By Emil Danielyan
The European Union will provide Armenia this year with 21 million euros ($28 million) in financial and technical assistance stemming from its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) framework, a senior French diplomat said on Tuesday.
Serge Smessow, the French ambassador in Yerevan, said the aid package is designed to facilitate Armenia’s “transition to democracy” by speeding up its economic development, reducing poverty and contributing to better governance. “I am sure that it will have visible and positive consequences for Armenia in the near future,” he told reporters.
The ENP offers EU neighbors committed to political and economic reforms a privileged relationship with the 25-nation bloc. Armenia as well as neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia were included in the scheme in 2005. Each of them signed with the EU a five-year plan of ENP-related actions last November.
In an earlier joint statement, Armenian and EU officials said the plan's successful implementation would result in a “significant measure of economic integration and deepening of political co-operation.” They said this will be contingent on a democratization of Armenia’s political system and an improvement of its government’s human rights record.
Official Yerevan specifically committed itself to holding elections recognized as democratic by the international community. The EU was quick to praise its handling of Armenia’s May 12 parliamentary elections, essentially paving the way for the release of the first ENP assistance.
According to Smessow, most of the planned aid, 16 million euros, will be spent on “professional training” of government officials and other Armenian specialists. The remaining 7 million euros is earmarked for boosting the efficiency of central and local government bodies, he said.
In the words of Raul de Luzenberger, the Yerevan-based acting representative of the EU’s executive Commission, this will be done through their “twinning” with similar government structures in EU member states.
Both Smessow and de Luzenberger further announced that as part of ENP the EU plans to finance regional integration projects relating to energy, transport and environment. They did not give details, saying only that those projects will cover all of the three South Caucasus states.
(Photolur photo: Smessow, left, and de Luzerberger hold a news conference.)