NEWS


European Integration Index 2013 Report Released

October 21, 2013

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On October 22nd, at the Congress Hotel Picasso Hall, The Open Society Foundations – Armenia presented the 2013 findings of the European Integration Index for Eastern Partnership Countries. A project of the Renaissance Foundation Ukraine, the goal of the European Integration Index is to measure and compare the pace and progress of European integration reforms for the Eastern partnership countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova & Ukraine, through civil society oversight.

The full report can be downloaded here.

The event began with opening remarks from representatives of the EU Delegation to Armenia and the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with OSF-Armenia Executive Director, Larisa Minasyan and Yerevan Press Club Director, Boris Navasardyan. Joining them was Olga Kvashuk of the Renaissance Foundation Ukraine, who presented a short overview of the European Integration Index initiative and provided a context for presenting country and sector specific index results. Ihor Kohut from the Ukrainian-based Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives, presented the index findings for Ukraine, followed by Boris Navasardayn, who presented Armenia’s index results. Afterwards, a sectoral presentation of Armenia’s index included presentations from David Tumanyan of the Communities Finance Officers Association, who spoke about the quality of public administration, and Arevhat Grigoryan of the Yerevan Press club, who presented the state of democratic institutions. The presentations concluded by analyzing the European integration trajectories, comparing Armenia and Ukraine, and included Stepan Grigorian of the Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, and Ihor Kohut. A public discussion followed the presentations, which invited the participation of civil society and the public at large.

The 2013 findings for the European Integration Index is the third such report. Launched shortly after the Eastern Partnership program, there was initially great hope that the index would provide a valuable tool for European and national policy makers for evaluating their European integration progress, and create an atmosphere of competition among Eastern partnership countries for properly fulfilling their reforms obligations. In reality, the index has produced disappointing results, when measured against the results of the intended reforms. As the recent events surrounding Armenia’s sudden U-Turn towards the Customs Union have demonstrated, however, despite satisfactory index scores in many key reform areas, the index has failed to properly measure the ineffectiveness of the reforms process in Armenia.

The Open Society Foundations – Armenia was established in 1997 to assist democratic transformations and promote the values of an open society, the one characterized by rule of law, democratically elected government, respect for minorities and their rights, vigorous civil society. Towards this end, OSF – Armenia has been supporting numerous projects and activities in the field of civil society, law, education, mass media, information, including publishing, electronic communication, support for libraries, public health, women’s rights, arts and culture. For more information, please visit www.osi.am



Police Monitoring Group Releases 2012 Report

October 17, 2013

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On October 15th, the Public Monitoring Group on detention facilities of the RA Police released its 2012 annual monitoring report at a public presentation, which brought together top ranked representatives from the RA police department and civil society human rights defenders to discuss the state of Armenia’s pre-trial detention facilities and ways to guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms in the police system. This is the 6th annual monitoring report, based on the group’s scheduled and unscheduled site visits, interviews with detainees and expert opinion.

The event was moderated by Artur Sakunts of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, with opening remarks from Hasmik Sahakyan of The Boundaries of Our Rights NGO, who the need to expand the mandate of the monitoring group in order to be able to address the human rights violations in the police system. Avetik Ishkhanyan of the Helsinki Committee of Armenia continued, by presenting the current problems, and stressed the lack of progress over the past 6 years of monitoring in many key areas, from poor detention facilities to continuing instances of torture.

The findings and recommendations of the 2012 report were presented by members of the monitoring group, Nelli Harutyunyan, Artur Harutyunyan, Araik Harutyunyan, and Ani Buniatyan. The results of the monitoring show that the rights of persons kept at detention facilities are primarily violated by investigators at different phases of the police system – from apprehension up to arrest or detention of a person. There have been numerous cases of investigators conducting irregular work that results in an individual’s detention for longer than 72 hours, violating the RA legislation. At all detention facilities the right to communication with the outer world was violated. The right to access to a lawyer was applied only among 10.4% of detainees. Poor sanitary-hygienic and living conditions were registered, including pre-used bed-linens, anti-hygienic toilets, and poor lighting.

Representatives of the police department welcomed the monitoring group’s report and expressed their general desire to take their observations and recommendations into account. They insisted that many of the problems are in fact being addressed in the criminal code reforms process.

Finally, Tigran Yegoryan from the Europe in Law NGO spoke about the challenges in protecting the rights of detainees during the investigations and litigations process. He explained that increasingly, arrests and detentions, especially in administrative violations, are being used for political reasons, such as the temporary clearing of a protest or as an intimidation tactic.

The full report can be accessed here.

The Public Monitoring Group on detention facilities was founded in 2005, with the purpose of monitoring the general conditions of facilities, and detecting cases of inhuman treatment and tortures. The group is composed of representatives from 11 different civil society organizations engaged in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. To learn more about the group, please visit their website at www.policemonitoring.org



Armenia’s Strategic Challenges to Socio-Economic Development

October 17, 2013

 

6852On October 9th, the “Partnership for Open Society” initiative organized a discussion titled, “Armenia’s Strategic Challenges to Socio-Economic Development”. This was the inaugural event within the series, “Armenia at the Crossroads of Development: Toward Europe or Russia?”, which will include public discussions, debates, and events throughout the months of October and November, aimed at better understanding the implications of joining the Customs Union. In attendance were several members of the diplomatic corps, including representatives from the European Union and Russian embassies.

The discussion provided a forum for engaging in informative and constructive dialog on the economic implications of joining the Customs Union. Invited to speak were representatives from the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Finance. While no one from the Ministry of Finance attended the event, the ministry of Economy was represented by the Head of the Trade and Market Regulation Department, Mr. Gagik Kocharyan. Joining him was a team of national experts representing a wide scope of knowledge; Vahagn Ghazaryan spoke about the key differences between the DCFTA and the Customs Union, while Anna Makaryan discussed how Armenia’s current social and economic challenges will be affected under the Customs Union. Finally, Artak Manukyan compared state procurement processes between EU and CU member states. The presentations were followed by a Q&A and open discussion with RA Government officials, politicians, and various European ambassadors and representatives in attendance. As part of a collaborative effort with the Media Center, the event was livestreamed and can be viewed in its entirety below.

The September 3rd surprise announcement by President Serzh Sargsyan that Armenia would be joining the Customs Union, foregoing the EU Association Agreement, has disrupted a four year negotiation and reform process. This decision has long-term and far reaching implications on almost every aspect of social, political, and economic life in Armenia. This sudden U-turn by the Armenian Government has left Armenian civil society with many unanswered questions.

Throughout the month of October, the “Partnership for Open Society” will continue holding public discussions, debates, and events focused on addressing the many unanswered questions about the Customs Union, and will include topics ranging from an assessment of the economic impact, a critical look at the legitimacy of the president’s decision, a discussion on the role of national values, and the ramifications for other European integration processes. The next public event is set to take place on Oct 29th, and will be focus on the decision making process of joining the Customs Union, through the Armenian legal framework.



YES Project Supporting Youth Engagement in Democracy and Human Rights

October 11, 2013

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In September 2013, Jinishian Memorial Foundation launched the “Youth Engaged in Society 2013-2014” (YES) project, funded and supported by Open Society Foundations – Armenia. The goal of the project is to promote the further development of civil society by increasing the knowledge and interest of young Armenians in key issues related to the development of civil society, democracy, and human rights.

Through participatory methods of teaching and learning, the project aims to develop crucial communication and analytical thinking skills that will permit young Armenians to more actively participate in the development of Armenian civil society, today and later in their adult lives.

There are 130 schools involved in this project representing 8 regions of Armenia – Shirak, Lori, Aragatsotn, Kotayk, Gegharkunik, Armavir, Ararat and Syunik, 15 cities – Ashtarak, Aparan, Talin, Artashat, Masis, Armavir, Echmiadzin, Metsamor, Gavar, Vardenis, Sevan, Vanadzor, Abovyan, Hrazdan, Gyumri and 14 village communities – Qarakert, Lernagog, Dalarik, Arteni, Gyulagarak, Urut, Sverdlov, Mets Masriq, Shenavan, Nerqin Bazmaberd, Mastara, Sarnakunq, Brnakot and Shinuhayr. The YES project gives the students an opportunity to learn to debate in a civil manner, to develop critical thinking and express their opinion on different issues.



Armenia at the Crossroads of Development: Toward Europe or Russia?

October 10, 2013

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Throughout the month of October, Partnership for Open Society in collaboration with The Media Center and other key partners will be organizing a series of events, titled “Armenia at the Crossroads of Development: Toward Europe or Russia?”.

The series, which will include public discussions, debates, and media events, is aimed at better understanding the implications of joining the Customs Union, and will include topics ranging from an assessment of the economic impact, a critical look at the legitimacy of the president’s decision, a discussion on the role of national values, and the ramifications for other European integration processes such as education. A team of national experts representing a wide spectrum of opinions will be joined by RA Government officials, politicians, and various European ambassadors and representatives to discuss and debate these and other topics.

The September 3rd surprise announcement by President Serzh Sargsyan that Armenia would be joining the Customs Union, foregoing the EU Association Agreement, has disrupted a four year negotiation and reform process. This decision has long-term and far reaching implications on almost every aspect of social, political, and economic life in Armenia. This sudden U-turn by the Armenian Government has left Armenian civil society with many unanswered questions.

The purpose of this series is to provide a forum for raising these questions with the relevant stakeholders, experts, and policymakers, and to increase the quality of discourse around issues related to this historic decision. The inaugural event of the series will be held on October 9th, at Congress Hotel, titled “Armenia’s Strategic Challenges to Socio-Economic Development” and will focus on economic implications.

Founded in November of 2003, the Partnership for Open Society is an open coalition of over 60 organizations, whose purpose is to support and safeguard democratic reforms in Armenia. For more information, please visit www.partnership.am.


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