanimous decision to launch deep and comprehensive free trade area (FTA) negotiations with Armenia.
As informed by the ministry of economy of Armenia, the positive decision of the EU Committee on the start of talks is the response of the steps Armenia has taken over the past year in the direction of preparation for talks. To start the talks EU had set forth preconditions of legislation changes, improvement of law enforcement and strengthening of corresponding structures in a number of spheres related to foreign trade.
In 2011, Armenia recorded tangible and significant progress in the mentioned spheres in the direction of carrying out and finalizing commitments and established main priorities.
The work carried out and the report submitted to the EU based on the work gave a basis for the EU structures to make a decision to start the talks.
By establishing of the deep and comprehensive free trade area, Armenia will have an opportunity to diversify and guide its exporting capacities and to enter the European single market having about 500mln consumers on more favourable conditions.
At present, Armenia benefits from EU Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+), which enables export of products on reduced customs tariffs.