The European Union said on Monday that it will not cut funding for Armenian civil society groups despite the alleged embezzlement of some of its grants that has led to the arrest of a senior EU staffer in Armenia.
Marine Papian, the grants program coordinator at the EU Delegation in Yerevan, was arrested late last month on charges of misappropriating what Armenia’s Investigative Committee called a “particularly large amount of money.” Over a dozen other Armenian nationals were earlier charged with embezzlement and fraud as part of the same probe.
Three of them were arrested in March 2016. The Investigative Committee said at the time that they pocketed EU funding for a bogus project that was supposed to be implemented by a youth NGO.
Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation, reiterated on Monday that Papian’s arrest followed an internal inquiry conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), an anti-corruption EU body.The OLAF detected financial irregularities and alerted Armenian law-enforcement authorities about them, he said.
“It is in the objective interests of both sides to deal with this issue seriously,” Switalski told a news conference.
The envoy made clear that despite the corruption case the EU will not revise downwards its long-running financial assistance provided to Armenian NGOs involved in a wide range of activities. “We will continue our substantial assistance because we realize that it is important to Armenia,” he said. “We are not discouraged by such sad cases.”
On April 10, the EU Delegation announced 1.5 million euros ($1.6) in fresh grants to civic groups interested in monitoring the Armenian government’s use of EU economic aid. It launched another grant program worth 2.9 million euros the following day. The scheme is designed to benefit cash-strapped local communities.