By Atom Markarian
The European Union will continue its assistance to Armenia as long as the country is consistent in pursuing political and economic reforms, Torben Holtze, the top representative of the EU’s Executive Commission to Armenia and Georgia, told the media in Yerevan on Monday.
In a joint press conference with Armenia’s Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian Holtze expressed his satisfaction with the results of recent reforms in Armenia.
The EU official announced that during the next two years Armenia will receive assistance worth about 20 million euros as part of the EU’s Food Security Program.
He added that in late 2004 the Armenian government turned to the European Union with a request to acquire the status of a country with market economy. Now, according to Holtze, the European Commission is studying this issue and will be give a positive solution to it in the near future.
During the last eight years Armenia has received assistance worth nearly 80 million euros from the European Union within the framework of the Food Security Program, spending the sums on assistance to the social sector, agriculture, as well as on the establishment of its cadastre system and national statistical service.
Providing this assistance the EU also sets requirements to recipient countries, and in particular in the case with Armenia it demands that the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant be shut down.
Speaking in Yerevan on Monday Holtze reiterated that requirement.
“The EU is again concerned with the safety of the nuclear plant. It is not simply a policy implemented particularly towards Armenia,” he said, adding that the EU sets similar requirements to other states having nuclear reactors of the first generation, such as, for example, Russia and also new members of the EU.
“The nuclear power plant is a problem of the security of the country’s population, which we will have to address sooner or later,” Holtze stressed.
The EU has long been pressing for Metsamor’s decommissioning, saying that its Soviet-era reactor does not meet European safety standards.
Every year the EU allocates several million euros for the enhancement of safety standards at Metsamor through its TACIS Project.
Holtze said that 5-7 million euros will be allocated for the purpose within the next two years.
Vartan Khachatrian, for his part, stated that Armenia’s Nuclear Power Plant meets all international safety standards and its current condition does not yield to the conditions of the 627 nuclear stations existing in the world.