Address by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
at the Eastern Partnership Informal Ministerial Meeting
Yerevan, 17 November 2016
Dear Commissioner, Ministers, Deputy Secretary General, Ambassadors, Dear colleagues,
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for providing me with an opportunity to address you on behalf of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF).
One year into the process of implementation of the reviewed ENP the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region should remain the EU’s priority. While Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine managed to reach a significant level of political and economic rapprochement with the EU by signing the Association Agreements and DCFTA, the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus have chosen another path of cooperation with Europe. We should make use of the positive momentum for enhanced cooperation in light of the negotiations with these governments on the new Framework Agreements and other initiatives. The civil society’s potential should be capitalised on during the discussions between the EU representatives and EaP governments. The EU should provide appropriate channels for such involvement.
The European approximation of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine is of particular appeal for the citizens and civil society of these countries and the rest of the region. In this respect the conclusion of the visa liberalization process for Georgia and Ukraine would provide for a further boost of the EU ethos. We encourage the EU ministers to conclude the process as soon as possible.
The EU is facing a great number of challenges related to the need for humanitarian support for millions of refugees, as well as the development of Euroscepticism, sometimes fuelled from outside. The EaP countries are contributing their fair share to providing solutions for these challenges. Armenia has welcomed the third largest number of Syrian refugees per capita. Since the start of the conflict, 18,000 Syrians have migrated to Armenia, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 6 Syrian refugees per 1000 inhabitants. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Belarus became the destination point for about 160 thousand Ukrainian refugees. The EaP region is also a primary battleground for Russian propaganda efforts and can be the key to delivering the right responses. Our countries are a part of the solution to the challenges the EU is facing and they should not be put on the back burner of the EU policy agenda.
The EaP region is not only a virtual battleground but a real one as well. Military conflict in Donbas and annexation of Crimea, as well as the four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh in April this year can undermine the stability of the entire European continent. Crimea is turning into a military base posing a direct security threat to Europe. Various efforts providing for peaceful conflict resolution should be encouraged. In particular, the Vienna agreements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the strengthening the ceasefire regime, including the withdrawal of snipers from the line of contact, strengthening the monitoring mission and establishment of the investigation mechanism with the purpose of identifying the initiators of violations of the ceasefire regime, should be implemented as soon as possible.
Dear Commissioner, Ministers, Deputy Secretary General, Ambassadors, Dear colleagues,
The civil society of the Eastern Partnership countries, has been the main driving force behind the struggle of the peoples of these countries for democracy and human rights. Young people constitute a considerable part of societies in the EaP countries ranging from 25% in Moldova to 31% in Ukraine, and they remain affected by common challenges, such as high unemployment rate and various forms of discrimination. Unfortunately, the youth is not adequately represented in the policy making process. The young people should become true policy shapers in the EaP countries. In October 2016 the Eastern Partnership Youth Conference “Youth for Rights” organized by the EaP CSF brought together over 120 genuine young activists from the EaP countries, Russia and the EU who developed a set of recommendations aimed at a greater youth involvement in a number of policy areas, including environment and labour market.
A particularly pressing issue is the question of political persecution of civil society and political activists by the authorities. In case of Ukraine its nationals have been kidnapped from its territory and imprisoned by the Russian law enforcement agencies. In case of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus the political persecution is perpetrated by the authorities against their own citizens. The EaP CSF has repeatedly demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners and their rehabilitation.
Together with my friends and colleagues I was also arrested in late July this year and spent a month in prison on fabricated criminal charges based on the false testimony of two police officers after taking part in a peaceful demonstration to express my civic position and political views. The charges against me and my colleagues have not been dropped so far and many of them are still in jail. The EaP CSF introduced a new instrument this year in connection to the recent developments in Armenia. Our Monitoring Missions will be deployed to the Eastern Partnership countries on a regular basis in order to assess the situation of the civil society, media and compliance with the human rights standards.
Armenian society is in vital need for democratic reforms focused on reducing corruption and addressing the issues of political and economic monopolies.
Azerbaijani government should make efforts towards amending the legislation that regulates the activities of civil society and towards reinstating favourable environment for the CSOs work after the 3 years of crackdowns. The government should also facilitate the inclusion of civil society into the upcoming negotiations with the EU.
The EU has formally launched a Mobility Partnership with Belarus to ensure better management of migration flows. While Belarus is demonstrating continued efforts towards effective border management, the authorities should make headway in implementing other important commitments, such as the Roadmap for Higher Education Reform, Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities, as well as finding inclusive implementation mechanisms for recently adopted Interagency Plan of Implementation of Recommendations for Belarus from UN mechanisms. The process of building a nuclear power station in Astravets also raises concerns of civil society regarding security and safety issues, as well as interdependence with other obligations and conventions in environmental field Belarus signed, which also require appropriate actions from the national government.
Georgia demonstrated a peaceful and democratic election process and requires continuous support in strengthening its ties with the EU.
Moldova has just conducted an election that confirmed the dropping support for the EU. The financial and political support to the CSOs and human rights defenders by the EU would instill the trust in European democratic values.
Ukrainian government should focus on tackling the economic challenges and addressing the corruption.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Delivered by Hovsep Khurshudyan, EaP CSF Steering Committee Member, and Coordinator of Working Group 4 “Contacts between People”, President of the “Free Citizen” Civic Initiatives Support Centre, Armenia
EU and Eastern Partnership countries stepping up cooperation on innovation with the EU4Innovation initiative
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation and Jean-Christophe Belliard, Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service launched today the EU4Innovation initiative together with the Eastern Partnership countries, in Yerevan.
The launch took place during the eighth Eastern Partnership Informal dialogue, hosted by Armenia which brought together Ministers and high level officials of the Eastern Partnership countries for a high-level exchange on future developments in the Eastern Partnership and key areas of cooperation.
Commissioner Moedas commented: “Innovation is crucial to increase Europe’s competitiveness and to address global challenges such as climate change or sustainable development. Our new initiative, EU4Innovation, will boost innovation capacities of our Eastern partners. It will stimulate innovative ideas and support them on the way to market, while at the same time drawing on the existing knowledge and networks we are building in the EU.”
Commissioner Hahn said: “Developing and implementing Research and Innovation policy is key for improving competitiveness, boosting economic growth and creating jobs. The EU will continue to support Eastern Partnership countries in their efforts to advance their scientific and innovation capacity, to help align and integrate joint research and innovation priorities through joint programmes such as Horizon 2020”.
The new EU initiative, EU4Innovation, will combine all EU activities that support the development of Eastern Partnership countries (EaP) innovation capacities, notably those funded under the Horizon 2020 programme and the European Neighbourhood Instrument
EU Commissioners and the respective Research and Innovation Ministers of the six Eastern Partnership countries also discussed common challenges and responses to improving research and innovation cooperation. The Ministers reflected on how to integrate Eastern Partnership and EU Research and Innovation systems better and foster cooperation with and between the six Eastern Partnership countries further. This will bring new mobility opportunities for administrations, businesses, professionals, students and researchers and will foster research-industry partnerships amongst others.
The Informal Eastern Partnership dialogue also gave participants an opportunity to reflect on the progress made across the key areas of cooperation agreed at the Riga Summit last year. They discussed the implementation of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy and exchanged views on ways to enhance the effectiveness of the Eastern Partnership, in light of the next Summit foreseen for November 2017 in Brussels. The Ministers also addressed current international and global security issues, in particular, issues with a impact on the region.
The informal Eastern Partnership dialogues are held twice a year and hosted in turn by the Eastern Partnership countries. They allow for an open, informal exchange of views between the partner countries and the EU high level representatives on foreign policy and sectorial cooperation areas.
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22 November 2016
In May 2016 the EU Delegation to Armenia launched the first Euroclub in Armenia. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Świtalski, promised that Euroclubs would be opened in all Armenian marzes by the end of the year. This is now a reality.
On 22 November 2016 the last Euroclub in Armenia was established. The concept of Euroclubs started more than 25 years ago in Portugal, and spread to other EU member states and beyond. Euroclubs now exist across the EU and have been established in Eastern Partnership countries.
The idea behind the clubs is very simple; it is about offering a possibility for young people to gain access to information and to conduct conversations about Europe and European values and opportunities.
The main goals of Euroclubs in Armenia have been be to inform and educate young people about the EU and EU-Armenia issues, offer assistance in establishing long-term partnerships with European youth NGOs, apply for and obtain EU resources, and support Armenian youth’s aspirations to strengthen relations with the EU. The Delegation of the European Union in Armenia decided to launch this project to involve youth from all Armenian marzes and create equal opportunities. The very first Euroclub in Armenia was launched in Goris (Syunik marz); the second was in Yeghegnadzor (Vayots dzor marz). The third was recently established in the capital, Yerevan. Autumn 2016 then became a month for launching Euroclubs as, by end of October, Euroclubs had been set up in Dilijan (Tavush marz) and Armavir (Armavir marz). In November, even more were established in Gavar (Gegharkunik), Gyumri (Shirak marz), Vanadzor (Lori marz), Abovyan (Kotayk marz), Artashat (Ararat marz) and Ashtarak (Aragatsotn marz). All Euroclubs were established and are run with the assistance of a local partner organisation.
At the opening of the clubs, representatives from the EU, including the Ambassador himself, welcomed the club members and answered to their questions on the EU and EU-Armenia relations. Ambassador Świtalski highlighted that the existence of more Euroclubs was a symbol of the strong European identity of young Armenians: ‘Young Armenians want to stay in touch, have contact and engage in dialogue and cooperation with young people in other European countries; I don’t just mean the European Union. We believe that, through Euroclubs, Armenian youth, in particular those in the regions, will get additional possibilities to learn more about EU projects in Armenia and establish links with these projects. At these opening ceremonies I have spoken to participants who praise the youth activism behind these clubs’.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Republic of Armenia have signed a grant agreement to support the completion of the North-South Road Corridor, a strategic part of Armenia’s transport infrastructure, under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF).
The grant consists of two components: a EUR 6 million investment grant and a EUR 6 million technical assistance component. Minister of Finance of the Republic of Armenia Mr Vardan Aramyan highlighted the importance of infrastructure projects in Armenia, expressed gratitude to the EU for its continuous support and stressed the fruitful cooperation for infrastructural development.
The North-South Road Corridor is the key transport corridor in Armenia. This project promotes economic and social development in Armenia and improves regional integration, with significant benefits for the whole region. This project aims to improve the 556 km North-South Road Corridor running from the border with Georgia at Bavra to the border with Iran at Meghri via the cities of Bavra, Gyumri, Ashtarak, Yerevan, Goris, Comer, Kapan and Meghri.