On 16 January the Prime Minister’s Office of the Republic of Armenia and the EU Delegation to Armenia held a ceremony on the launch of eight EU – Armenia Financing Agreements, intended to assist development and reforms in Armenia. The new actions entail an EU contribution of € 77.5 million (44 billion AMD).
The eight agreements will support progress in some of the main areas of bilateral cooperation – from agriculture and regional development, through capacity building for the implementation of EU programmes, support to migration and integrated border management, anti-corruption and civil service reforms, to water supply improvement, Yerevan metro rehabilitation and nuclear safety.
The ceremony was welcomed by H. E. Mr. Hovik Abrahamyan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, and H.E. Ambassador Traian Hristea, Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, and attended by representatives of the beneficiary Government institutions, the EU Member States, and International organizations accredited to Armenia.
Prime Minister Abrahamyan mentioned in his remarks that “the assistance provided by the European Union enabled the implementation of reforms in many areas such as trade related regulations, food safety, intellectual property rights, justice, vocational education, public financial management”. He expressed confidence that the implementation of the concluded agreements will facilitate the reforms in the relevant areas as well as will strengthen the sectoral cooperation with the EU.
“The European Union expects that this substantial assistance will lead to bold reforms over the next years. A high level of commitment and strong domestic support under parliamentary and civil society oversight will be indispensable for Armenia’s successful development,” noted the Head of EU Delegation. He added that “Armenia remains the second largest per-capita recipient of EU funds in the Eastern Partnership”.
With two of the agreements, the EU gives support to economic development in Armenia, contributing to overall poverty reduction. This includes assistance to agriculture and rural development (€ 25 million), which will lead to efficient and sustainable agriculture, increasing employment, supporting farmers associations and cooperatives, and improving access to affordable food. In addition, through an action on regional development (€ 10 million), the EU will support specific projects (public-private partnerships, employment creation, training of the labour force) to step up the economic development of Armenia’s regions.
In the area of governance, the EU is now focusing specifically on anti-corruption and civil service reform measures (€ 21 million). The EU will also support border management and migration (€ 4 million) in view of the Mobility Partnership and Visa Facilitation agreement between the EU and Armenia.
Another agreement will enhance the ability of civil servants, facilitate Armenia’s participation in EU programmes (€ 6 million) and reinforce the civil society as an important partner in promoting bilateral cooperation and monitoring reforms.
Two large infrastructure initiatives have also been agreed, set to improve the daily lives of Yerevan residents. One will provide an overhaul of the Yerevan metro system (€ 5 million) by addressing public health and safety concerns, while another will support the rehabilitation of the water supply network in Yerevan (€ 5.5 million), improving water and waste water services.
Last but not least, the EU will support nuclear safety through enhancing the regulatory capacity and framework for radioactive waste management (€ 1 million).
This new assistance package confirms the commitment of Armenia and the EU to further strengthen their bilateral cooperation.
The EU’s new Neighbourhood Commissioner Johannes Hahn this week met in Poland with Krzysztof Bobinski, co-chairman of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum steering committee, with talks focused on the EU’s approach to the Eastern Partnership (EaP), and the situation in Ukraine.
In a separate speech in Warsaw, Hahn said 2014 been a significant year for the (EaP), citing the signature of Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. However, he added that, “there is no doubt that the ENP as a whole needs to be adapted in reaction to a dramatically changed environment”, which has an enormous impact on the EU such as “instability, conflicts, migration, collapsing economies and societies.”
He said the “ring of friends” had changed into a “ring of fire” and attention had to be paid to the neighbours of the neighbours. “Due to the crises and conflicts in our neighbourhood, the ENP has moved right to the centre of the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy,” said Hahn. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
An EaP CSF commissioned report analysing the Forum’s advocacy efforts has recently been published by FRIDE researcher Natalia Shapovalova. Entitled “How to Strengthen the EaP CSF’s Advocacy Function?”, the report assesses the Forum’s advocacy function to date and suggests policy recommendations for improvement.
The starting-point of the analysis is the widely held perception that the Forum’s advocacy potential has not been fully exploited. As such, Ms. Shapovalova’s main argument is that the Forum’s presence in Brussels should be strengthened to ensure effective advocacy not only in the EaP region but also in the EU.
The findings of the paper are based on Forum documents, interviews with former and current members of the Steering Committee and coordination bodies of the National Platforms in the six EaP countries and recent studies on the Forum.
A time-effective strategy would require some restructuring, without fundamentally revisiting the Forum’s institutions. It can be done via:
- advocacy priorities for EU-level action should be few, but broad enough to matter for all six EaP countries. Examples that have been frequently raised by the interviewees are: 1) security (from hard security and defense to soft security such as energy and environment); 2) human rights, democracy and good governance.
- strengthening the advocacy capacity of the Secretariat which will lead on advocacy in Brussels by engaging interested and active members of the Forum and the NPs and will facilitate EU-level advocacy and help to build the advocacy capacity of the NPs. There is a number of ways in which it can be done: by bringing necessary strategic planning and advocacy skills to the Secretariat, installing liaison officers for the NPs/WGs in the Secretariat, reinforcing the secretariats of the NPs to provide timely and quality input etc.
- strengthening the capacity of the Steering Committee to ensure strategic guidance and oversight of the Forum’s advocacy, including a definition and overview of key advocacy objectives, evaluation of progress etc. The Steering Committee members should be empowered to gather input and be advocates themselves. Some incentives should be introduced to compensate for this function which requires abandoning a part of the duties within their own organisations
- at the NP level, the Forum should support NP initiatives if they require an EU-level advocacy component (“boomerang” pattern). It can be achieved by facilitating the adadvocacy NPs in Brussels, but also designing joint campaigns or improving their advocacy capacity via trainings and information sharing.