MCA Stakeholders' Committee Elections 2007 Announced


Following the General Assembly of the Interested Organizations dated on September 4,2007, the Millenium Challange Account – Armenia is announcing the Stakeholders’ Committee Elections 2007. The Stakeholders’ Committee plays an important role in the structure of the MCA-Armenia Program, contributing to its efficient implementation and provision of transparency and publicity.
Of the 15 working members at the moment, 4 will continue to carry out their responsibilities for the second year (for more details see the Mechanism for the election of Civil Society Representatives). MCA is calling these elections to fulfill the mandates of the remaining 11 Civil Society representatives.

For participating at the Stakeholders’ Committee elections you should follow the 5 steps described below:
1. Review the Elections Procedure
2. Fill in the Application Form, which should be signed by the head of the organization and sealed by the organization stamp. Copies of the organization Charter and state registration certificate, as well as the brief biography of the organization representative should be attached to the application form.
3. Submit the Application to the MCA-Armenia Office or send to [email protected] mail address not later than September 14, 2007, 6 p.m. and get a receipt.
4. Be informed about the approval of the application by the election committee ;
5. Be present at the voting to take place at the American University of Armenia (Baghramyan Ave. 40, Yerevan) on September 29, any time between 9 am to 6 pm.

Good Luck.

Further information and relevant documents can be found here.

Cyberwar Chronicles: Another Hack-Attack on Armenian Websites

Uzogh reports, that that there has been another hack attack by Azerbaijani hackers on a number of Armenian Websites hosted on the Web.am server. Web ISP is one of the largest Internet Service Providers in Armenia. I have always been quite skeptical about the quality of web-hosting services the company provides, however, today my skepticism turned into open rage when I discovered, that the Echannel blog, which I am administering, was also among the websites affected by this new hack. Further updates from Kornelij Glas and Uzogh tell us, that the Web ISP have closed the holes on their servers exploited by hackers/script kiddies initiating the attack, who according to Uzogh hang out at the SecurityLab.az forum. This is not the first such attack this year, in fact, both Kornelij Glas and Uzogh, as well as Oneworld Multimedia have covered earlier attacks against Armenian websites. It seems more like a Cyberwar, then anything else, although this year it has mostly been one-sided, pushed by the Azerbaijani hackers. The way attacks have been conducted so far speak more about poor Internet Security practices on the Armenian side, then of any special hacking skills of the attackers. Moreover, from what I know of the Azerbaijani websites, paying them back with the same coin should not be very difficult. This however, leads to an important question – which is the best, most reasonable response to these attacks? And what could be done to end them. As Uzogh rightly noted during our phone conversation, there is no point in going after and hacking the website of say Zerkalo newspaper in Azerbaijan. That won’t do the attackers of the Armenian websites any harm, and will instead escalate the situation even further and cause some decent, hard working IT manager sweat for hours to try and fix the problems and errors. But then, we can’t just sit back and do nothing, can we?
PS: Here’s the list of webpages known to be affected by this attack (the crossed over links have been already fixed):

http://banks.am/eng/efeler.htm
http://auto.am/ceasar/images/editorial/a.php
http://elections2007.am/ru/efeler.html
http://levonabrahamian.am/engine/pics/efeler.html
http://armilmed.am/img/work/efeler.html
http://xorenaci.am/chat/uploaddir/efeler.htm (DNS не отвечает)
http://ayl.am/upload/image/efeler.htm
http://arenicountry.am/arm/images/efeler.htm
http://vaykgroup.am/ru/efeler.htm
http://www.izoton.am/images/ins/efeler.htm
http://artbymovses.com/prog/gallery/1/efeler.htm
http://atp.am/img/part/efeler.htm
http://phoneshop.am/warez/efeler.htm
http://noy1877.am/images/efeler.htm
http://araratcement.am/xmbagrelcement/model_admin/model_images/efeler.htm
http://echannel.am/blogs/wp-content/uploads/efeler.htm
http://chessacademy.am/Temp/efeler.htm
http://acsti.am/book/images/efeler.htm

Russian Mobile Operator MTC Interested in Acquiring VivaCell

Yerkir-Media reports that the Russian Mobile Services Operator MTC is interested in Armenia and the probability of buying “K-telecom”(i.e. Vivacell) is very high, according to the statement made by the President of MTC Leonid Melamed after the board meeting of the company held on September 4th.
Russian experts have estimated “K-telecom’s” price at 500-600 million US dollar. Even with my utter disappointment with the US Dollar exchange rate as of lately, I have to admit this is a huge figure, and VivaCell is well worth it.
Following the purchase of Armentel by Russian Vimpelcom this heightened interest towards the Armenian telecom market may result in leaving the whole of Armenia’s telecommunication industry in the hands of Russians. Is it good or bad for us? Well, I guess it is good, as Russians have cash, a lot of it, and looks like their interested (or maybe President Putin is artificially stimulating that interest?) in the Armenian market. And while Russian companies are far from being world leaders in providing high-quality telecom services or pioneers in technological innovation, the initial steps undertaken by VimpelCom make it look much better then the Greek OTE, the previous owner of Armentel. Still I have this gut feeling, that giving only one country – and especially a country like Russia renowned for its use of economic levers to reach political results, full control of a strategic resource like the telecommunications sphere, is dangerous… very, very dangerous indeed!

EU: Neighborhood Policy Focuses On Economics, Not Membership

The EU/Armenia action plan document, accessible from this ENP page, states, that by joining the ENP “Armenia is invited to enter into intensified political, security, economic and cultural relations with the EU, enhanced regional and cross border co-operation and shared responsibility in conflict prevention and conflict resolution.”
Politicians from a lot of ENP countries, especially from Ukraine and Georgia, but also from Armenia as well, have been quite apt on selling the idea of ENP as a first step to EU membership, and promising economic benefits, Shengen visa and work permits in Europe for everyone, etc.
However, the message delivered to the ENP countries at the September 3, 2007 conference in Brussels was clear: economic cooperation — yes; membership — no.
This RFE/RL article has an interesting coverage of the high-level conference on the EU’s Neighborhood Policy, bringing together ministers and senior officials from all 27 EU member states and the 16 ENP countries.
Economic Focus of cooperation has dominated the agenda at the conference, along with clear signals, that ‘All Neighbors are Equal’ and that EU membership aspirations of the neighbors especially from the European parts of the Former Soviet Union are groundless.

Instead, the EU is keen to capitalize on practical matters of mutual interest. Its current priorities for cooperation with the neighbors are economic integration, energy cooperation, increased travel and work opportunities, and increased financial and technical assistance. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner underlined the bloc’s economic ambitions. “Our vision is of an economically integrated area, which spans the whole of the European Union and its closest European and Mediterranean partners,” she said. “An area where goods, services, and capital move freely.

Armenia has been taking an eagerly reserved attitude towards the ENP from the start. We’ve been a motivated partner for the EU so far, but I haven’t seen any Armenian official declaring about Armenia’s ambitions to become an EU member in the near future. We know, however, that our “more democratic” and “more European” peers: Ukraine and Georgia, have been daydreaming about Europe, and shouting about it on every occasion. As Mr Rasmus Wiinstedt Tscherning, Senior Consultant from the Centre for Experience Economy, Business & Market Development told us during his presentation at the European Commission in Brussels this March, the attitude of Armenia towards the EU, and the expectations from the ENP displayed by Armenian officials, is more acceptable for the EU, compared to the blind rush towards the EU Membership, that Ukraine or Georgia are displaying. The RFE / RL has an interesting paragraph, dealing with the issue:

Barroso explained that without regional distinctions, the ENP remains free from the vagaries of the “special interests” of different EU members as they rotate the bloc’s presidency among them.The evolving consensus within the EU is clearly skewed against further accessions, partly as a result of previous enlargements. Correspondingly, the EU is now putting less emphasis on political reforms and rights standards, which are crucial for candidate countries. Political standards were not raised by any of the EU headline speakers today.

This is indeed something new in EU’s approach to the post-soviet ENP members, Armenia among them. It is no secret, that a large section of priorities and responsibilities assumed by Armenia in the EU / Armenia action plan deal with democratic reforms and human rights. The Action plan has so far served as a serious tool in the hands of both the Civil Society in Armenia and the International Community to advocate democratic development in the country. It remains to be seen what will the consequences of this new signal – economic cooperation and development, instead of democracy and future political integration with the EU mean for Armenia. I wonder, will the promise of only economic cooperation be enough to drive further democratic change in Armenia, or does it mean the end of it?

MIAK Party Going Openly Pro-Government: The Young, The Perspective Finding Their Way

MIAKFollowing Bekaisa’s post and a link left in the comments section by Kornelij to Day.Az report, I went to the more verifiable source about MIAK Party – their website to double check the information about the appointment of MIAK General Secretary Levon Martirosyan as the assistant to RA Prime-Minister Serge Sargsyan.
This is actually quite old news, which I had missed because of going to vacation. And I wouldn’t really be interested to cover it, if I didn’t remember the post made by Notes From Hairenik back in April entitled –  New kids on the political block. Recounting his meeting with Levon and Davit from MIAK, Christian Garbis says:

They have “Western” style ways of thinking, which I cannot necessarily describe all too well but is obviously familiar to me, just by the way they express themselves openly and frankly rather than beat around the bush as most potential or supposed full-fledged Armenian politicians do. Basically I could not get much of an explanation as to what their specific agenda is as they do not really have one yet.

Well looks like they have one now – and the agenda looks strictly pro-government. It also seems to me (following the report about former “Orinats Yerkir”, young-careerist, political-renegade Samvel Farmanyan’s joining MIAK), that Serge Sargsyan has promised a number of important government posts to MIAK – enough to satisfy all of those in the party, plus the new-comers like Samvel.
I can’t say I like MIAK, or that I ever did, especially once I look at my former posts about the party. However, as Samvel Farmanyan told me after joining MIAK – there is a choice between sitting back, doing nothing and criticizing all and everyone, or joining a “real force and making a change”. It only remains to be seen whose well being that change will affect – right now I have the feeling, that MIAK are only after their own careers and well being, but perhaps we should do them justice and wait at least a little bit longer.

High Profile Fight in the Center of Yerevan

In an incident several days ago, the bodyguards of Gagik Tsarukyan and Ashot Aghababyan, a republican legislator and owner of a large trade fair, engaged in a fight in the center of Yerevan. This appears to be the result of an argument around what has been described as “inappropriate parking”. Reports in the media claim that the fight went on for around twenty minutes, with police having arrived, but failing to intervene. It is also reported, that President Robert Kocharyan’s chief of security, Grisha Sarkisyan, arrived at the scene, and mediated an end to the fighting.
Spokespeople for Mr. Aghababyan and Bargavach Hayastan (the party led by Mr. Tsarukyan) have denied the incident, with reports from Mr. Aghababyan’s side going as far as to claim, that he and his bodyguards were absent from the country at the time of the incident.
According to speculation this latest incident is a follow up to other cases involving Mr. Tsarukyan’s security force. In particular, earlier this month, two of his bodyguards were detained in connection to the killing of a Russian officer serving in Armenia, after it was found, that the weapon used in the incident, was registered to Mr. Tsarukyan’s Multi Group.

Armenia's Population 3,223.7THS on July 1, 2007

Interesting facts and figures releazed by Armstat, which I’m publishing despite the horrible translation by ARCA. By the way – I treat any information presented by the Armenian Statistical Service with great reservations.

YEREVAN, August 1. /ARKA/. By July 1, 2007, Armenia‘s population had reached 3,223.7ths. The RA Statistical Service reports that Armenia‘s urban population had reached 2,066ths people and rural population 1,157.7ths people.
Armenia‘s capital has the largest population – 1,105ths. The Shirak and Armavir region have a population of 280,000 each. The population of the Vaiots Dzor region is 55,800 people.
Citizens of employable age made 65.8% of Armenia‘s population (16-62 years for males, 16-59 years for females). Citizens younger than 16 constitute 21.7% of Armenia‘s population, and citizens over the employable age 12.5% According to the official information, 521 old people and children under aged 0-15 are per 1,000 people of employable age.

There are some important figures to note here: it turns out, that each two working age individuals in this country have to sustain at least one more person: a child or an old man. That is pretty good, but I wonder how will it all evolve considering the negative growth rates of the population and its aging, as well as steady outflow of working age population to Russia, Europe and Ukraine in recent years?

Armenian Public Radio Refuses To Re-Sign Contract For RFE/RL Programs

Radio Liberty is finished – and that is a fact of life. I guess – all we can do now is – fight, kick and curse, demonstrate, and at least hope for the online version of Radio LIberty.
I sometimes wonder – just how much worse can it get? It seems there’s no end to the downward movement of democracy in this country. Like a good friend told me today – if you start in Yerevan, and drive strictly south, how can you ever expect to get to Paris?
We are officially a dictatorship today – and I have no strength left inside to believe, that there is even a slight chance of democracy in this country anymore.

Statement by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
(Washington, DC–July 24, 2007) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and its oversight agency, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), expressed dismay at Armenian Public Radio’s rejection of a new contract to continue carrying programs of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
RFE/RL Armenian programs have been aired on Armenian Public Radio — Armenia’s top radio network — since 1998, where they have earned the trust of a significant number of listeners. Survey data shows that 15 percent of Armenian adults listen to RFE/RL programs each week.
Three days of discussions in Yerevan, Armenia last week between U.S. and Armenian broadcast officials ended without agreement on a new contract to replace one that had lapsed in February.
“Our delegation was asked to go to Yerevan to iron out some minor technical issues and conclude a contract to extend this successful partnership,” said BBG Chairman James K. Glassman. “All these issues were resolved. Our delegation was told there are no deadlines, and no threat was made to take RFE/RL programs off Public Radio. Yet the contract remains unsigned, and our offers to make payment were refused. It seems clear that whatever is holding up an agreement has nothing to do with legal, contractual, or technical issues.”
“We value our relationship with Armenian Public Radio,” added Glassman, “and certainly want it to continue. We look forward to signing the contract, and making all payments stipulated in the contract, as soon as our partners in Armenia tell us they are ready.”
The Armenian parliament on July 3 did not adopt amendments to the country’s media regulations that would have banned RFE/RL and other foreign broadcasters from public airwaves. One week later, Armenian Public Radio indicated that it planned to stop RFE/RL broadcasts on August 9, citing contractual and payment issues. Last week’s visit to Armenia by RFE/RL and BBG contracting officials was intended to resolve these issues.
“The potential end of our very fruitful relationship with Public Radio has no economic or other legitimate justification,” said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. “Armenians go to the polls in eight months to choose their next President, and therefore it is particularly important that RFE/RL’s broadcasts, which are widely respected for their accuracy, objectivity and timeliness, reach the largest possible audience. Our coverage of the May 12 parliamentary elections was singled out for praise by OSCE observers for its balance and thoroughness.”
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service has been on the air since 1953 and produces more than three and one half hours of Armenian-language programming daily in Prague and its Yerevan Bureau. Armenian Service programming is available via satellite, local affiliates and the Internet, at the service’s website http://www.azatutyun.am and at http://www.rferl.org; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found on the RFE/RL website, at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/armenia.html

Public Ecological Coalition: Appeal to Yerevan Residents


Dear Fellow Citizens,
Public Ecological Coalition invites you to participate in an open-air press conference and action to be held
on Thursday, July 26, 2007 at 6 pm, in the Opera garden area by the Arno Babajanyan Statue.

We are against all the actions which cause ecological disaster in our city. The greediness of our “elite” is beyond measure. The construction business has purposefully destroyed the green areas and the historical and cultural monuments of the city for the latest decade, turning it into an asphalt-concrete desert. Continue reading “Public Ecological Coalition: Appeal to Yerevan Residents”

450,000 Tourists To Visit Armenia by Late 2007

YEREVAN, July 23. /ARKA/. 450,000 tourists are expected to visit Armenia by late 2007, and this will guarantee 20% growth in the sphere. According to Mekhak Apresian, Head of the Tourism Department, RA Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, a 25% increase in the average annual number of tourists’ visits has been recorded since 2001. Particularly, in 2005, 318,000 tourists visited Armenia against 381,000 in 2006.
Looking for something more interesting then figures for Armenian tourism sector, I found this article on the “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” Newspaper, about the newly opened Windsurfing club in Sevan, which was opened by RA President Robert Kocharian himself, no wonder it got into the “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” Newspaper 😉
The main building of the club can host 50 people, while 60 are already learning windsurfing in the newly opened club free of charge. I would question why would Hayastan All-Armenian Fund spend 257 million drams on something so silly as windsurfing, and why would the state budget pay for the maintenance fees for the club: these are all details which “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” Newspaper is gladly informing us about, without asking these questions which literally jump into ones face.
But then again – I really like the idea of windsurfing on Sevan, so this time I will just shut up and say, hmm, it’s not such a bad idea after all!

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