The European Union announced on Friday the disbursement of 77.5 million euros ($91 million) in fresh financial assistance to Armenia which it said will support “bold reforms” promised by the country’s government.
“This new assistance package confirms the commitment of Armenia and the EU to further strengthen their bilateral cooperation,” the EU Delegation in Yerevan and the Armenian government said in separate statements.
They said that the aid package will finance eight concrete projects focusing on agriculture, the fight against corruption, civil service reform, infrastructure upgrades and nuclear safety.
The largest allocation, worth 25 million euros, is to be channeled into rural development. In particular, it will support the creation of more jobs in rural areas and the creation of more agricultural cooperatives, according to the EU Delegation.
Another 21 million euros will be spent on “anti-corruption and civil service reform measures.” Neither statement specified just what the Armenian government will do to reduce graft. Two other projects worth a combined 10.5 euros will contribute to the rehabilitation of Yerevan’s metro and water supply systems.
"The European Union expects that this substantial assistance will lead to bold reforms over the next years,” Traian Hristea, the head of the EU mission in Yerevan, said at a ceremony held in Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s office.
Hristea stressed that Armenia remains the second largest per-capita recipient of EU aid among six ex-Soviet republics covered by the EU’s the Eastern Partnership program.
The program makes those states eligible for far-reaching Association Agreements with the EU. Armenia was on course to sign such a deal in 2013 until President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided to make his country part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. The EU responded by abandoning the planned deal.
A senior Armenian official said late last month that Yerevan is now seeking to negotiate an alternative accord that would contain many political and economic provisions of the Association Agreement.
“My government will do everything to achieve progress in all areas of Armenia-EU relations,” Prime Minister Abrahamian said during Friday’s ceremony.
The EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn reaffirmed the 28-nation bloc’s commitment to “very close cooperation” with Armenia in November. Hahn said the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, will provide Yerevan with up 170 million euros in aid over the next three years.