Still No US Ambassador to Armenia!

Following the departure of Ambassador John Evans on September 10, 2006 the US Embassy in Armenia has been left without an Ambassador and the huge US Embassy in Armenia, said to be the 2nd largest US Embassy building in the world, was headed by Deputy Chief of Mission Anthony F. Godfrey as Chargé d’Affaires a.i., while the Armenian lobby in US kept blocking Richard Hoagland’s appointment on the post of US Ambassador in Armenia because he allegedly does not sympathize with Armenian causes, the Armenian Genocide issue in particular. Now, as Anthony Godfrey is completing is term of service in Armenia, we are going to have another U.S. Charge d’Affairs in Armenia, instead of a long-anticipated Ambassador – Rudolf V. Perina:

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Rudolf Perina, former OSCE Minsk Group Co-chair was appointed acting U.S. Charge d’Affairs in Armenia. ‘The U.S. Department of State requested retired Ambassador Rudolf V. Perina to assume the post of acting U.S. Charge d’Affairs in Armenia. Mr Perina will take the office July 10,” U.S. Embassy PR Officer Taguhi Jahukian told a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter.
“Richard Hoagland remains the Bush administration designate for the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. We are waiting for confirmation from the Senate,” she said.
Rudolf Perina served as U.S. Special Negotiator for Nagorno Karabakh and NIS Regional Conflicts in 2001-2004.

It is hard to speak about the significance of this appointment, although political scientist Levon Melik-Shahnazaryan has already offered his point of view:

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ “Frankly speaking, I do not know the diplomatic rank of Rudolf Perina. However, he is a really experienced diplomat, professional conflictologist. R. Perina served as U.S. Special Envoy on local conflicts in Eurasia, he was closely involved in the settlement of the Yugoslavian conflict, directly participated in preparing and signing the Dayton Agreement,” political scientist Levon Melik-Shahnazaryan stated to the PanARMENIAN.Net journalist, commenting on Rudolf Perina’s appointment as U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Armenia. According to the political scientist, R. Perina is well aware of problems of Transdnestria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Karabakh. “Most likely, R. Perina’s appointment as U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Armenia is not an evidence for neglecting his knowledge and values, just the opposite, it speaks about the great importance that Washington pays to our region, in particular, to Armenia and NKR,” the Armenian political scientist underscored.

Half-Dressed Women Will Be Forbidden to Enter the Parliament Building

Apparently in an attempt to boost the efficiency of the newly elected Armenian National Assembly, the Parliament building will be closed for reconstruction during the summer holidays: the building will be refurbished and will become fully air conditioned.
One of the changes already noticed by the A1plus is the fact, that open shoulders, dresses without sleeves or open stomachs are already discouraged in the Parliament building – for the NA staff as well as for the journalists.
It seems like an attempt to raise the authority of the NA and raise the efficiency. They will have 4 long years to demonstrate that!

R. KOCHARIAN: ARMENIA'S ACCESSION TO NATO TO REDUCE COUNTRY'S SECURITY LEVEL


Looking at the Foreign and Economic policies carried out by President Robert Kocharian’s administration it’s hard to even think about the possibility of Armenia’s accession to NATO. However, the question was asked to the President at a press conference yesterday, and the response was:

 “The issue of Armenia’s accession to NATO is not on the Armenian foreign policy agenda presently, but we are willing to develop the cooperation with this structure. We already have the Armenia-NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan.
In joining a military bloc, Armenia should consider whether its security level is increased, Kocharian said. He pointed out that Armenia’s accession to NATO will reduce the country’s security level and that the current format of relations between Armenia and NATO is the best one.” /ARKA, 26 June, 2007/

Of course! That’s all I can add!

ACTION PROGRAM OF ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT FOR 2008-2012 TO SOLVE PRIORITY PROBLEMS

Building an efficient management system at all levels was identified as one of the priority problems reflected in the action program of the Armenian Government for 2008-2012, presented by the Armenian Prime-Minister Serge Sargsian in the National Assembly, which was ratified as Tesaket has reported, with “Rule of Law” and “Hairitage” voting against respectfully.
According to ARKA, among the priorities Serge Sargsian pointed out the provision of national security and sustainable development. He also added that the executive authorities should continue the policy of maintaining macroeconomic stability and reducing the poverty. This section especially grabbed my attention:

According to Sargsian, the second priority is to form an efficient management system at all the levels, including the state, local governments and private sector. “Corruption, “shadow” economy, unequal competition conditions – the solving of these problems means providing efficient management and requires changing the technologies, means and methods of management,” Sargsian said. According to him, the government should encourage introduction of corporate management system in the real sector of economy. “This process needs to be started with the state enterprises and enterprises with state involvement: those enterprises should introduce corporate management standards on a mandatory basis,” he said.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister does not mention anything about the widely advertised anti-corruption strategy of the government, neither does he speak of the hackneyed phrase “political will” to fight corruption.
One thing I did like though, was the “laissez fare” approach displayed in the following phrase, although I’m not sure just how persistent the government will be in following it:

Sargsian pointed out that the state should not interfere in the sphere where the private sector is able to provide development on its own. The state system should also refrain from functions that may lead to market deviations.

This might prove dangerous though, considering how dominant the “well-connected” oligarch-businessmen are in this country it might actually mean even less anti-monopoly cases brought about by the respectable state agency against oligarch businesses in the country.

Legislative Initiative to Shut Down Radio Liberty in Armenia


According to Yerevan Press Club expert Mesrop Harutyunyan the
proposed changes to “Law on State Duties ” and “Law on television and radio” are aimed specifically against the RFE / RL(am).
Not going into technical details on how exactly this is reflected in the proposed legislative changes, let us restate the words of the expert, that the Radio Liberty has been one of the best sources for information throughout the Parliamentary elections campaign for a wide range of audience, and such an initiative, which according to the Radio Liberty was put forward by President Kocharian, is undoubtedly related to the upcoming presidential elections in Armenia.
Check out today’s Aravot or RFE / RL(am) for more. The Podcast(am) included with this post is the radio clip from RFE / RL(am) morning report – in Armenian.

Fighting Traffic Congestion with More Congestion

Following the post on Notes From Hairenik about the construction works on several most congested roads of Yerevan, and reading an as usual “angry”-critical article in A1plus about the effects of such construction, I decided to find out what is really going on. The first thing that came to mind was – to see if the Yeravan municipality has a website, and then, see if they have any report on that. Needless to say, that I was sure, that either Yerevan municipality has no website, or there is no mention of the construction works.
But – surprise, surprise!!! The very first thing I tried was to type http://www.yerevan.am in the browser address bar and !Heavens! – it turned out to be the Yerevan municipality website… and which is more – it does have an official press release about the construction works. Now, is this cool or what? I’m happy for you – Yerevan, we’re officially out of Stone Age!
The website is poorly designed, English version doesn’t work, but all the same – it exists and is updated, and… here are extracts from the official press release about the road construction (taken from the website and translated as fast and best as I could):

At the moment construction works have started in the following sections of the city… To ensure safe passage of pedestrians a 56 meter long and 15 meter wide underground passage is being built on the crossroad of Nalbandyan, Isahakyan and Alek Manukyan streets. Transport passage has been stopped in this section to complete the works in time.

The other underground passage which will be 34 meters long and 17 meters wide, is under construction on the junction of Vardanants – Khanjyan streets. As a result one way traffic for automobiles has been organized in this section on the left side of Khanjyan street. One way traffic will be organized also from the Sayat-Nova avenue side of the Tumanyan street to the round-shaped park. A temporary road will function here until the underground works are completed.

Construction works are in progress also on the Khanjyan – Agatangeghos streets and Tigran Mets avenue crossroad. Considering the exceptional levels of congestion in this crossroad a multifunctional underground tunnel-passage is being built here. At the moment one-sided traffic is set up on the section across the “Ayrarat” cinema theatere. One way traffic will also be organized on the section leading from Agatangeghos street to Khanjyan street. As traffic in this section is super-congested, works will be implemented here section by section, in order to not block transportation passage completely.

This is all very good, but for the fact, that the anti-congestion efforts of the municipality have resulted in even more congestion. So now we know what’s going on, but will we be able to survive it all?  Considering the state Komitas is in after two years of ongoing construction works I’m a bit skeptical. I guess we will have to wait about 2 years and see…

Armenian Obsession With "COOL NUMBERS"

I don’t know what is the matter with Armenians and numbers, but if you have a mobile phone or a car, it just has to have a “cool number“, otherwise you’re not a real “APE” (bro), which is like really scarry 😉
It is hard to classify all the modes of this obsession, but here are some basics.

1. Repeated digits – repetition is the “mother of learning”!
2. A lot of zero’s – and not only on the car, but also in the bank account…
3. Ascending or Descending orders – easy to remember!
4. 02-s: used to mean that the owner of the car has connections with the police, so police were not supposed to stop your car.
5. 444 / 777 / 666 – you belong to one of the oligarch clans, I still haven’t figures out which one is which.

So anyway, the picture with this post is the result of 3 minute stroll down the street across my office: its harder to find a car without the cool number then vice versa these days, so I guess I’m gonna change mine to a simple number (right now it is 45LS654).

Russians, Caucasus natives brawl in Moscow; police say right-wing groups sparked fight


[Associated Press Newswires | 23 June 2007 | By MIKE ECKEL ] MOSCOW (AP) – Dozens of Russians brawled with people from the Caucasus and Central Asia in what Moscow police said Saturday was a coordinated attack by anti-immigrant and right-wing activists. Nearly four dozen people were detained and one person was hospitalized.
The violence Friday night was the latest incident involving hate crimes or attacks targeting foreigners in Russia, particularly dark-skinned immigrants from poorer regions and republics of the former Soviet Union. Many Russian regions are plagued by tensions between ethnic Russians and minority groups, especially those from Chechnya and the Caucasus.
Moscow city police spokesman Anatoly Latovetsky said in televised comments that anti-immigrant and right wing activists were behind the running battles that took place Friday in three locations in the Russian capital. The groups specifically targeted people from the Caucasus, such as from Chechnya, Azerbaijan or Armenia, he said.
One ethnic Armenian man was hospitalized with stab wounds, he said.

U.S. Concerned About Armenia's Ties With Iran

“Iran is planning massive investments into the economies of Georgia and Armenia. We’re talkingof 1 billion dollars for Tbilissi and a analogous offer to Yerevan. For your consideration: the total amount of Russian investments in Georgia in 2006 did not exceed 30 million dollars, as to Armenia, after arrangements made by Vladimir Putin will total to 1,5 billion dollars. In case this plan of capital expansion is put to action Iran may become the most influential actor in the region[i.e. South Caucasus] ” writes Kornelij Glas (ru) following reports about US Concerns by Armenia’s energy ties with Iran.
Elaborating on the situation, whereby a senior American diplomat has voiced concerns, that Armenia’s deepening economic relations with neighboring Iran might run counter to international sanctions imposed on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program Armenia blog comments:

Iran has always been our neighbor and if the U.S. wants greater support for its actions, perhaps it can only be warranted by further aid to Armenia to help offset the natural losses that would occur by turning against our friend. Then again, should a conflict arise in the future, Russia and Iran are Armenia’s two true allies and the United States could not be counted upon, in my opinion, to help matters in our favor.

The world is flat, reiterates Thomas Friedman’s concept Nazarian, looking for Armenia’s place in the Globalized world.

I am still unsure of Armenia’s role and contribution to the global economy. It’s a tiny market. Yerevan is a small city of 1 million people; there are dime a dozen of such cities around the world. Add to that the middle class is a small segment of the population that can afford a lifestyle of a Western citizen, and you see why a foreign corporation may not be interested to have an official presence in Armenia let alone have manufacturing operations.

Notes from Hairenik is even more concerned about Armenia’s economy, despite continuous growth rates recorded here, ensuring annual average real GDP growth rates of more than 10% since the late 90’s, quoting the June 19 edition of ArmeniaLiberty.org about statements by the European Bank for Reconstruciton and Development (EBRD) on continued appreciation of the Armenian national currency (dram) and the dire consequences it will have on the economy sooner or later:

I have concluded, although I do not claim to be an economist by any means, that Armenia’s economy is dollar based and probably always has been. Even though dram is being exchanged on the street people still think in dollars and even quote figures keeping the US currency in mind. In the meantime, money I suppose will keep pouring in from foreign remittances but it won’t circulate here. The continued shortage of dollars on the market is a clear indication that something is dreadfully wrong somewhere. And I would not be surprised if Armenia sees a depression in its “booming” economy in the short-term, God forbid. In fact I am expecting it.

Not all Armenian bloggers are pessimistic however. Levon who has just arrived in Armenia after a couple of years of absence, is deeply impressed upon arrival with rapid changes at the aiport as well as in the center of capital Yerevan.
Narjan has reposted extracts from the Reuters article: “The world leader in natural gas vehicles: tiny Armenia”:

The tiny country of 3 million people in the Caucasus mountains has a strong claim to be a world leader in running vehicles on natural gas: a fuel that produces fewer harmful greenhouse gases than gasoline or diesel.
The transport ministry estimates that between 20 and 30 percent of vehicles in Armenia run on gas. That compares to just over 3 percent in the Netherlands, a front-runner in natural gas-powered transport, according to the World LP Gas Association.

Well, even in a “tiny” country people want to live well, and with all these international pressures on Armenia, when all the big guys, including US, Russia, EU and Iran are too much interested in strengthening their influence in this highly strategic location, all we can do is sit and watch our country being tossed about… or is there something we can actually do?

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