Issue 99

“The civil society could not be deprived of the  process of Euro-integration”

Interview with president of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan

 

Mr. Navasardyan, what are the prospects for Armenia’s participation in EaP Civil Society Forum, and what advancements have been made so far?

The Eastern Partnership opens great opportunities for Armenia for deep economic, political and social integration with the EU. In this case it is clear that the civil society couldn’t be deprived of that important process. I think before the formation of the EaP and Civil Society Forum the EU and Armenia cooperation was rather superficial and technical. Both the EU and Armenia estimated that process relying upon the formal results, that is, whether the appropriate law was adopted or not, if this or that state institution, corresponding the European governing systems was established, and so on. But how efficient these laws and institutions are, how they change the society’s life there were no efficient criteria to measure. NGOs were presenting their analysis, assessments, the results of their researches, but they had no institutional status.

The formation of the Forum as an institutional component of the Eastern Partnership process was very important, because in case of its consistent operation, it is impossible not to pay attention to the civil society’s opinion and assessment. In this sense it is very important for the Forum to be a reliable and organized institution. It didn’t happen at once, but I think it slowly comes to its expected function and becomes a more sustained entity. There are evidences of it as well; the representatives of the Forum participate in the meetings of EaP four official thematic platforms, which is a visible progress. They have a chance to present their points of view, to take part in the discussions, while in the initial stage of the Eastern Partnership there were cases when some of the partner countries hindered the engagement of NGOs in the official process. I think, common methods must be developed, which will give an opportunity to the civil society to promote reforms in the target countries. There are quite interesting experiments and I can mention one of them. It is the Euro-integration index, which is a universal study of local experts, representing the civil society of the six countries. The pilot variant of that research was already presented in the third forum in Poznan, 2011. Now the new developments are taking place, and I hope that already in May more comprehensive results of the second investigation will be presented. We are waiting for such initiatives from the Forum and participant-NGOs.

And one more very important point: it is apparent, that the reforms in the target countries must be promoted not only inside them, but also by the EU. EU and its institutions have to also pay attention to the consistent implementation of EaP and make estimations for its progress, because without the EU and its member states’ efficient work it is difficult to expect the reforms to take place in target countries. It is necessary that the interested CSOs are not only from the target countries, but also from EU member states, and the role of the latter should be, along with the work with EU institutions, to ensure that the member countries and their governments are efficient in the frames of the EaP. So far I think many of the EU NGOs, unfortunately, haven’t realized that role, they only see themselves as assistants to promote democratic, economic and other reforms in our countries. And they still pay a little attention, how efficient the EU member states are in all these processes. Civil society organizations in Poland, the Czech Republic already have the understanding that they must take that function as well, since the civil societies in the target countries have developed and got enough experience and knowledge to work independently in our countries. So, we expect that our partners in the EU countries see their mission in supporting EaP from their own end – in the EU.

– Which of the six Eastern Partnership countries make considerable steps forward and succeed most?

This process is quite disproportionate. It happens that one of the countries rapidly goes forward, but due to some processes in this country this rapidity is slowed.  The reason to that can be elections, the changes of the heads of the country and the government, as well as the Geo-political developments.

Traditionally, the leaders are Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. First, Ukraine underwent an “Orange” Revolution, and the country’s geopolitical orientation turned towards the West, the European Union. Later, political forces with more modest European aspirations came to power. Despite it, the geopolitical position as well as the size of the country are so important for the EU, that no matter what happens in the country’s inner politics, it will always be the focus of attention, and when you are in the centre of attention you cannot be passive, and it’s clear that Ukraine, irrespective of all obstacles, will always remain in a leading position.

Moldova is the country where after a long-lasting communist ruling, liberal-democratic forces have come to power, and their orientation towards Europe is obvious. They are open for various reforms, and now Moldova can be seen as a leader of reforms progress and European integration among the six countries.

Georgia is also among the countries which after the Revolution of “Roses”, has for already eight years adopted Western orientation, the main point of which is Brussels – the EU. However, recently Georgia has been said to adopt a Singaporean model, when struggle against corruption and economic reforms are accompanied with certain limitation of the role of the democratic institutions. No matter how much the “Singapurisation” phenomenon as well as the democratization problems are pointed out there, the results of the reforms made in Georgia after the Revolution of “Roses” have already created some reservoir for Georgia to be considered a leader as well.

Armenia maintains its position at the fourth place. However, this country has great opportunities for progress. I think that in the European Institutions Armenia and Azerbaijan are no more considered to be a “couple”, towards which the same attention and policy should be provided. Azerbaijan obviously shows that in its cooperation with EU it is interested mainly with the problems of energy security, that is, to supply its oil and gas to the EU countries. Therefore, EU appreciates the role of that country in the field of energy security, whereas the other components of EaP are not considered important. While in Armenia, the image is different. We have neither oil nor gas to offer to the EU; therefore we have to offer cooperation in other fields to make the integration process mutually interesting. And of course, some differences are made between Armenia and Azerbaijan, why not, opening wide opportunities for Armenia to be considered by the EU as an ambitious country, which also wants to be one of the leaders among the six EaP countries.

There are different assessments as in what position Azerbaijan is. Anyway, the sanctions, which are applied to Belarus due to the problems connected with democracy and human rights, are not applied to Azerbaijan. But objectively assessing the situation in the country without judging the euro-integration potential from the geopolitical point of view, I would not say that Azerbaijan is much ahead of Belarus in respect of political freedoms, democracy and human rights.  Simply, in contrast of Belarus, Azerbaijan in any case emphasizes its Western orientation. Belarus, the opposite, is not represented in the Council of Europe and no development is observed in this respect.   Some areas of the Eastern Partnership have been frozen. The state doesn’t participate either in the EURONEST, which is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Eastern Partnership, or in the official thematic platforms. However, eventually, a little political progress may be sufficient for Belarus to join the leaders of EaP, because many fields of Belarus’s internal life are quite satisfactory, and reforms there could move very fast. As to the Civil Society Forum, I can say that the representatives of the civil society of Belarus are among most active ones in the CSF, which is the proof of the country’s great public potential.

– Mr. Navasardyan, you pointed out, that the cooperation in the field of energy security is of utmost importance for Azerbaijan. For Armenia, which of the four platforms is of more importance? What can Armenia offer to the EU?

What Armenia can offer is the institutional reforms in the country. As fast as Armenia makes these changes, no other country does. For instance, if a new structure in the field of the civil service must be formed, then it is immediately done, and corresponded to the European formats. Practically, it means very little, but at the same time it is appreciated and evaluated by the European institutions. But a moment comes when the formed institutions must be proved to work and reflect in the sociopolitical life. I suppose that Armenia has come to a point that the resources of the institutional changes have almost come to an end, and these institutions must prove to work and change the country’s life. This year’s Parliamentary as well as the next year’s Presidential elections have to demonstrate that merging of business and government is being overcome, and one of the progress indicators must be the less representation of businessmen in the National Assembly. Or, if we reform the tax and custom systems, the monopoly in certain economic sectors must be shown to be overcome and a free competitive market to be formed. We have certain fields which totally belong to specific people and the access of any other businessman there is impossible. If the tax and custom systems work the way to create equal competitive opportunities, it should reflect in the diversification of the business that 80% of the country’s economic resources cannot more belong to only 40-50 families. If the institutional changes do not bring to the qualitative results, then Armenia will remain at the fourth place at the best case.

The interview was conducted by Nouneh Haroutunyan and Lilit Tamamyan

Local publication for call for proposals

20.04.2012

Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development (Actions in partner countries) and Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument)

Publication reference: EuropeAid/132-945/L/ACT/AM 

European Commission is seeking proposals for the actions from Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Armenia with financial assistance from the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development Annual Action Programme 2011-2012. The full Guidelines for Applicants are available at the following websites:

– Delegation of the European Union to Armenia:
http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/armenia/index_en.htm
– EuropeAid website:
https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?ADSSChck=1303391986094&do=publi.welcome&userlanguage=en
Click the “Search by Reference” Tab and type “132945” in the field “Reference”, then click button “Search”

The deadline for submission of Concept Notes is Monday, 04 June 2012, 16:00 local Armenian time.

The information session on this call for proposals will be held on Monday, 30/04/2012 at 09:30 am in the Tigran Mets Hall of the Marriott Hotel together with EIDHR call 132-766. The applicants should register for the participation by sending an email to Sona Nahapetyan at: sona.nahapetyan@eeas.europa.eu. Only registered applicants will be admitted. The deadline for registration is Monday, 23/04/2012

SOS Culture project focuses on reviving forgotten cultural assets in the Armenian and Georgian border regions

17-04-2012

Abandoned and ruined churches, monasteries, dwelling caves from the Middle Ages, graveyards and prehistoric cult sites are among the examples of a large number of neglected cultural assets throughout remote areas in the South Caucasus that are in dire need of care and attention. This issue is currently addressed by the 24-month long SOS Culture project, which is funded by the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Programme and was launched in January 2012 by the Foundation for the Protection of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC).

According to an Eastern Partnership Programme press release, the overall objective of the project is to register and preserve endangered cultural assets in the remote border regions of Armenia and Georgia with the involvement of local citizens. The project’s approach is rooted in the idea that well preserved and explored historic sites have a tremendous positive influence on the creation of an environment, which nurtures sustainable economic, social and human development in remote and impoverished regions, making those regions attractive for tourists.

The project is being run jointly with the Tbilisi regional office of DVV International (Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association) and the Research on Armenian Architecture NGO.

SOS Culture project expert and director of the Research on Armenian Architecture NGO, Mr. Samvel Karapetyan, outlined the primary goals of the project, which according to him are self-knowledge and knowledge of the rich cultural heritage of the region.

“Passing the knowledge to the local population, particularly the youth, we’ll be able to reduce spoliation, resulting from ignorance. Indirectly, the project will also reduce emigration, because when you know your motherland, you come to love it and get attached to it,” says Karapetyan.

One of the key points in the approach of the project is the involvement of youth (aged 14-21) living in the target areas of Armenia and Georgia. The young people will participate in protection and research activities implemented in their neighbourhood. This will instill a new approach and knowledge about local cultural assets among the members of youth clubs established by FPWC and its Georgian project partner DVV international. Participating in the project activities, the members of the youth clubs will support the cultural and touristic development of their regions. The youth clubs will function as independent units, offering free cultural education to young people, particularly – training courses in history, culture, art, photography and film making.

The €12 million Eastern Partnership Culture Programme aims at assisting the Partner Countries in their cultural policy reform at government level, as well as capacity building and improving professionalism of cultural operators in the region. It seeks to strengthen regional cultural links and dialogue within the Eastern Partnership region, and between the EU and ENP Eastern countries’ cultural networks and actors. (ENPI Info Centre)

Preserving a natural wonder

18-04-2012

Lake Sevan has been fighting an uphill battle to cope with the problem of pollution for decades. Untreated sewage from towns and villages scattered along its borders has been flowing directly into the basin of this high-altitude natural wonder, creating a serious environmental problem. Sewage networks and wastewater treatment plants, which date back to the Soviet era, were in a state of disrepair because they had been very poorly maintained. Recently, Armenia’s authorities decided that something had to be done.

Fortunately, international assistance was available to support their efforts to reduce the amount of untreated sewage flowing into the lake. This is a report from the Lake Sevan environmental project, an EU-EBRD funded water initiative.

This is part of a series of features on projects funded by the EU’s Regional Programme, prepared by journalists and photographers on the ground or the ENPI Info Centre, available in  English, and Armenian. (ENPI Info Centre)

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