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, Panarmenian.net
reported October 18. Following the presidential
elections in Azerbaijan, it is expected that the
group will produce new proposals for settling
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
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
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
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
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,
Panarmenian.net 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
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,
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
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.