By Emil Danielyan
The European Union has disbursed the third and final installment of its annual 9.5 million-euro ($11.4 million) subsidy to Armenia’s state budget, the Finance and Economy Ministry in Yerevan announced on Tuesday.
The announcement coincided with the start of President Robert Kocharian’s visit to Brussels where he is due to meet with senior EU officials.
The 4 million-euro tranche is part of the EU’s Food Security Program (FSP) for impoverished former Soviet states. It is included in the Armenian government’s budgetary expenditures projected for this year.
A Finance Ministry statement said the EU funds will continue to be primarily channeled into government agencies dealing with agriculture, social security and national statistics. Official Yerevan expects to receive another 9.5 million euros within the FSP framework next year, the statement said. It added that the government and the EU executive, the European Commission, will soon begin discussions on a corresponding agreement.
The Armenian budget, still very dependent on external assistance, has received a total of 67 million euros since the FSP’s launch in 1996.
The budgetary grants are only a fraction of various forms of assistance provided to Armenia by the European Commission over the past decade. Most of the aid has come under the EU’s TACIS program aimed at cushioning short-term negative effects of economic reform in the former Soviet Union.
The overall amount of EU assistance given to Armenia since independence stood at 330 million euros as of late last year. In addition to that, the country received about 170 million euros directly from EU member states during the same period.
The EU aid, which is likely to total roughly 40 million euros this year, will be a key focus of Kocharian’s meetings in Brussels with European Commission President Romano Prodi, European Parliament Speaker Pat Cox and a string of other top EU officials. The talks are scheduled for Thursday.
Kocharian is also scheduled to meet King Albert II of Belgium and NATO’s outgoing Secretary General George Robertson during the four-day “working visit.”
Armenian diplomatic sources told RFE/RL earlier that Kocharian did not receive any official invitations from Brussels and himself initiated the trip.