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!


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!

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…

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?

Who is the next president?

Taregir electronic daily has published the intermediary results of the SMS voting organized to determine voter sympathies of potential Presidential Candidates for February 2008 Presidential Elections in Armenia. So far Levon Ter-Petrossian, the First President of the Third Republic of Armenia is winning an overwhelming (348 votes, next closest is Vazgen Manukyan with 50 and Raffi Hovhannisyan with 32 votes). The results are true for 20.06.07, 19:00, the voting is still in progress.

Democracy Degrading in Armenia in 2006 According to The Freedom House

“Freedom House” international human rights organization released its annual “Nations in Transit” report this week. The title of the report is somewhat misleading however, as the figures and data are all about the 2006. But anyway, here’s a link to the Country Summaries(pdf) and Armenia – Country Report section(pdf).
We can see from the first document, that while Georgia has improved its score from 4.86 to 4.68 (the smaller the figure, the better it is for democracy), Armenia and Azerbaijan have both degraded instead. The democracy score of Armenia has gone down from 5.14 to 5.21, and for Azerbaijan it has moved from 5.93 down to 6.00. Here’s the short summary for Armenia:

Little progress was made on redistributing power amongst government branches. Rather, consolidation of political power in the ruling party and elites paved the way for a continued grip on political and economic power during 2007 parliamentary elections. The government’s failure to investigate allegations of fraud during the 2005 referendum, and its inability to produce legislation putting into effect approved amendments, demonstrated the lack of political will to improve governance in Armenia. While media organizations were partially successful in influencing a change in Armenia’s licensing regime and a new regulatory body, accelerated attacks on journalists suggested an increasingly difficult media environment in the run up to 2007 elections.

Of course we have yet to see what the report will say about the Parliamentary Elections 2007 in Armenia, which were recognized as Free and Fair by a number of observation missions. I guess we will see some positive changes in the figures in Freedom House’s report next year. Let’s prey, that its not just the figures improving, but lives of people here in Armenia. So far I’m rather skeptical…

What would we do without Raffi?

[18 June, 2007 | A1plus ] Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the Heritage Party and the newly-elected NA deputy, has put forward his candidature at Precinct 15.
Considering the fact, that Hairitage Party only collected 2022 votes on May 12, 2007 Parliamentary elections, I don’t think Raffi really hopes to win the sit here, and this is probably more of a PR move then anything else.
More importantly though, this is a win win situation for Raffi and Hairitage as a whole. If he does win – well, he wins. If he doesn’t, he’ll get a lot of extra publicity, will show a real fighter attitude and demonstrate, that he is the only real opposition. So you see, this is a really smart move. Bravo Raffi, thank you for making our lives a little more interesting, otherwise these bloody elections have left quite a bitter taste in me.

South-Caucasus: an artificial and unnecessary construct

Wikipedia defines South Caucasus (also referred to as Transcaucasia or Transcaucasus) as the southern portion of the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia, extending from the Greater Caucasus to the Turkish and Iranian borders, between the Black and Caspian Seas. All of Armenia is in Transcaucasia; the majority of Georgia and Azerbaijan, including the exclave of Naxçivan, fall within this area.
Reading a rather boring article on Hetq today about the future of Armenia, I couldn’t help but single out this really interesting paragraph:

Many people speak today about how the South Caucasus is an artificially created region, where the member countries have differing (and sometimes opposing) interests and wishes. Will it unite in the wake of other countries’ entry into the region, or the region’s desire to be part of broader international bodies? Or will it break down as a result of centrifugal forces?

As someone heavily involved in regional media projects over the past 4-5 years I know just how artificial and sometimes challenging it is to try and put the three countries + the bulk of unrecognized countries of this region into one bowl and make sense of it.
We know from history, that the territories described as South Caucasus have been unified as a single political entity twice – during the Russian Civil War (Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic) from 9 April 1918 to 26 May 1918, and under the Soviet rule (Transcaucasian SFSR) from 12 March 1922 to 5 December 1936 (Wikipedia). But as everything artificial, it has twice fallen apart, and I don’t see why and how they could be united again.
Thinking of why this region has come to being a region at all I can only conclude, that as a meeting point between 3 main powers since the 17th century: Russia, Turkey, Iran, this region has acquired a common identity of being a battleground. Today even this reality has changed (although today the region is a battleground of many more interests, including those of Russia, US, UK, Turkey, Iran, British Petrolium, Islam and Christianity…), and looking from a fresh new perspective I don’t see any reason, why these 3 recognized and at least as many unrecognized states should be tied together under the common name.
I hereby state, that we have nothing in common: geographically we are on different continents (Georgia – mostly Europe, Armenia – Asia, Azerbaijan – both Asia and Europe), different ethnicities, different languages, religions, identities, cultures and policies. The world however, continues to refer to us as a common region, perhaps looking at the common history of the people living here, although that history does more to pull us apart, then bring together.
And so we are all stuck together, in this endless marriage of hate and the common label “Faces of Caucasian Nationality”(лица Кавказкой национальности) made by our “big friends” or rather “big enemies” – the Russians.

Traditional Media Going for Blogging

I just want to announce the creation of two important blogs both in Armenian: the E-channel blogs and the A1plus blog. As I have direct involvement in both of these blogs, I’ll try to not pay too much attention to their content. However, the fact is – traditional media in Armenia are ready to embrace blogging. Yerkir Media have told me, that they are also interested in setting up a blog, I’m talking to a couple of other media people, but don’t want to go ahead and announce it just yet.
Below are banners for both these blogs. If anyone is interested in banner exchange, please let me know.

A1plus blog Echannel blog Panorama.am blog

Update: Via Kornelij I also found out, that Panorama.am have also launched a blog, again in Armenian.

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