ENP report positive for Armenia, despite concerns over March 2008 developments

The progress report on implementation of the European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan by Armenia has been released. The document has a generally positive assessement of Armenia’s performance. The memo released on this occasion lists the following major points:

In general, Armenia has demonstrated a strong commitment towards the implementation of the ENP Action Plan, despite some initial delays caused by Parliamentary elections in May 2007 and internal coordination issues.

Good progress was achieved in particular in the areas of judiciary reform , the administration of elections and the Ombudsman institution. Of key importance for 2008 will be proper implementation of recently adopted legislation.

International observers have concluded that the conduct of the February 2008 Presidential elections was mostly in line with international standards. There are however concerns with regard to the declaration of the state of emergency in the aftermath of the elections and related to clashes between police and opposition protesters. The situation has shown that – despite progress achieved in 2007 regarding respect for human rights and rule of law – there is a necessity for further improvement.

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International Media Neglecting Armenian Election?

With only six hours to go till the polling stations close in Armenia, the international media seem to be largely uninterested in the developments here, with very basic coverage of the elections only available from major international news agencies, as well as the BBC and Euronews.

The elections are largely described as a transfer of power from outgoing leader Robert Kocharyan to his ally and prime minister Serzh Sarksyan. All international media reports point to economic growth, as the main factor in favor of Serzh Sargsyan – described as the clear frontrunner, although some point to doubts about the validity of the polls indicating Prime Minister’s high rating.

The BBC describes the Armenian elections as “fiercely-contested”, resulting from the dramatic comeback of Armenia’s former President Levon Ter-Petrosian as an opposition candidate.

Bloomberg is mostly concentrating on the possibility of street protests by the opposition over raising concerns that the vote may be rigged.  The information service points to the fact, that Armenia is under pressure from U.S. and the European Union to strengthen its democracy at a time when it is receiving hundred of millions of dollars in aid, indicating, that there have already been charges against the authorities by the main opposition challenger Levon Ter-Petrossian of government attempts to control the vote and ensure Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan’s victory.

Reuters also notes, the opposition claims, that the campaign has been unfair, and predicts street protests, as in the case of previous elections in Armenia which “have been followed by mass opposition protests alleging ballot fraud. However, the news service notes the polls, which “give Sarksyan a lead over the rest of the field, led by former former speaker of parliament Artur Baghdasaryan and Levon Ter-Petrosyan, a former president who was forced to resign in 1998 but is now seeking a comeback, and quotes Sarksyan saying:”
If there is a second round I would prefer to fight against Levon Ter-Petrosyan”.

Euronews is highlighting the fact, that “failure of the opposition to unite around a single candidate has boosted Sarksyan’s chances”, and predicting, that upon election “Sarksyan will have to deal with the so-called “frozen” conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh”.

The “Nagorno-Karabakh” perspective is also covered by Agence France-Presse, which also indicates, that Serzh Sarkisian, seen as the fruntrunner, is likely to  follow in Kocharian’s footsteps if elected — pursuing close ties with Moscow and maintaining a hawkish stance in relations with neighbouring Azerbaijan and Turkey.

in Armenian

“There’r no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue”: Armenian Foreign Minister

“Russia Today” satelite and internet channel has broadcast an exclusive interview with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on December 6-th, at 20:30 and December 7th, at 00:30. The interview, where minister Oskanian stresses, that the conflicting sides are very close to finding a solution to the issue, and that a military solution is not possible at this point, is available in a streaming video format from Russia Today’s website.

ICG: Nagorno-Karabakh: Risking War

The International Crises Group have published a report on Nagorno-Karabakh, where they warn Azerbaijan and Armenia to “halt their dangerous arms race and restrain their belligerent rhetoric and instead renew efforts to find a negotiated settlement for the Nagorno-Karabakh region”.

While I have serious reservations as to on what authority does this international NGO find it suitable to come in with its advice on a tangled issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, especially as from the media release referenced above one get’s the opinion, that it is a pure territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the issue of self-determination by the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians has nothing to do here, demonstrating either a deliberately anti-Armenian position by the ICG or else – a gross misunderstanding of the situation. Continue reading

Politics of The Armenian Nuclear Power Plant

The Republic of Armenia identifies the need to implement reforms focused on individual branches of industry and sets the following priorities:

– to pursue greater energy independence through a diversification of energy supplies and production, the creation of new sources of energy, including nuclear energy, and to develop a stable and reliable export-oriented energy system;

National Security Strategy of the Republic of Armenia
National Security Strategy
of the Republic of Armenia

Fear of the return of dark years in 90’s, when there was no electricity in the country in many ways defines the domestic and foreign politics in Armenia today.

The dark days, conditioned by war, economic collapse and severe blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey as well as lack of infrastructures to compensate the negative consequences of the blockage via energy import routes through Iran and Russia (through Georgia), followed the closure of the Soviet-build Metsamor nuclear reactor, located about 30 kilometers west of capital Yerevan and taken out of operation after the devastating earthquake of 1988. The Nuclear Power Plant returned to service in 1995, and although it currently supplies only 40 percent of the country’s power, for many people its possible closure is directly associated with the darkest days in Modern Armenian history. It won’t be an exaggeration to state, that there is no single politician who would risk bringing up the issue of shutting down the Metsamor NPP without being thrown out of politics altogether.

Having this background it is not much of a surprise to hear, that Armenia has refused 200 million Euro EU loan for shutting atomic plant (Yahoo! Finance, AP| Sep 25, 2007). PanARMENIAN.Net reports: “The European Union’s stand on the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is clear: it should be closed, European Commission’s Acting Director for Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia, Mr Gunnar Wiegand told a news conference in Yerevan.” Even if the amount were twice as big, it would be hard to explain to Mr Gunnar Wiegand and the EU just how much the NPP means to Armenia, and why no alternative energy sources can compensate the political significance of the Metsamor reactor at this point.

And it is not just the dark years and energy security behind the reluctance to give up the NPP – it is a major strategic resource. A simple look at what Iran is suffering to establish its right for possessing nuclear technology would have been enough for Armenians to stand up and say – no way, we are not giving up our Nuclear Power Station!

Photo by PanARMENIAN.Net