- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 October 24, 2003 



A Week in Seven Days: Matters that made the media since last Friday .

Minsk Group on the Move: The co-chairmen of the Minsk Group for Nagorno Karabakh, under the umbrella of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), are expected to visit Yerevan November 10, reported October 18. Following the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, it is expected that the group will produce new proposals for settling the conflict.

Hard Pressed:
Armenia ranked 90th out of 166 countries in an index of press freedom compiled by "Reporters without Borders". Arminfo agency reported that Georgia was placed 73rd, the highest of any country in the Commonwealth of Independent States, while Azerbaijan was 133rd. The rating was composed based on a survey, in which journalists, researchers, legal experts and human rights proponents participated

Academic Protest:
Several dozen state-employed scholars demonstrated October 20 against a controversial government decision to hand over their historically famous building in central Yerevan to the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, who wants to build a new official residence, RFE/RL reported.

The protesters accused Catholicos Garegin II of extravagance and vowed to defy eviction orders from the government. The Armenian Church has not yet reacted to the controversy.

Price Promise:
Rumors about possible increases in electric, water and gas services do not correspond to the facts, Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Artur Baghdasaryan told journalists October 20. Arminfo quoted Baghdasaryan as saying that the ruling coalition has not discussed this issue, so no rise is expected from January 2004.The Speaker also stated strong objections to any tariff increases, saying he would present convincing arguments against them if this issue is included in the agenda.

Loan Assistance:
Great Britain's "Oxfam" charitable organization has launched a program in Armenia aimed to help vulnerable sections of the population to improve their living standards through allocated micro-loans, Armenpress reported October 20.

Loans are given at 2 per cent annual interest rate to insecure families, which they are to spend for developing economic activity. Unlike loans from local commercial banks, recipients of Oxfam loans don't have to mortgage any property for receiving the money. Women and extended families are the privileged category for receiving loans.

Ombudsman Created: The National Assembly of Armenia adopted October 21 a Law on Ombudsman, thus fulfilling another of its commitments before the Council of Europe.

Yerkir daily reported that according to the law, the Armenian President, after consulting with the National Assembly's factions and groups, is to appoint an ombudsman for a five-year term. If the proposed constitutional amendments pass, the privilege of appointing an ombudsman will be given to the National Assembly.

Destination EU: President Robert Kocharyan is scheduled to visit Brussels in December to discuss furthering relations between the European Union and Armenia, Yerkir online reported October 21.

President Kocharyan and Heiki Talvetie, the special envoy of the EU for South Caucasus met October 21 to discuss details of the visit. Talvetie briefed the President on the EU's position on cooperation with South Caucasus countries. The parties also reviewed the reforms underway in Armenia, as well the Karabagh confrontation and Armenian-Turkish relations.

More EU Matters:
"Today Armenia has nothing to do but integrate into European structures," Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said at a two-day conference "Armenia on the way to Europe" at Yerevan's Congress Hotel October 21, ARMINFO reported.

The minister noted that Armenia has repeatedly stated its aspiration for integration into Europe. At the same time he pointed out that in spite of the long way the country has passed in this direction "it is only the minimum allowed to enter this way. Armenia became a Council of Europe member in the beginning of 2001 because of this minimum and not because of fulfilling all the necessary commitments," the minister said.

Nuclear Concerns: The exact terms of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP) closing are not fixed yet, European Union (EU) special representative for the South Caucasus Heikki Talvetie said.

Arminfo agency quoted Talvitie as saying that specific EU projects exist for rendering assistance to Armenia regarding closure of the plant. At the same time Talvitie expressed hope that a compromise settlement should be found.
"Armenia cannot all of a sudden close the plant providing the whole republic with energy, there should be specific pre-conditions for it," the EU representative said.

Media Mass:
The First Armenia-Diaspora mass media conference will take place in the Armenian resort town of Tsakhkadzor in November, Arka reported October 21. It is planned to discuss ways of creating an All Armenian information field and perspectives of development. Minister of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanian, representatives of the President's office, Government and Parliament as well as the heads of Armenian and Diaspora mass media will participate.

Bulgaria Calling:
Within the framework of the visit of Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov to Yerevan a program of military cooperation between Armenia and Bulgaria was signed for 2004, reported October 22.

During the meeting the Bulgarian defense minister assured that Bulgaria would do its best to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict when Bulgaria assumes the OSCE presidency in 2004.

Power Broker:
Anatoly Chubais, chairman of the Russian Joint Power Grid RAO Unified Energy System (UES), arrived in Yerevan to sign a protocol on the deepening of Armenia-Russian energy cooperation, Arminfo reported October 23.

Armenia and Russia earlier signed a protocol according to which Armenia handed over to a subsidiary of UES the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant, the Razdan thermal power plant and the complex of five hydroelectric power plants.

Chubais said that the priority of his companies in Armenia is to promote the country's integration into a united energy system covering the Commonwealth of Independent States. Then it would be possible to consider exports of electricity to third countries, including Turkey.

World Bank Team Begin Loan Talks:
A team of senior officials of the World Bank have arrived in Yerevan to discuss the next four-year strategic program to assist the Armenian Government to continue the reform process, Armenpress reported October 23.

Members of the team met Armenian officials and said later that the program is focusing on the poverty reduction strategy with the assistance of international donor organizations.


According to Agnes
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  Photos of the week
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Click on the photo above to enlarge.

Surviving members of the legendary Ararat football team were reunited Friday October 24 for a match to mark the 30th anniversary of their Soviet league
championship and cup double-winning season in 1973. The team played an all-star former Soviet national side at Yerevan's Hrazdan stadium.



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