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.

Continue reading “ENP report positive for Armenia, despite concerns over March 2008 developments”

Aghvan Hovsepyan gives details of March 1 deaths

E-channel reports some details of the meeting of Peter Semnebi, the special representative of the European Union in South Caucasus with RA General prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan, who has told during the conversation that “8 people have died as a result of the disorders, 1 of them – a policeman – from an explosion of a grenade; 3 have died as a result of the special means applied (according to the initial conclusion of the experts); 4 have died of injuries caused by gunshot wounds. The bullets taken out of the bodies have various calibers, which allows to say that various types of arms have been used during disorders, and the preliminary investigation faces the task of revealing all those circumstances. 265 people have been injured, 210 of them being police officers. 68 cars have been set on fire, 10 objects of private property have been destroyed and robbed, including a pharmacy.”
The prosecutor has also informed Semnebi that “all the arrested and detained persons have been subjected to medical examination while being taken to location for keeping the arrested persons, as well as to criminal executive institutions, and all their injuries have been registered. 12 accused persons have been registered to have injuries, and expertise has been appointed in order to find out how they had been caused.”

Statement of Armenian Civil Society on Elections

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, express our deep concern with the pre-election period, the election campaign and the post-election processes in the country. The assessment of international observers, even though portrayed in a positive light by the government and the government controlled media, was critical. However, the apparent discrepancy between the actual findings of the assessment with the formative first two sentences of the report resulted in the government only referring to this paragraph in the international observers’ assessment in order to legitimize the results of the election. Meanwhile, in the report, international observers pointed out to media censorship, intimidation of voters, vote buying, etc. and called vote count ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ in 16 percent of polling stations visited. Qualifying such practices as a “step forward” and in line with the commitments to hold free and fair elections discredits the notion of democracy and further lowers the standards of democratic reforms. Continue reading “Statement of Armenian Civil Society on Elections”

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

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 “ICG: Nagorno-Karabakh: Risking War”

In Support of Protesters in Myanmar

Although this post may seem irrelevant to the general content of my blog, I can’t stop myself from posting it. My very good friend from Myanmar/Burma has disappeared from my Gtalk contact list for 2 days now. I have been following the developments with the protest of monks with excitement and anxiety, thinking about how every type of dictatorship, even the type that the Generals possess in Burma is doomed. However, after the main internet connection to Myanman was cut down, I realised in depth, that this is not just some philosophical speculation about the importance of democracy and the fight for freedom. There are human lives at stake, and among them, the life of a friend. Apparently, the Generals have ordered internet to be cut, so the world won’t see how they slaughter the protestors. I don’t think anybody can do much in this situation, however, the message I have posted below came on my Facebook account today, and gave me hope, that there is at least somethings that can be done. I find my duty to disseminate this information, and I pray again for all the wonderful people in Myanmar who are struggling for their freedom, lives and future.
A GLOBAL, COORDINATED DAY OF ACTION!
International day of Action
Contact: Burma Campaign UK
[email protected]
We are marching in solidarity with the monks and ordinary people of Burma who are risking their lives for freedom and democracy.
We appeal to the religious and secular communities across the world not to look the other way while the people of Burma cry out for international support.
Saturday 6th October
12 noon – worldwide
More information to follow
*–URGENT UPDATE–*
From internal source: It is heard that the junta has set a plot to assassinate the most senior venerable monks (Sanga Maha Naryaka) tonight as if it is done by the monks involved in the protest. We still have live contacts in Burma. We are getting reports of a massacre at a temple last night, around 200 monks killed. We will try to confirm this as soon as possible. They are arresting and imprisoning monks- so far over 700 have been arrested. They have raided dozens of monasteries. While the regime is stating only 9 have been killed the number is far closer to 200. They have snipers on tops of buildings to pick of the leaders. They are trying to suppress the violence.
We MUST protest! Continue reading “In Support of Protesters in Myanmar”

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

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.

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?

Presidential Vote in NKR conducted

Tesaket has updates on the NKR elections:

Presidential elections in Nagorno Karabakh were held yesterday. The NKR Central Electoral Commission reports that 76.25% of eligible voters took part in the elections. Of the five candidates running for presidency, two – former NSS minister Bako Sahakyan, and deputy minister of foreign affairs, Masis Mayilyan, were considered front runners. Preliminary results show, that as was predicted, Mr. Sahakyan took a comfortable majority, with 87.14% of the vote.
Media reports state of a 93 person international monitoring mission, which has so far reported favorably of the voting process. It is important to remember, however, that since the NKR is not internationally recognized, major international institutions such as the OSCE or the EU did not, in any major extent participate in monitoring the elections. It appears that mostly representatives of several CIS and former socialist countries as well as breakaway republics such as Northern Osetia and Transdniestria constituted to this mission.
So far there are no reports of the four other candidates’ responses to Bako Sahakyan’s apparent landslide victory. It is most likely that criticism of the vote from inside the NKR will be limited, with many parties and structures in the country having declared support for Mr. Sahakyan well before the polls.

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