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MEMO/09/182

Brussels, 23 April 2009

European Neighbourhood Policy - ARMENIA

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, welcomed Armenia’s efforts and achievements reached in 2008 and encouraged further steps to accelerate the process. “The EU Advisory Experts Group established at the core of the Armenian administration is a proof of Armenia’s desire to step up reform efforts and bring Armenia closer to EU norms and standards.”

EU–Armenia relations: basic facts

The EU-Armenia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) entered into force in 1999, with the goal of promoting respect for democracy, rule of law and human rights, as well as market economy reforms, trade liberalisation and cooperation in a wide number of sectors.

The ENP Action Plan was adopted in November 2006 and its implementation is monitored and guided through the PCA institutions. The opening of a full-fledged Delegation on the European Commission in Yerevan in February 2008 further contributed to the strengthening of EU-Armenia bilateral relations.

Major developments in 2008 and overall assessment

Overall, Armenia made progress in several areas of the ENP Action Plan. Armenia is still struggling with the consequences of the internal crisis in the aftermath of Presidential elections in February 2008 which led to the introduction of the state of emergency and a number of restrictions of democratic freedoms and human rights. The Armenian authorities took some steps to address the political crisis such as inviting the opposition to a dialogue and establishing a “fact-finding” group of experts to inquire into the March events. Further overall progress is needed on political dialogue and reform, including on effectively addressing corruption, on respecting human rights and on freedom of expression.

Armenia made progress in regional cooperation and dialogue with neighbouring countries, giving its support for Turkish initiative of a Caucasian platform for stability and cooperation. While Turkey kept its land border with Armenia closed, the prospect of establishing bilateral relations improved following the visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gül to Yerevan in September 2008.

Armenia widely aligned itself with EU Common Foreign and Security Policy declarations (more than 80%) and is generally very active in cooperating on foreign and security-related issues.

In November 2008 the signing of the first political declaration by the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1994 constituted a positive step in the OSCE Minsk Group peace talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. .

In the area of migration, a law on Refugees and Asylum was adopted in November 2008 aiming at the approximation of national legislation on asylum and refugees to international and EU standards. TAIEX supported the elaboration of a national Action Plan on migration and asylum issues and a seminar on international law on refugees in Yerevan in November.

Regarding trafficking in human beings, the anti-trafficking commission was raised to a ministry status. Armenia ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in April and it entered into force in August 2008. For the first time provisions are made in the 2009 state budget for the financing of anti-trafficking activities including the operation of special shelter for victims in cooperation with civil society actors.

On money laundering Armenia ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds of Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism in June 2008 which entered into force as domestic law in October 2008. In May 2008, the National Assembly passed the new “Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism” law and vested the Central Bank with the legal authority to coordinate national policy and established the Financial Monitoring Centre, which functions as Armenia’s financial intelligence unit.

As regards the transport, the horizontal air transport agreement between Armenia and the European Community was signed in December 2008. The rehabilitation of the Yerevan-Tbilisi railway line was launched in Tbilisi and in Yerevan in mid-October 2008. A feasibility study for the possible construction of a railway to Iran was prepared.

After six years of double digit non-inflationary economic growth accompanied by large-scale foreign exchange inflows, GDP increased by only 6.8% in 2008. This was mainly the result of a sharp decrease of the economic activity in the fourth quarter amid the deepening global financial and economic crisis.

The EU has progressively become Armenia’s main trading partner. EU exports to Armenia continued to grow in 2008 by over 10%, while export of Armenian products to the EU decreased by 10% contrary to the general trend of the last five years. Armenia qualifies for the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) for 2009-2011.

Some examples of EU support to reforms in Armenia

In November 2008, the European Commission and Armenia signed the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the EU Advisory Experts Group to assist Armenia in the implementation of the ENP Action Plan.

A feasibility study done in 2008 on a possible future EU-Armenia free trade area (FTA) foreseen in the ENP Action Plan concluded that a genuinely deep and comprehensive FTA would be economically beneficial for Armenia. In this regard the European Commission carried out a fact-finding mission to Armenia in February 2009.

Regional development projects (together with the Council of Europe) and European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights projects are supporting democratic reform. During 2008, the Armenian Human Rights Defender institution increased its range of activity and its independence (with an EC grant of €300,000).

With regard to nuclear energy, the EC continued to assist in ensuring minimum safety standards for the Medzamor Nuclear Power Plant (2006 budget). Further support, amounting to €7.2 million, is provided within the Action Plan 2007 under the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation.

Assistance to Armenia

In 2008, the European Commission continued to support the national reform efforts in Armenia and programmed assistance for a total amount of €24 million under the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument (ENPI). The 2008 Annual Action programme included a sector budget support operation on Support to Justice Reforms.

This support was a part of an indicative amount of €98.4 million, which has been allocated for the period 2007-10 under the ENPI.

Armenia also benefits from cooperation activities financed under the ENPI multi-country, regional programmes as well as horizontal thematic programmes, including the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the programme “Non State Actors and Local Authorities in Development”. In 2008 the EC Delegation contracted €1.5 million under NSA and Local Authorities in Development (2007 budget) and €1.2 million under EIDHR CBSS (combined 2007 and 2008 budgets).

The Communication from the Commission to the Parliament and the Council Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2008 (23 April 2009) and a country report on Armenia are available at

http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/documents_en.htm

More on Armenia and ENP

http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/armenia/index_en.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/index_en.htm

See also IP/09/625 EU reinforces ties with its neighbours and continues to support their reforms.


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