Statement on the EU assistance to Armenia

2020-06-18 | Eastern Partnership

Statement by

Mr Andrius Kubilius, Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

Ms Gayane Abrahamyan, Head of Armenian Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

On the EU assistance for Armenia to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 crisis, protect democracy and continue reforms necessary to sustain the economic recovery

The Eastern Partnership region is part of Europe and remains as a geostrategic priority for the European Union. The EU has rapidly taken numerous measures to support the Eastern Partnership countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences. Overall, the EU has secured in total more than EUR 3 billion for the whole EU neighbourhood, 962 million of which will be directed to the Eastern Partnership region, including Armenia.

As the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and the Head of Armenian Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, we would like to draw attention to the significant support the EU and its international partners are giving on the ground to assist Armenia with the implementation of reforms, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its social and economic consequences.

Armenia has signed the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU (CEPA) in November 2017, which is growing into an enhanced and strategically reinforced partnership between Armenia and the EU. We hope this partnership will be supported by a comprehensive and enlarged strategic format Trio + with the inclusion of Armenia in the EU Trio Plus Strategy 2030, proposed by the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, while looking into  future of the Eastern Partnership initiative and sustaining its inclusivity. Meanwhile, recognizing the effective implementation of the Armenia-EU Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements, which are important preconditions for the opening of the Visa Liberalization Dialogue (VLD) as referred to in the CEPA, we believe that the next milestone to closer cooperation and increased mobility will be the launch of the VLD with the Republic of Armenia in the near future. 

We believe that the successful implementation of the comprehensive reforms by Armenia, in areas such as the rule of law, justice and fight against corruption, will create new incentives for an ambitious path towards European integration and the next steps to be taken by Armenia and the EU in the next decade. In this respect, we welcome Armenia’s commitment to implement reforms despite the challenging circumstances, including the implementation of CEPA and, in particular, the reforms of judiciary and the police, which the EU will continue to support while addressing the impact of COVID-19 crisis. We see a potential of upgrading this relationship even further together with a strategic communication of Armenia’s achievements.

The EU is a key reform partner and the largest donor in Armenia and it stands together with Armenia in a moment of crisis with strong solidarity and international cooperation. The EU increased its annual average assistance from EUR 40 million to EUR 65 million.

Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, the EU has been reacting fast to the COVID-19 outbreak in Armenia and has mobilised both regional and bilateral assistance packages. The EU’s support will be provided to strengthen Armenia’s health system, in cooperation with the World Health Organisation and to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis in collaboration with the International Financial Institutions.

The Rapid Response Mechanism has already ensured distribution of humanitarian aid packages to over 3000 vulnerable households, including the elderly people, people with disabilities and large families in Shirak, Tavush and Lori regions. Additionally, over 350 school-age children in isolated communities in the three focal regions will gain access to distance learning tools ensuring equal access to educational activities organised by their schools.

Additionally, the EU has committed to provide over EUR 92 million in grants of bilateral support specifically for Armenia, which includes retargeting and acceleration of already allocated funds and funds to be programmed in 2020. They will provide direct support and liquidity to the public and private sectors, including to the most vulnerable.

We are glad to note that the EU is ready to explore further macro-financial assistance should this become necessary. In addition to that, through the cooperation with IFIs, the liquidity and access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises will be provided together with de-risking through guarantees. The EU bilateral investment portfolio in Armenia amounts to over 300 million euros and focuses on supporting the reform agenda, private sector development and infrastructure investment (blending) and more than EUR 1 billion have been invested in energy, agriculture and transport sectors in total in the form of blended loans and grants. The IMF has also increased the current programme for Armenia with the amount of USD 280 million of additional funding. It is expected that in 2020, USD 310 million will be disbursed to Armenia by the IMF to address the challenges linked with public finances.

We appreciate the progress made by Armenia in the area of justice reform. We welcome the EU strong commitment to help Armenia to develop the highest standards of judicial system. In particular, we note with satisfaction a very good cooperation within the justice policy dialogue, which led to the adoption of justice and anti-corruption strategies by Armenia in line with European standards in 2019. In 2020, the new budget support programme will help the reform implementation, especially in the area of integrity checks of judges.

In the coming months, we see huge challenges in managing of COVID-19 crisis, which might have adverse effects on the public and private sectors in Armenia. The pandemic crisis will have a heavy impact on the increase of unemployment and closure of businesses. This will result in higher costs on public finances not only to Armenia, but also to the whole Eastern Partnership region.

It will be the EU’s responsibility to continue supporting Armenia and those Eastern Partnership countries having chosen the path of European integration reforms. We should be looking into a longer-term support by the EU for economic recovery and reforms, and establish a detailed economic and investment plan in the same manner as it is proposed by the EU for the Western Balkans region in the autumn of 2020.

There is a saying that during the crisis you will know who your true friends are. The COVID-19 pandemic is exactly that sort of crisis, reconfirming that the EU is a true friend and partner to Armenia. We are convinced that this partnership has a bright future for both sides: for Armenia and for the EU.