Issue 289

Current Activities of the EaP CSF Armenian National Platform

On June 7, 2019 the EaP CSF Armenian Delegates’ General Assembly was held with the following agenda:

  • elections of the CSF Armenia Country Facilitator;
  • alignment of the CSF ANP Organizational Principles with the CSF reform;
  • issues related to the establishment of “EU-Armenia Bilateral Civil Society Platform”.

At the beginning of the Assembly the delagatees present unanimously voted for the adoption of supplements to the ANP Organizational Principles in line with the CSF reform. Afterwards the 20 Armenian delegates to the current CSF Assembly elected through secret ballot the CSF Armenia new Country Facilitator. Lousineh Hakobyan, President of “Europe in Law Association” NGO, had been nominated for the Country Facilitator and received 16 votes out of the 17 delegates that took part in the election. The attendees thanked Boris Navasardian, already former Country Facilitator, for his productive work and welcomed Lousineh Hakobyan in her new position. Thus, CSF Armenian National Platform will have two members at the CSF Steering Committee – Lousineh Hakobyan and Mikayel Hovhannisyan, elected as CSF WG 1 Coordinator earlier in May 2019.

At the final part part of the Assembly the participants discussed the ANP engagement in the establishment of EU-Armenia Bilateral Civil Society Platform envisaged by CEPA. As a result of sound discussions a decision was made to develop a statement, which would introduce the position of the ANP on the issue. It was also decided that the ANP 5 Working Groups would organize separate meetings to elect new coordinators.

***

Following the Assembly, on June 13, 2019 EaP CSF ANP Working Group 2 meeting was held with the participation of WG2 9 members and Heriknaz Harutyunyan, Managing Director of the ANP Secretariat. The participants first voted for the internal organizational change, according to which any member of a working group can be elected a WG Coordinator regardless of his/her being an ANP delegate. Afterwards, Tatul Manaseryan, President of “Alternative” Research Center was nominated for this position and gained 8 votes for, and 1 abstention, thus becoming the new Coordinator of Working Group 2.

 

EAP CSF ARMENIAN NATIONAL PLATFORM

STATEMENT

on the Implementation of Article 366 of the RA-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA)

                                                                                                                                       June 14, 2019

The Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF ANP) expresses deep concern with regard to the implementation of Article 366 of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Armenia.

According to the mentioned Article: A Civil Society Platform, comprised of representatives of civil society on the side of the European Union, including members of the European Economic and Social Committee, and representatives of civil society organizations, networks and platforms on the side of Armenia, including Eastern Partnership National Platform, shall be established”.

ANP has always expressed its commitment to a democratic, transparent and inclusive process of establishment of a new platform and has initiated the engagement of partners in Armenia and the EU countries that can contribute to the implementation of CEPA. With the support of the EaP Civil Society Forum, the experience of similar bilateral platforms in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine was studied, and an appropriate package of recommendations developed. However, all these efforts were ignored. Instead, for the formation of the civil society platform the EU Delegation to Armenia has engaged external consultants, on whose months-long activities’ results the Armenian civil society knows nothing.

It is also not known through what mechanisms and arrangements the implementation of the above-mentioned Article of the bilateral agreement, whose main parties are the European Commission and the Government of the Republic of Armenia, was, in fact, almost entirely delegated to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which had not demonstrated particular activeness in the implementation of reforms in Armenia before. Moreover, despite the fact that EESC is mentioned in CEPA with the same status as CSF ANP, that organization attempts to confer upon itself the right to not only select all the members  of the new platform representing  the civil society of the European Union, but also to dictate its terms in determining the two-thirds of the Armenian members. Unfortunately, the efforts of the CSF Armenian National Platform representatives to build mutual understanding and partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee were unsuccessful. And all this happens with the consent of the EU and the RA structures responsible for the implementation of the bilateral agreement.

At the same time, in the April 8, 2019 official letter of the EESC to the representatives of the civil society of Armenia it is noted that “the selection procedure of the Armenian side of the civil society platform will be entirely conducted by the Armenian civil society”. This demonstrates only one of the many contradictions between the principles and practice of the establishment of the platform. Transparency (“the results of the selection process should not be challenged”) is indicated as one of the most important criteria of the process, while the mechanisms used by EESC have nothing to do with this criterion.

The ANP members at meetings with EU officials have repeatedly expressed their concern about the situation with the establishment of the civil society platform within the framework of CEPA. In particular, in the Address by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum to the Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting (May 13, 2019) it is noted: “We also call for the formation and development of a clear mission for CEPA civil society platform taking into account the concerns of the EaP CSF Armenian National Platform”. However, there has been no response to this call.

We consider the issue raised as non-compliant with the essential components of democratic principles, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms stipulated by Article 2 of CEPA, and consequently with the crucial provisions of CEPA.

Considering such development of events unacceptable, the EaP CSF Armenian National Platform once again draws the attention of the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the RA Government to the problems of ensuring efficient participation of civil society in the implementation of CEPA.

We state that the EaP CSF Armenian National Platform will take part in the establishment of the civil society platform envisaged by CEPA only in case relevant adjustments are made to fully ensure the democratic nature, inclusiveness, and transparency of the process. We call on our colleagues from all segments of civil society to show solidarity and responsibility in this issue, which is of fundamental importance for the successful development of the bilateral relations between our country and the European Union.

EaP CSF Steering Committee Calls for the Recognition of Current Moldovan Parliament and Coalition Government

As the situation remains tense in Moldova, “the priority is to return to political dialogue and re-establish trust in [the country’s] democratic institutions” – we read in the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) Steering Committee statement. The statement urges all actors to recognise and respect the legitimacy of the current Parliament, elected on 24 February 2019 – as well as the coalition government, led by Maia Sandu and formed by ACUM and the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), officially sworn in on 9 June 2019. It is also an appeal against any further escalation, pointing to legal ways of solving disputes. The statement comes after a declaration, released by EaP CSF Moldovan National Platform – which encourages all the constitutional judges to resign, in the name of restoring trust and legality.

The Constitutional Court of Moldova has compromised itself, “acting exclusively in the interest of one political party” warns civil society – referring to its actions from 7, 8 and 9 June 2019. There are serious doubts around its interpretation of existing legislation, which allows the President to dissolve the Parliament. The Court has interpreted the right to dissolve the Parliament as an obligation: on 8 June 2019, it issued two judgements, declaring the new Speaker and Prime Minister “unconstitutional”. The judgements were made public within one hour of the Parliament taking its decisions, without them being formally signed or published.

What is more, the Constitutional Court has suspended Moldova’s President, Igor Dodon at the request of Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) – attributing the right to dissolve the Parliament to former Prime Minister and Prime Deputy President of the PDM, Pavel Filip. The judgement was adopted in haste on 9 June, in absence of authorities and affected parties. Dodon has previously planned to reconvene with all Parliamentary factions to discuss dissolving the Parliament on 10 June 2019. Back in December 2018, 17 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) warned about the new composition of the Constitutional Court. The procedure that lead to the appointment of the last three judges (50% of the presiding bench) was not only lacking in transparency – the candidates were known for their affiliation with PDM.

Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan met with Federica Mogherini

13 June, 2019

On June 13, Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan within the framework of his working visit to Brussels, met with Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of European Union / Vice-President of the Commission.

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Federica Mogherini discussed a wide range of questions related to the Armenia-EU agenda. The sides underlined that the second Armenia-EU Partnership Councilis a good opportunity to sum up and evaluate the work done after the first Partnership Council and outline further steps to be undertaken within the Partnership framework.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia commended the consistency of the EU assistance to the Government’s agenda of reforms and development. The Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of launching EU visa liberalization dialogue, especially in the context of expanding people to people contacts.

The interlocutors also exchanged views on a number of issues on regional and international agenda.

Upon the request of the High Commissioner, Minister Mnatsakanyan presented the latest developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Minister Mnatsakanyan underscored the necessity of creating an environment conducive for the advancement of peace process and highlighted the unconditional preservation and consolidation of the ceasefire with this regards. Both sides highlighted the importance of confidence-building measures and the implementation of arrangements aimed at preparing populations for peace. Federica Mogherini reiterated the EU’s support to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ efforts aimed at the peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Source: https://www.mfa.am

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Թողարկում 289

ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմի ընթացիկ գործունեությունը

2019 թվականի հունիսի 7-ին  տեղի ունեցավ ԱլԳ Քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմի պատվիրակների ժողովը, որի օրակարգում հետևյալ հարցերն էին․

  • ՔՀՖ ՀԱՊ Կազմակերպական սկզբունքների համապատասխանեցում ՔՀՖ ռեֆորմին
  • ՔՀՖ ազգային նոր համակարգողի ընտրություն
  • Հայաստան-ԵՄ քաղհասարակության երկկողմանի պլատֆորմի ձեւավորման հետ կապված զարգացումներ։

Համաժողովի սկզբում մասնակից պատվիրակները միաձայն կողմ քվեարկեցին ՀԱՊ Կազմակերպական սկզբունքների փոփոխություններին՝ համաձայն ՔՀՖ ռեֆորմի։ Այնուհետև   ԱլԳ ՔՀՖ ՀԱՊ պատվիրակների ժողովի ընթացիկ տարվա 20 պատվիրակները փակ գաղտնի քվեարկությամբ ընտրեցին ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի ազգային նոր համակարգող։ Ազգային համակարգողի թեկնածու էր առաջադրվել «Իրավունքի Եվրոպա միավորում» ՀԿ-ի նախագահ Լուսինե Հակոբյանը, որը ստացավ քվեարկությանը մասնակցած 17 պատվիրակներից 16-ի ձայնը։ Մասնակիցները շնորհակալություն հայտնեցին ՔՀՖ արդեն նախկին ազգային համակարգող Բորիս Նավասարդյանին կատարած արդյունավետ աշխատանքի համար և ողջունեցին նոր համակարգողին։Assembly 2

Հիշեցնենք, որ 2019թ․ մայիսին ՔՀՖ 1-ին աշխատանքային խմբի համակարգող էր ընտրվել ՀԱՊ անդամ Եվրասիա համագործակցություն հիմնադրամը ներկայացնող Միքայել Հովհաննիսյանը։ Այսպիսով, ԱլԳ Քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի Ղեկավար կոմիտեում Հայաստանը կներկայացնեն Միքայել Հովհաննիսյանը եւ ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի նորընտիր ազգային համակարգող, «Իրավունքի Եվրոպա միավորում» ՀԿ նախագահ Լուսինե Հակոբյանը։

Համաժողովի վերջում քննարկվեց ՀԱՊ մասնակցությունը ՀԸԳՀ-ով նախատեսված Հայաստան-ԵՄ քաղհասարակության երկկողմանի պլատֆորմի ձեւավորմանը։ Քննարկումների արդյունքում որոշում ընդունվեց պատրաստել հայտարարություն և ներկայացնել ՀԱՊ դիրքորոշումը այդ հարցի շուրջ։

Որոշում կայացվեց նաև առաջիկայում  կազմակերպել  ՀԱՊ աշխատանքային հինգ խմբերի հանդիպումներ եւ նոր համակարգողների ընտրություններ անցկացնել։

***

2019թ․ հունիսի 13-ին տեղի ունեցավ ԱլԳ ՔՀՖ ՀԱՊ երկրորդ աշխատանքային խմբի հանդիպումը, որին ներկա էին ԱԽ-2-ի 9 անդամներ, ինչպես նաեւ ԱլԳ քարտուղարության գործադիր տնօրեն Հերիքնազ Հարությունյանը։ Մասնակիցները նախ կողմ քվարկեցին այն ներքին կազմակերպական փոփոխությանը, ըստ որի ԱԽ համակարգող կարող է ընտրվել  ԱԽ ցանկացած անդամ՝ անկախ իր՝ ՀԱՊ պատվիրակների ժողովի անդամ լինելու կամ չլինելու հանգամանքից։ Որպես ընթացիկ տարվա ԱԽ 2 խմբի համակարգող առաջադրվեց «Այլընտրանք» հետազոտական կենտրոնի նախագահ Թաթուլ Մանասերյանի թեկնածությունը, որը 8 կողմ, 1 ձեռնպահ ձայներով ընտրվեց ՔՀՖ ՀԱՊ 2-րդ ԱԽ համակարգող։

 

ԱՐԵՎԵԼՅԱՆ ԳՈՐԾԸՆԿԵՐՈՒԹՅԱՆ ՔԱՂԱՔԱՑԻԱԿԱՆ ՀԱՍԱՐԱԿՈՒԹՅԱՆ ՖՈՐՈՒՄԻ ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆԻ ԱԶԳԱՅԻՆ ՊԼԱՏՖՈՐՄԻ

ՀԱՅՏԱՐԱՐՈՒԹՅՈՒՆԸ

ՀՀԵՄ Համապարփակ եւ ընդլայնված գործընկերության համաձայնագրի (ՀԸԳՀ)

366-րդ հոդվածի իրականացման վերաբերյալ

 14 հունիսի, 2019

Արեւելյան գործընկերության Քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմը խորը մտահոգություն է հայտնում ՀՀ-ԵՄ Համապարփակ եւ ընդլայնված գործընկերության համաձայնագրի (ՀԸԳՀ) 366-րդ հոդվածի իրականացման վերաբերյալ։

Համաձայն այդ հոդվածի՝ «Ստեղծվում է Քաղաքացիական հասարակության հարթակ: Այն կլինի հանդիպումների եւ կարծիքների փոխանակման հարթակ եւ կազմված կլինի Եվրոպական միության քաղաքացիական հասարակության ներկայացուցիչներից, այդ թվում՝ Եվրոպական տնտեսական եւ սոցիալական հարցերով կոմիտեի անդամներից, եւ Հայաստանի Հանրապետության քաղաքացիական հասարակության կազմակերպությունների, ցանցերի եւ հարթակների, այդ թվում՝ Արեւելյան գործընկերության ազգային պլատֆորմի ներկայացուցիչներից»:

Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմը մշտապես արտահայտել է իր հավատարմությունը Քաղաքացիական հասարակության նոր հարթակի ձեւավորման ժողովրդավար, թափանցիկ եւ ներառական գործընթացի հանդեպ, նախաձեռնել է Հայաստանում եւ ԵՄ երկրներում այնպիսի գործընկերների ներգրավումը, որոնք կարող են նպաստել ՀԸԳՀ իրականացմանը։ ԱլԳ Քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի աջակցությամբ ուսումնասիրվել է Վրաստանի, Մոլդովայի եւ Ուկրաինայի նույնօրինակ երկկողմանի հարթակների փորձը եւ մշակվել է համապատասխան առաջարկությունների փաթեթ։ Սակայն այդ բոլոր ջանքերն անտեսվել են։ Դրա փոխարեն Հայաստանում ԵՄ պատվիրակությունը Քաղաքացիական հասարակության հարթակի ձեւավորման համար հրավիրել է արտասահմանյան խորհրդատուների, որոնց ամիսներ տեւած գործունեության արդյունքների մասին հայաստանյան քաղաքացիական հասարակությանը ոչինչ հայտնի չէ։

Հայտնի չէ նաեւ, թե ՀԸԳՀ հիմնական սուբյեկտ հանդիսացող  Եվրոպական հանձնաժողովի եւ Հայաստանի  Հանրապետության միջեւ երկկողմանի համաձայնագրի վերոհիշյալ հոդվածի իրականացումը ինչ մեխանիզմների եւ պայմանավորվածությունների արդյունքում է, փաստորեն, ամբողջապես հանձնարարվել Եվրոպական տնտեսական եւ սոցիալական կոմիտեին (ԵՏՍԿ), որը նախկինում առանձնապես աչքի չի ընկել Հայաստանում բարեփոխումների իրականացման գործում իր ակտիվությամբ։ Ավելին, չնայած այն բանին, որ ՀԸԳՀ-ում ԵՏՍԿ-ն հիշատակված է նույն կարգավիճակով, ինչ ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմը,  այդ կազմակերպությունը փորձում է իրեն վերապահել ոչ միայն Եվրամիության քաղաքացիական հասարակության կողմից նոր հարթակի բոլոր անդամների ընտրության իրավունքը, այլ նաեւ իր պայմանները թելադրել հայաստանյան անդամների երկու երրորդին որոշելու հարցում։  Ցավոք, Եվրոպական տնտեսական եւ սոցիալական կոմիտեի հետ փոխընբռնման եւ գործընկերային հարաբերությունների հաստատման ուղղությամբ ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմի ներկայացուցիչների ջանքերը որեւէ արդյունք չեն տվել։ Եվ այդ ամենը կատարվում է Եվրամիության եւ Հայաստանի Հանրապետության  երկկողմանի համաձայնագրի իրականացման համար պատասխանատու  կառույցների բացահայտ թողտվությամբ։

Ընդ որում, ԵՏՍԿ-ի՝ Հայաստանի քաղաքացիական հասարակության ներկայացուցիչներին 2019թ. ապրիլի 8-ին ուղղված պաշտոնական նամակում նշված է, որ «Քաղաքացիական հասարակության հարթակի հայաստանյան կողմի մասնակիցների ընտրության գործընթացը պետք է լիովին տնօրինվի Հայաստանի քաղաքացիական հասարակության կողմից»։ Այս նախադասությամբ ի ցույց է դրվում հարթակի ձեւավորման սկզբունքների եւ գործնականում արվող քայլերի միջեւ առկա բազմաթիվ հակասություններից ընդամենը մեկը։ Նույն նամակում որպես գործընթացի կարեւորագույն չափանիշ է ներկայացվում թափանցիկությունը («ընտրական գործընթացի արդյունքները չպետք է վիճարկման առարկա դառնան»), սակայն ԵՏՍԿ կողմից կիրառվող մեխանիզմներն այդ չափանիշի հետ որեւէ առնչություն չունեն։

Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմի անդամները ԵՄ պաշտոնական ներկայացուցիչների հետ հանդիպումներում բազմիցս արտահայտել են իրենց անհանգստությունը  ՀԸԳՀ շրջանակներում հարթակի ձեւավորման շուրջ ստեղծված իրավիճակի վերաբերյալ։ Մասնավորապես, ԱլԳ Քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի` Արեւելյան գործընկերության նախարարական հանդիպմանը (13 մայիսի, 2019թ․) հասցեագրված ուղերձում նշված է. «Մենք կոչ ենք անում նաեւ ՀԸԳՀ Քաղաքացիական հասարակության հարթակի ձեւավորման եւ առաքելության հստակեցման հարցում ականջալուր լինել ԱլԳ ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմի կողմից արտահայտված մտահոգություններին»։ Այդուհանդերձ, կոչը մնացել է անարձագանք։

Ներկայացված խնդիրը գնահատում ենք ՀԸԳՀ 2-րդ հոդվածի սահմանումների էական բաղադրիչ հանդիսացող ժողովրդավարական սկզբունքներին, իրավունքի գերակայությանը, մարդու իրավունքներին եւ հիմնարար ազատություններին, հետեւաբար նաեւ ՀԸԳՀ դրույթներին չհամապատասխանող:

Անընդունելի համարելով իրադարձությունների նման ընթացքը, ԱլԳ ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմը Եվրոպական հանձնաժողովի, Եվրոպական արտաքին գործողությունների  ծառայության եւ Հայաստանի Հանրապետության կառավարության ուշադրությունը կրկին հրավիրում է ՀԸԳՀ իրականացման գործում քաղաքացիական հասարակության արդյունավետ մասնակցությանն առնչվող խնդիրների վրա։

Մենք հայտարարում ենք, որ ԱլԳ ՔՀՖ Հայաստանի ազգային պլատֆորմը ՀԸԳՀ-ով նախատեսված Քաղաքացիական հասարակության հարթակի ձեւավորմանը կմասնակցի միայն գործընթացի ժողովրդավար, ներառական եւ թափանցիկ իրականացմանն ուղղված շտկումների պարագայում։

Կոչ ենք անում քաղաքացիական հասարակության գործընկեր բոլոր կազմակերպություններին՝ համերաշխություն եւ պատասխանատվություն դրսեւորել Եվրամիության եւ մեր երկրի միջեւ երկկողմանի հարաբերությունների արդյունավետ զարգացման համար սկզբունքային նշանակություն ունեցող  այս խնդրում։

 

ԱլԳ Քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի Ղեկավար կոմիտեի

ՀԱՅՏԱՐԱՐՈՒԹՅՈՒՆԸ

Մոլդովայի ներկայիս խորհրդարանի և Մարիա Սանդուի ղեկավարած կոալիցիոն կառավարության ճանաչման վերաբերյալ

12 հունիսի, 2019

Արևելյան գործընկերության քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի (ԱլԳ ՔՀՖ) Ղեկավարող կոմիտեն միանում է Մոլդովայի ազգային պլատֆորմի կոչին ճանաչելու Մոլդովայի ներկայիս խորհրդարանը և 2019թ. հունիսի 8-ին իր պարտականությունները ստանձնած կառավարությունը։ Մոլդովայի Սահմանադրական դատարանի՝ 2019 թ. հունիսի 7, 8 և 9-ին ընդունած որոշումները և Պավել Ֆիլիպի նշանակումը որպես ժամանակավոր նախագահ, թելադրված են Մոլդովայի դեմոկրատական կուսակցության քաղաքական օրակարգով և հակասում են անկախ դատական համակարգի և սահմանադրական կարգի սկզբունքներին:
Քաղաքական երկխոսությանը վերադառնալը և Մոլդովայի ժողովրդավարական ինստիտուտների հանդեպ վստահության վերահաստատումն առաջնահերթություն է։ Դրան հասնելու միակ ճանապարհը 2019թ․ փետրվարի 24-ի խորհրդարանական ընտություններում ընտրողների կամքի արտահայտման և Մարիա Սանդուի ղեկավարած
Կոալիցիոն կառավարության (կազմավորված Մոլդովայի Հանրապետության սոցիալիստական կուսակցությունից (PSRM) և եվրոպամետ ACUM կուսակցությունից) ճանաչումն է։

Վերահաստատելով ՔՀՖ Մոլդովայի ազգային պլատֆորմի բարձրացրած մտահոգությունները՝ ՔՀՖ Ղեկավար կոմիտեն կոչ է անում բոլոր կողմերին ցուցաբերել զսպվածություն եւ չթեժացնել իրավիճակը՝ հարգելով սահմանադրական դրույթները եւ գործող օրենսդրությունը: Մենք կոչ ենք անում միջազգային հանրությանը եւ մեր գործընկերներին ուշադիր հետեւել իրավիճակին եւ համագործակցել նոր կառավարության հետ՝ ի նշան աջակցության։

Արևելյան գործընկերության քաղաքացիական հասարակության ֆորումի ղեկավար կոմիտեի անդամներ

ՀՀ ԱԳ նախարար Զոհրաբ Մնացականյանի հանդիպումը Ֆեդերիկա Մոգերինիի հետ

13 հունիսի, 2019

Հունիսի 13-ին ԱԳ նախարար Զոհրաբ Մնացականյանը Բրյուսել կատարած աշխատանքային այցի շրջանակներում հանդիպեց Եվրոպական միության արտաքին գործերի և անվտանգության քաղաքականության հարցերով բարձր ներկայացուցիչ, Եվրոպական հանձնաժողովի փոխնախագահ Ֆեդերիկա Մոգերինիի հետ։

Զոհրաբ Մնացականյանը և Ֆեդերիկա Մոգերինին քննարկեցին ՀՀ-ԵՄ օրակարգին առնչվող  հարցերի լայն շրջանակ: Կողմերն ընդգծեցին, որ Հայաստանի և Եվրամիության միջև գործընկերության խորհրդի երկրորդ նիստը լավ առիթ է՝  ամփոփելու և գնահատելու խորհրդի առաջին նիստից հետո կատարված աշխատանքները և ուրվագծելու գործընկերության շրջանակներում ձեռնարկվելիք հետագա քայլերը:

Հայաստանի արտաքին քաղաքական գերատեսչության ղեկավարն առանձնահատուկ կարևորեց կառավարության որդեգրած բարեփոխումների և զարգացման օրակարգին ԵՄ աջակցության շարունակականությունը: ՀՀ ԱԳ նախարարը ընդգծեց ԵՄ մուտքի արտոնագրերի ազատականացման շուրջ երկխոսություն ծավալելու կարևորությունը՝ հատկապես մարդկանց միջև շփումներն ընդլայնելու համատեքստում:

Զրուցակիցները մտքեր փոխանակեցին նաև տարածաշրջանային և միջազգային մի շարք օրակարգային հարցերի շուրջ:

Բարձր հանձնակատարի խնդրանքով նախարար Մնացականյանը ներկայացրեց Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի հիմնախնդրի խաղաղ կարգավորման գործընթացի շուրջ վերջին զարգացումները։ Նախարար Մնացականյանն ընդգծեց խաղաղ գործընթացի առաջմղման համար բարենպաստ միջավայրի ձևավորման անհրաժեշտությունը և այս տեսակետից կարևորեց հրադադարի անվերապահ պահպանումը և ամրապնդումը: Երկուստեք արժևորեց վստահության ամրապնդման միջոցառումների և ժողովուրդներին խաղաղության նախապատրաստման պայմանավորվածությունների իրականացումը: Ֆեդերիկա Մոգերինին վերահաստատեց ԵՄ աջակցությունը ԵԱՀԿ Մինսկի խմբի համանախագահների կողմից հիմնահարցի խաղաղ հանգուցալուծման ուղղությամբ գործադրվող ջանքերին։

Աղբյուրը՝ ՀՀ ԱԳՆ կայքէջ

Posted in Հայերեն | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

FORUM GERMAN-ARMENIAN JOURNALIST EXCHANGE: about the project

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“Forum German-Armenian Journalist Exchange” Project is a fruit of cooperation between Deutsche Gesellschaft e.V. and the Secretariat of Armenian National Platform of the EaP Civil Society Forum. Interested in the promotion of the European Neighbourhood Policy, both partners aim to support a civic and lasting exchange between the countries.

Young journalists from Germany and Armenia participated in study trips to Berlin (October 14-19, 2018) and Yerevan (November 18-24, 2018) respectively, during which they got acquainted with the working conditions of journalists in Armenia and Germany and had fruitful and comprehensive talks with political decision-makers, representatives of media and civil society.

The result of this German-Armenian collaboration and the individual researches and interviews of the participants in the frames of the Project is the articles published on the Armenian National Platform webpage, which touch upon a wide range of issues within the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The Project is implemented with the assistance of the German Federal Foreign Office. The contents of the publications are the sole responsibility of the implementing partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the Federal Foreign Office. 

Posted in English, Forum German-Armenian Journalist Exchange

GERMAN-ARMENIAN RELATIONS AFTER THE VELVET REVOLUTION: Germany will continue its support to Armenia

by Marine Meliksetyan

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Raffi Kantian

To attract more foreign investors Armenia first needs stable judiciary. The Chairman of German-Armenian Society NGO Dr. Raffi Kantian believes that if a country doesn’t have a stable judicial system, it will have certain problems. “You don’t want to engage with a country, be it Armenia, Georgia or any other state, if you don’t have a chance to get your rights protected in court,” Dr. Kantian says. Being the head of an association, which is active in the promotion of mutual understanding between Germans and Armenians, Raffi Kantian says that German entrepreneurs are waiting for what will happen after the snap parliamentary elections in Armenia scheduled for December 9,  2018, in particular whether the reform process will continue, and whether the judiciary will be able to eliminate bribes from the system. The Chairman of German-Armenian Society notes that one may argue that there is no proper judicial system in Azerbaijan, but entrepreneurs still invest there. According to Dr. Kantian, this is because of the amount of money one can earn in Azerbaijan: it is indeed a lot due to gas and petrol, etc. “Armenia is a very small market. So, doing business in these proportions is not very realistic, but if you still do business, you must be sure that there is appropriate judicial system. If you, for example, do not make judiciary reforms, then the chances of getting investments from outside are very low,” Dr. Kantian underlines.

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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at “Investment and Trade” Forum

The new government of Armenia understands this well enough. Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, while attending the “Investment and Trade” Forum in Yerevan on October 26, 2018, pointed out that today’s environment is conducive to investment in Armenia, for everyone is equal before the law in the country. In his speech at the Forum, which brought together ministers, parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, representatives of major companies from 20 countries, Nikol Pashinyan stated that after the Velvet Revolution of April-May 2018, the government set a goal to reinstate the rule of law in the country and turn Armenia into a country of labor and high technologies. “Entrepreneurs and investors are considered to be our greatest allies on this path. This is why we urge them to invest in the Republic of Armenia. We want to encourage labor and success in our country, and we tell investors to come to Armenia, get richer and enrich others,” the acting Prime Minister said.

Hans-Jochen Schmidt, former German Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, informed that a delegation of small-sized business owners was going to visit Armenia in November to study the opportunities.

It must be noted that Germany is Armenia’s number one partner among the EU member states, having provided hundreds of millions of Euros in aid and low-interest loans to the country since the 1990s. Germany is also one of the most active donor countries supporting the socio-economic reforms in Armenia: it is, in fact, the second after the United States. Germany has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Armenia as technical assistance.

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Hans-Jochen Schmidt, former German Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia

“The IT field is of course quite known. There is surely certain interest in good talents; TUMO Center for Creative Technologies is a good example. I think the largest investments in the mining field at the moment will continue as long as the government supports the activities of this investor, but I hope that there will be other sectors as well. And, of course, we are interested in contributing to improve your infrastructure,” Hans-Jochen Schmidt says. He notes that Germany followed Armenia’s present acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s fight against the former government in spring with great interest and empathy. He claims that Germany will continue its support to Armenia in order to make sure that the processes started after the Velvet Revolution (for instance, the fight against corruption) continue. “We wish Armenia the best in overcoming the economic, social problems, and to live up to this challenge. It will not be easy for your government, because they need sufficient budget in order to realize some of the promises Pashinyan made. And this is not so easy within a short term. I don’t want to discourage you, but you have to have a lot of courage and unfortunately patience as well. At the moment you have a primary task of making sure the people at least feel supported by the government, and the living standards improve for large part of the population,” former German Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia says.

The Chairman of German-Armenian Society Dr. Raffi Kantian thinks that the developments in German-Armenian relations are very healthy, very positive, and the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in August 2018 was a clear sign of it, since she is the first German Chancellor who visited Armenia.

Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Federal Republic of Germany were established in January 1992. It is remarkable that during this period there were more than 20 official visits from Armenia to Germany at the level of President, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. From 1995 there were a few official visits to Armenia by German politicians only at the level of Vice-Chancellor, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, and President of the German Bundestag. So, in this context Merkel’s visit was unprecedented.

While in Yerevan, Chancellor Merkel visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial, and confessed that the first place she thought she should visit in Armenia must be Tsitsernakaberd Memorial.

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Chancellor Merkel at Tsitsernakaberd Memorial

Dr. Raffi Kantian describes this as a very symbolic gesture. However, Merkel avoided the use of the term ‘genocide’ in Yerevan. But anyway, according to Kantian, Merkel’s visit to Tsitsernakaberd Memorial was a strong message, since she was harshly criticized for not attending the sitting of the Parliament and missing the Bundestag voting on Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2016. It is noteworthy that during the press conference in Yerevan asked about visiting the Genocide Memorial, Angela Merkel stated that she had visited Tsitsernakaberd “in the spirit of the Bundestag 2016 Resolution.”

The Resolution titled “Remembrance and Commemoration of the Genocide of Armenians and Other Christian Minorities 101 Years Ago” was adopted almost unanimously, and was met with anger by Turkey. The Resolution not only recognizes the actions carried out by the Ottoman Empire towards the Armenian population as genocide, but also points out Germany’s historical responsibility in this crime.

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Bundestag building

Along with its huge importance, the Bundestag Resolution is not legally binding. The Chairman of German-Armenian Society Dr. Raffi Kantian says that currently he doesn’t see any chance of having a second, more comprehensive resolution on the Armenian Genocide. “I don’t think that parliamentarians will try pushing forward another comprehensive Armenian resolution. I know that some had initiatives regarding the punishment of the denial of the Armenian Genocide, but those are just initiatives,” Dr. Kantian notices.

And it is not surprising. Berlin’s diplomatic row with Ankara escalated after the Bundestag Resolution 2 years ago. Before its adoption and right now there are still many problems between these two NATO allies on very different issues. A proof to that could be considered the October 2018 travel advice by the German Foreign Ministry. It warned citizens visiting Turkey to be extra cautious about their social media posts in response to a number of cases of Germans arrested for online criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government. Thus, a new, more comprehensive resolution on the Armenian Genocide in Bundestag would be inappropriate, at least in the near future.

mmeliksetyanMarine Meliksetyan studied international journalism and linguistics at Yerevan State Linguistic University after V. Brusov. Currently she works at “Yerkir Media” TV as a journalist. She is also anchor of a TV program that airs once a week. She reports top stories from around the world.

 

 

Posted in English, Forum German-Armenian Journalist Exchange, Uncategorized

CHESS VALLEY

by Marie Illner

Armenia is located in the Caucasus in a geopolitically tense region. Closed borders, few export products. This is why the country strives to occupy a niche with full force: the IT-Sector. The country does not only want to reconquer its role as the Silicon Valley of the former Soviet Union but surpass it by far.

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More than 10.000 pupils are learning how to program and webdesign in the Tumo Center after school. Foto: Tumo.org

Only two more clicks until Hakob is satisfied. He adjusts the body of his racing car just a tiny bit, then it looks as sporty as he has imagined it to be. “Ready”, he says, claps his hands and saves his 3D-model. Hakob is 12 years old. The car is part of his second computer game – programmed on his own. “Playing soccer at Banants Yerevan or learning keyboard might be cool as well”, he says and stands up behind the Mac. “But nothing is as cool as programming.” When Hakob is grown up, he does not want to become a soccer player but a programmer.

At “Tumo” he is on the right path: The digital media learning center free of charge in the capital Yerevan allows more than 14.000 young Armenians to acquire all the tools necessary for becoming an IT-specialist – for free and voluntarily. Among the subjects offered the kids find programming, robotics, web-design, game development or machine learning.

“At Tumo the kids do what they are up to and learn with fun” says Vahag Bshtikian, who once was a Tumo student as well. The family background of the pupils did not play any role, everybody would start at zero. Bshtikian is convinced: “In ten years Armenia will be a world leader in the IT-Sector.”

A good reason to stay

Since its opening in 2011 boys and girls aged 12 to 18 visit Tumo once or twice a week. Kayne West has already visited the center in Yerevan.

The modern architecture, flooded with light, offers hundreds of co-working spaces with Macbooks and lends Tumo an utopian touch. Inside Tumo it is easy to forget the social situation in front of the doors: Armenia was shaken severely by the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is the poorest country in the Caucasus region, characterized by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and corruption. Applicable for many people: those who can afford, leave the country.

Tumo is a good reason to stay. For those who own an Armenian passport and are aged between 12 and 18 there is only a short registration necessary until they can start and immediately put together their study plan consisting of workshops, autodidactic exercises and projects.

“We offer three sessions daily,“ says Bshtikian  and points to a screen behind him. Today kids can choose between visualizing google maps, translation tools and music composition. The speakers: International experts, amongst them Google engineer Alen Zamanyan, Uber-Executive Raffi Krikorian or Pixar-producer Katherine Sarafian.

Nation of mathematicians and chess players

The center, which has already branches in three other Armenian cities, is financed by the “Simonian Educational Foundation” of Sam and Sylva Simonian.

Sam Simonian is the founder of the globally leading telecommunications company “Inet”, the couple live in the United States. Armenian organizations had substantially contributed to their success, with Tumo they want to return something to the Armenian community, they say. “Tumo provides access to equipment that normally would be unavailable”, says Sylva Simonian.

Hrayr Shahbazyan has managed, what Hakob is still dreaming about. One year ago he founded his own start-up: A platform for virtual chess lessons. “WooChess” brings together chess coaches and students from all over the world. One hour of teaching by the chess grand master easily costs 100 US-Dollars. Shahbazyan sees a connection between Armenia’s success in the field of chess and the rapidly growing IT-sector – 25 to 30 percent a year: analytical thinking and math skills would be necessary for both fields.

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The founders of WooChess turned their hobby into a career. The market-orientation was internationally from day zero. Foto: Marie Illner

“Silicon Valley got its name from silicium – the basic material for the production of electronic semiconductors”, says Shahbazayan. “We could call ourselves Chess Valley” he says as laughs. In his eyes Tumo is a revolution in the field of digital education. “Our competitive advantage: high quality for a low salary”, says Shahbazyan. In 2017 the gross monthly salary in Armenia amounted 358 Euros.

Angela Merkel was elated

Back at the Tumo Center: concentrated kids are sitting behind more than 400 working stations, some bustle around the snackbar. Maria is studying the programming language JavaScript, Arthur is watching a short video about sound design and Gevorg is taking a quiz on the topic of HTML.

Tumo wants to be more than a learning center: Several sport fields are located behind a self-programmed fountain with light effects, even kids with autism have already successfully passed the “Tumo path”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also visited Tumo in the course of her journey to the Caucasus, was elated, everybody says. The German ambassador in Armenia, Bernhard Kiesler, also speaks enthusiastically about Tumo: The center was a “blueprint”, even an “export hit”.

There are concrete plans for Tumo centers in Paris, Tirana and Moscow, Merkel wants to explore the possibilities for a German Tumo center with state minister Dorothee Bär as well. People are proud in the Armenian ministry for education: “We pay a lot of attention to the IT-sector”, says Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, Deputy Minister for Education.

IT-Start-Up scene is growing rapidly

The efforts are successful: More than 600 companies are active in the IT-sector, a third of them is foreign-owned. Among the well-known IT-giants of Armenian origin you find the foto-editor “PicsArt”, the self-learning platform for programming languages “SoloLearn” and the online-video-maker “Renderforest”.

However, Hovhannisyan still sees need for action: There was a lack of specialists and the cross-linking between companies and universities had to be promoted, he says.

Liana Hakobyan sees the same problems: “The start-up scene in the IT-sector is rapidly growing”, says the 20-year old. Last year she also founded her own company: “Breedge” – a service company that matches students and employers via an algorithm that does not only take into account language skills, internships and studies, but also aligns personality profile and business culture.

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Liana Hakobyan, aged 20, is leading her own start-up. More than 30 percent in the Armenian IT-sector are female. Foto: Marie Illner

Ever more attractive for investors

Hakobyan feels like being at the right place at the right time. “We are the generation that needs to give Armenia the crucial push”, she says. The political situation would play an important role: “The trend of young people leaving the country has been stopped by the revolution, more than that Armenia is becoming ever more attractive for investors because of the change of government”. In April thousands of people went on the streets to protest against the former government. Shortly after, opposition leader Pashinyan became the new prime minister.

The atmosphere for start-ups is characterized by an optimistic mood. For many, especially those who have been socialized in the socialistic system of the Soviet Union, all this sounds like real freedom. “The revolution shows that the future is coming even faster than we have expected”, says Bshtikian .

A lot of young Armenians do not want to hear the question “Europe or Russia?” anymore. Indeed, the EU gives impulses for modernization and Russia guarantees security, but role models can already be found somewhere else. “Steve Jobs has an Armenian adoptive mother, he is my role model”, says Hakob in the Tumo Center. Hakobyan says: “We want to concentrate on our own country.”

Estonia as a role model

It is not that easy: located between Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran, Armenia has always been exposed to many different geopolitical interests, 4.1 percent of the GDP is spent on military expenses. Due to closed borders many products can only be imported and exported via huge detours through Georgia and Iran.

Estonia could be a role model – The former Soviet country is birthplace of Skype and ascended as a leading high-tech-nation.

Hakobyan and Bshtikian  do not fear a braindrain. “I am Armenian, so the problems of the country are also made for me”, says Bshtikian . Hakobyan wants to stay as well – because of the familiar community and the liberal IT-sector.

Be so good they can’t ignore you

You can also sense the optimistic mood in the Hero House – an innovation hub supported by the EU that helps start-ups in the field of Internet of Things, Blockchain, cyber security and machine learning. One enters the building with a digital fingerprint, at the walls you find pictures of super-heroes, the toilets are “all gender bathrooms”. The office of the director Ashot Arzumanyan seems creatively messy, books about artificial intelligence are dispersed on his desk.

Adam Bittlingmayer is sitting behind his computer and feeds it with data for his machine translation project. At the wall next to him you can read the slogans “Be so good they can’t ignore you” and “Less meetings, more doing”. The 33-year old speaks seven national languages and three programming languages, he studies informatics in the US and signed his contract with Google translate at 21.

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Signed his contract with Google at 21: Adam Bittlingmayer was disappointed of Berlin as an IT-location. Foto: Marie Illner

Next world language?

“I own a video-streaming company and made my choice for Armenia on purpose”, says Bittlingmayer. Five years of “tax holidays” for IT-Start-Ups were among the motives. “I was disappointed of Berlin as an IT-location”, he says. Just this morning he had problems with his server because of a locked website in Germany – closed by GEMA. “The EU commits suicide in the fields of IT”, he thinks. Too little autonomy, too little competition between the countries, no top universities in the IT-sector and too many equalizing official requirements.

“No wonder that no big cloud operator is based in the EU”, he says.

Not least because of this reason Arzumanyan believes in the potential of his home country. “Armenia is a small country, entrepreneurs are oriented to the international market from the beginning”, he says. Judged per capita, Armenia would soon become a leading IT-nation. English? Russian? Chinese? “Those who can program and understand deep science like physics speak the next world languages”, he is convinced. The Armenians do speak them.

marieMarie Illner works as a freelance journalist for several newspapers, among them “Westdeutsche-Allgemeine Zeitung”, “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and “Spiegel Online”. She mainly covers politics and society, with an emphasis on interviews and reportages. Marie Illner has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Media Science and currently studies Media Science as a Master’s-program at Ruhr-University in Bochum.

Posted in English, Forum German-Armenian Journalist Exchange, Uncategorized

ARMENIANS IN GERMANY: SEEKING NEW LIFE AND OPPORTUNITIES

by Ani Grigoryan

At the Gesundbrunnen station in Berlin, a young man in sportswear is walking in front of us. We are Armenian journalists talking in our native language at the station. The man suddenly turns around, looks at us and says “Hay eq?” (“Are you Armenian?”). Yes, we are, and so he is. We start to talk. His name is Artur. “When I heard you speak Armenian, I felt my heartbeat in my throat”, he tells us,

Artur is 19 years old, he is an athlete dedicating his time to wrestling and kickboxing. He was born in the village of Artashar, Armavir region in Armenia. It has been already six years that he lives in Germany with his family.

“It was fine, we used to live a normal life in Armenia. In my village we were doing farming and cattle-breeding. We had relatives in Germany and decided to move in with them,” says the young man.

“Here, you go to the Government, and they ask you about your problems. We said we wished to stay here, and described what Armenia’s situation was: hard life in the villages, where it is very difficult to make a living. I said I wanted to dedicate my time to sports. That’s it. Afterwards, they said ‘let’s see how you behave here one or two years, whether you learn the language or not’, etc.”

Artur says they spent the first year in a center for migrants, where the conditions were “very bad”.

photo 1

Arthur surrounded by the group of Armenian journalists at the Gesundbrunnen station

“The very first year they were providing us with food. All the migrants were eating together. The bathroom and toilet were shared. We couldn’t work, because it was not allowed. One year later, we moved out to another center, where we spent a year and a half, and then finally we were granted a status and moved to an apartment. Only after that did we obtain permission to work,” Artur concludes.

The young athlete now speaks German. He notes that it was very difficult for him to learn the language, however, in order to get the rights to stay in the country one must speak German. He adds that he is happy with his life. Most importantly, the family members are now employed.

“Currently, my brother works as a mechanic, my father renovates houses, my sister studies dentistry, my mother does not work. Here we obey the Law, the rules of the German society. That is why we don’t have any problem,” says the young boxer.

Armenians in Germany

Armenian presence in Germany traces back to the late 19th century. The first inflow of Armenians happened after the 1915 genocide, and the second, after the Second World War.

Originally Germany was a place of education for many famous Armenians. Legendary composer Komitas, writers Levon Shant and Avetik Isahakyan, painter Vardges Surenyants, Bolshevik revolutionary Stepan Shahumyan and many others received their higher education in Germany.

The German-Armenian Society was founded in Berlin in 1914 by Johannes Lepsius, Paul Rohrbach and Avetik Isahakyan. A few years ago, the 100th anniversary of German-Armenian Society was celebrated.

In the last decades the Armenian community grew in number due to the influx of Armenians from the Middle East. The second wave of mass emigration from these countries took place in 1970s, after the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the civil war in Lebanon.

photo 2

The tuff cross-stone in Berlin dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide

Armenians in Germany are mostly organized around two institutions. One of them is the German-Armenian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in Cologne. The church has community organizations under its umbrella. The other is the Central Council of German-Armenians, which encompasses both social and cultural associations.

According to the data of the German Prelacy of the Armenian Church, there are fourteen church communities and more than twenty Armenian non-governmental organizations and associations in Germany.

According to the Armenian Embassy to Germany, the estimated number of German-Armenian community members is about 60,000. However, this figure is likely to be different today, as the new emigration of Armenians has begun since Armenia’s independence, and the number constantly fluctuates.

 

 

Armenians want to have an “American dream” in Germany

It is not a secret that European countries, and especially Germany, are seen by many Armenians as socially and economically stable states able to provide a better life. The Armenians go to Germany to study, get medical help, work and just live. Their profiles are quite varied: intellectuals, educators, employers, unemployed and others move from Armenia to Germany.

But the way, getting an asylum in Germany is not easy, and not everyone succeeds.

For the sake of settling down in Germany and building a future, Armenians first apply for asylum and then for the refugee status.

However, according to the Refugee Convention of Geneva of 1951, a person is considered a refugee, having reasonable motives to escape persecution for the following reasons:

  1. Race
  2. Nationality
  3. Religious or political convictions
  4. Sexual orientation
  5. Membership of a particular social group or political opinion

In fact, the main reason for the migration of Armenians to Germany or other European countries is a socio-economic one, which, however, does not fall under the aforementioned grounds for refugee status. And many Armenians are forced to turn back.

An Armenian family in Dresden was forced to return to Armenia after eleven years spent in Germany. The story was reported by the media and local demonstrations took place to impeach the deportation of this family.

In November 2017, the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten newspaper reported that the parents had come to Germany in 2006 and pretended to be Iraqis, which turned out to be untrue only in 2014. According to the regional directorate, the couple hid their identity from the authorities for years. The three children, born in Germany, also have Armenian citizenship. From the perspective of the Refugee Council, all integration requirements were met. But those integration efforts were not enough. The Hardship Commission added that even the mother and ten-year-old daughter had to return to their homeland. The chances and hopes to stay in Germany were considered low. The mother and daughter considered voluntarily going back to join the other three family members. Such stories are common in Germany. Many deported Armenians lived and are still living in the same desperate situation.

Continuous migration and free visa perspectives

According to the data of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees of Germany, 1594 Armenians applied for asylum in the period of January to September 2018. The number of Armenians seeking asylum in 2017 reaches 3852. It is noteworthy that Germany registered 9881 applications for asylum (this number also includes applicants of the previous years) in 2017, and 7048 or 70% of those applications were rejected.

The number of refugees from Armenia to Germany has risen sharply in recent years. In 2008 there were less than 300 refugee status seekers. Currently this number has reached 3000.

Neighbouring Georgia has been enjoying visa-free regime since March 2017. According to the European Asylum Support Office, the number of Georgian citizens seeking asylum in the EU countries has more than doubled, from 867 in January 2017 to 1859 the same month of 2018. Almost every second of them applied for asylum in Germany.

Germany and Sweden stated about the possibility of freezing visa-free regime with Georgia this year. But the EU decided to give Georgia some time.

How can Georgia’s experience affect possible visa-free travel regime for Armenia?

Armenia and the EU concluded the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement last year. People in Armenia hope for visa-free travel, although the document does not stipulate visa liberalization.

An official source in the German Foreign Office told online media outlet CivilNet that “Germany recognizes Armenia’s efforts towards progress on Visa Liberalization Dialogue and Mobility Partnership. Visa facilitation and readmission agreements between the EU and Armenia have already been in force since January 1, 2014 (…).  The launch of this dialogue may be proposed by the European Commission in due course, provided that the benchmarks for well-managed and secure mobility are met. This implies an effective implementation of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements”.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel also touched upon visa liberalization in her first official visit to Armenia in August of 2018. “The visas related to Georgia and Ukraine have been liberalized. We will do our utmost to achieve visa liberalization with Armenia,” she said.

 

photo 3

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan welcomes Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in Yerevan

The visa liberalization would provide Armenian citizens with more and better chances to travel to the EU states and explore more opportunities. However, it is also a risk for a small country like Armenia, where every 3rd person or roughly 1 million people have left the country in the past 25 years in search of better economic prospects.

It remains to be seen how the new Armenian government tackles the country’s most difficult challenge – the shrinking demography.

anigrigAni Grigoryan has been working at one of the top online media in Armenia, CivilNet TV for over 5 years. She covers a variety of topics, ranging from social, political, economic issues, to human rights and civil society. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the European Regional Educational University. She is also a freelance journalist for the Caucasus regional media Chai Khana.

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SYRIAN ARMENIANS: BACK IN THE “HOMELAND”, SAFE FROM WAR

by Florian Bayer

Being part of a traumatized and displaced diaspora, Syrian Armenians refuse to be labelled as “refugees” back in the home of their ancestors, Armenia. Most are here to stay, since the grueling war in Syria goes on, but also since the more than ten thousand recent settlers are best possible integrated in Yerevan.

“Aleppo Shopping Center” reads a sign at the Republic Square metro station in Central Yerevan, and what you read is exactly what you get: a small mix of spice shops, bakeries, a joint with cheap jeans and t-shirts or a hairdresser, and all praise their products and services in Arab letters: they are predominantly run by Syrians. Armenian Syrians, to be precise, since a total of around 20.000 Syrian-born members of the big and regionally widespread Armenian diaspora moved only recently, during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, to Armenia.

Finding a new home

Aleppo Market - Bakery - Dalida

Dalida in the bakery

“I came 2014 with my relatives – with high unemployment, wages of only about 200€/month and expensive housing, life here is hard – but we can make it”, says Syrian-born Dalida (53), who runs a small bakery. She has no kids, and with her earning she and her husband can get by one way or another.
Her colleague Greta (name changed) from the shop next door, on the other hand, has no complaints about business: “We have products from Syria, Turkey, the UAE, Iran. Especially our spices are very popular”, says Greta.  Her husband owns the small shop in the metro passage, and indeed every minute the door to the narrow metro-passage opens again and people get in line to buy a handful of exotic spices.  All her family and friends escaped from Syria to Yerevan, where most of them stay until now. Only her kids found a new home in Sweden and Canada, at least for now.

There are essentially two groups of incoming people from Syria, says Anna Dahlaryan, who works for the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). “The first group, among them many more affluent people, came at the beginning of the war, thinking they would just be here for some weeks until the worst is over – which most unfortunately turned out to be wrong. The second one came subsequently in the years 2014 and 2015 and was strongly in need of help”, says Dahlaryan.

Traumatized by losing family and friends and often with nothing more but a small suitcase in their hands, they had to start entirely from scratch. For ADA humanitarian aid was the first step to help, before later enabling the incoming people to continue working in their former profession by providing cheap credits in order to open up their own businesses in Armenia. ADA-projects co-founded by the EU as well as UNHCR, Caritas and Red Cross enabled many refugees to open up Syrian restaurants, handicraft businesses or small shops. “The general attitude towards Syrian Armenians was very positive. There was a strong consensus in society that they should be repatriated as fast and thoroughly as possible”, says Dahlaryan.

Also 22-year old Aram (name changed), who himself came from the Syrian city of Latakia at the Mediterranean Sea, speaks about the enormous helpfulness of both the Armenian people and the state.  Aram came with 17 years to Yerevan, without having friends or families here: “I had to start from scratch. The first two or three months were very difficult for me, since I did not know anybody and life was much harder here than in Syria”, he says.  After having started his new study in business administration, however, did he do much better and quickly made friends among native Armenians. Via a study-exchange program he got into touch with the organization Caritas, for which he subsequently worked as a volunteer translator from Arab to Armenian. The commitment paid off, since he soon will start a paid full-time position there.

Easy integration

The integration here was no problem for him, as Aram explains, since traditions, culture and – to a large extent – language are the same:  “In Latakia, I have learned Western Armenian from kindergarten on. We had television from Armenian channels, so we even knew some Eastern Armenian.”

The different dialects derive from the history of much of the global Armenian diaspora, especially in this region: Starting 1915, Turkish elites committed a genocide against the Armenian minority living in the region at the turn from the Osman Empire to the Turkish republic. First by killing almost 300 Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul, only before conducting large-scale persecutions and massacres of thousands of Armenians in former Western Armenia, a territory which was subsequently and up until today was seized by Turkey.

Even to this day, Turkish officials and many intellectuals deny any participation in taking part in these systematic murders. Most international experts however agree that this was one of the first ethnic cleansings in history, decades before the term “genocide” was even coined. Also the Armenians strive for international recognition of what happened from 1915 to the early 1920s, and for example paid thankfully attention when Germany along with other countries recognized the violent crimes that were done to Armenians, even without using the words “Turkish” or “genocide”.

History still matters

When living or just travelling through Armenia as a visitor, one cannot help but be confronted with this topic on a daily base. Be it by coming across the topic of the 3-million-strong Armenian diaspora, be it by visiting the impressively elaborate Armenian Genocide Museum “Tsitsernakaberd”, be it by talking to youths or also experts on this field such as Arsen Hakobyan, anthropologist at Yerevan State University and the Armenian Academy of Sciences. “There was already an Armenian minority in Syria in the ancient world as well as in the middle age. The most recent population, however, were the ancestors of the genocide-survivors”, Hakobyan says. He wrote numerous research papers about memory politics and identity, as well as oral interviews with people who left to Yerevan.

Arsen Hakobyan - Expert

Arsen Hakobyan

His conclusions? “It was quite obvious for Syrian Armenians to come “back” to Armenia in the course of the Syrian war – to come “home” so-to-say. It was the same culture, almost the same language and their main identity”, Hakobyan elaborates about the Armenian minority in Syria. Helpful, as he explains further, was certainly the fact that the Armenian government made immigration as easy as possible [not the least because of the fact that many young Armenians leave the country for better job chances and wages abroad, that is].

“Already for longer, it was possible to have a dual citizenship in Armenia. Additionally, the government decided to give the Armenian passport out easily, even from abroad”, says Hakobyan. Consequently, already from an early stage of the war it was possible to apply for citizenship not only in Yerevan, but also from the consulates in Aleppo [where by far the largest Armenian minority of about 60.000 people was living], Damascus and in Lebanon’s Beirut. In buses via Turkey and Georgia, but also in flights from Beirut, it was easily possible for Armenian citizens to reach Yerevan.

Preserved Armenian culture

By doing his research, several Syrian Armenians said that they always felt more Armenian than Syrian, explains Hakobyan: “Weld together by the experience of displacement and murder, the preservation of Armenian customs, religion and traditions was and is alive until today, even 100 years after the genocide.” Not only were the [Christian] Armenians the only group which had minority rights such as religious institutions and own schooling in [predominantly Muslim] Syria, they were also well respected for being good merchants and highly skilled craftsmen.

Aleppo NGO - One of many NGOs helping Syrian Armenians

Aleppo NGO – one of many NGOs helping Syrian Armenians in Yerevan

The war eventually changed everything, though, and at least 10.000, perhaps even twice as many, Syrian Armenians now build on their new future in Yerevan or other Armenian towns and cities. “We never considered ourselves as refugees though, also were not treated as such”, 22-year old Aram says resolutely. Much rather he and all others interviewed for this story, describe their going to Armenia as “coming home”- home to a safe place and to the homeland of their ancestors.

Foto Florian BayerFlorian Bayer (27) is a freelance journalist based in Vienna. He studied journalism, history and philosophy and has special interest in society, culture and politics in Eastern Europe (especially Poland) and far-right populism on the rise in Europe and elsewhere. 

 

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