Turkey elects new parliament speaker

Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was elected the country’s new parliamentary speaker in the fourth round and with the covert support of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on July 1 in a sign of possible coming coalition between the two, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Yilmaz received 258 votes while Deniz Baykal, from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), garnered 182 votes in the last round, as none of four candidates from four political parties could attain a simple majority in the third round on July 1.  Only Yilmaz and Baykal remained in the last round as Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat from the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) were eliminated in the third round.

“Our nation has been expecting a new constitution soon from the 25th term of parliament. The economic and democratic level that our country has reached today makes a new constitution an obligation for all of us,” Yilmaz said in his first remarks delivered in parliament after being elected to his new post.

The AKP group provided full support to its candidate in both the third and fourth rounds, but the victory came thanks to the MHP’s decision not to vote for Baykal. The support of the CHP group as well as around 50 votes from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) was insufficient to elect Baykal, the temporary speaker of the parliament, for the country’s number two place in the state protocol.

The MHP’s indirect support to the AKP’s candidate drew fierce criticisms from both the CHP and the HDP, which accused the nationalist party of acting like the crutch of the ruling party. The two opposition party executives also implied that such a composition revealed the potential partners of a coalition government.

World Bank supports exploration of geothermal resources in Armenia

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$8.55 million grant for the Geothermal Exploratory Drilling Project (GEDP) for Armenia. The new project is to confirm whether the geothermal resource at the Karkar field is suitable for power generation and, if confirmed, to involve the private sector in the development of a geothermal power plant.

The objective of the Government is to construct a geothermal power plant at the Karkar site in Sjunik region upon the confirmation of the availability of the resource. Unlike other renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar, and hydro, it is not possible to validate the geothermal resource with sufficient confidence for commercial development without performing exploratory drillings at depth to assess specific parameters of the geothermal field.

The selection of the Karkar site for exploratory drilling is based on field investigation works completed for two prospective sites, which were deemed the most promising by the local and international geothermal experts. The field investigation works at the prospective sites were supported under the Armenia Geothermal Project, financed by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and completed in 2012.

“By investing in exploration that can lead to the first commercial project, we can help build domestic capacity for the development of additional geothermal resources at other prospective sites. The total potential for geothermal power in Armenia is currently estimated at around 150 megawatt,” said Laura E. Bailey, World Bank Country Manager for Armenia. “A successful project of this type will also strengthen the investor confidence that geothermal is a viable and profitable investment opportunity in the country.”

The Government will use Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) resources for Stage 1 of the Karkar geothermal project to carry out the exploratory drilling and, if the resource is confirmed, to assess the feasibility of a geothermal power plant at Karkar and support involvement of the private sector for the full development of the geothermal power project.

Stage 2 of the Karkar project would be the construction of a geothermal power plant. The early-stage analyses suggested that a 28 MW geothermal power plant with a total estimated cost of US$90-100 million could potentially be constructed at the site. The potential geothermal power plant could be developed with a mix of public and private capital. In addition. The development of geothermal power would contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“If adequate geothermal resources are confirmed, then future construction of a geothermal power plant would help the Government to meet the forecasted electricity demand and improve the energy security and independence of the country,” said Arthur Kochnakyan, World Bank Task Team Leader of the Project“Low-cost electricity from a potential geothermal plant can help keep the electricity affordable for the poor.”

The R2E2 Fund will implement the project since it has the required capacity and experience in implementing Bank financed projects. The Fund is a non-profit organization established by the Government in 2005 with the mandate to promote the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in Armenia and to facilitate investments in these sectors.

Police seize 45,000 euros from Cristiano Ronaldo’s mother

Spanish police have seized €45,000 from Cristiano Ronaldo’s mother after she tried to leave the country without declaring the cash, the reports.

Dolores Aveiro was stopped at Madrid Airport and forced to hand the money over after Civil Guard officers discovered the fortune in her hand luggage, leading Spanish daily El Mundo claimed today.

The newspaper said the mother-of-four, who lives between her native Madeira and Madrid, had the cash confiscated in mid-May after being unable to prove its origin.

Ms Aveiro, who helps Ronaldo raise his four-year-old son Cristiano Jr, is said to have been allowed to fly to Portugal with the remaining €10,000 she was carrying.

Travellers entering or leaving Spain with more than €10,000 in cash or cash equivalents have to declare the money under a new anti-money laundering and tax evasion law introduced in 2007.

The declaration has to be made in writing using a form which can be downloaded from the Internet or obtained from Treasury and customs offices.

Cash seized from those who breach the rules is held until they can prove its origin and pay a fine.

Ronaldo’s mother was not arrested and simply detained for a few minutes before being allowed to continue her journey, El Mundo reported.

The breach was described as an ‘administrative error’ rather than a crime.

‘Sacred Space’ exhibit at SCSU memorializes Armenian Genocide victims

Through July 9, 2015, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) will host “Ashfall,” an art installation and exhibit by Dallas-based artist Robert Barsamian that poignantly tells the story of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, the reports.

A 16’x16’ structure erected within the university’s Buley Library gallery space with the help of Southern art students, “Ashfall” contains its own lighting and sound system. Inside the structure are portraits on lace, framed by branches—elements from Armenian culture—along with a bench that allows visitors to pause and contemplate the exhibit, which has been called a “sacred space.”

In addition to the structure, the gallery displays text panels that speak to the violence and loss the genocide engendered. A smaller installation in the gallery space, called “Road to Aleppo,” is a boat with a figure lying on a funeral pier, representing the spirits of those who died on the death marches through the Syrian desert to Aleppo. Large drawings on silk are draped behind this piece.

“Ashfall” is open to the public through July 9, and admission is free. The gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m., or by appointment. For more information about visiting “Ashfall,” which is being displayed in New England for the first time, call (203) 392-5768.

Artist Barsamian grew up in Whitinsville, Mass., the son and grandson of survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. In the 1990’s, Barsamian recalled the stories his grandmother had told him about her experiences escaping the genocide, and became inspired to depict such atrocities in his art. He eventually began to create art installations to convey the feeling of inhumane acts perpetrated by man against man and began expressing the injustices of the genocide with his multimedia installations. “Ashfall” is one such installation.

An opening reception for “Ashfall” on April 24 was one of several events held at Southern to mark the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. On April 23, the SCSU Symphonic Band presented a concert entitled “Music of Armenia,” featuring folk music by composers Hovhaness, Reed, Khachaturian, Komitas, and Strauss. The following day, guest musicians Anna Hayrapetyan and Tatev Amiryan performed a recital featuring pieces connected specifically with the genocide theme by Armenian composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Komitas, Mirzonyan, Kanachyan, and Amiryan.

“Southern’s commitment to social justice is very much animated by the recognition of man’s inhumanity to man,” said SCSU President Mary A. Papazian. “The Centenary of the Armenian Genocide gives us pause to recall the mass suffering that occurred at that time and at other periods throughout history. By remembering the past, we can work to build a better future for all.”

“Art and music are highly effective media to tell this heart-wrenching story and touch our emotions,” Papazian said.


Regional project enhances capacity of the asylum system in Armenia

On 26-27 May, a final conference of the Asylum Systems Quality Initiative in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus Project gathers migration officials from ten countries in Kyiv to discuss achieved results and plans for future collaboration. Enhanced training for government asylum officers, the creation of a research database in Russian and the development of quality assurance tools are key achievements of the regional project that has improved the refugee system in Armenia.

The two and a half year project, funded by the European Union and co-funded and implemented by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was designed to strengthen the protection of asylum-seekers and refugees in six countries in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The participants benefited from active engagement with four EU Member States: Germany, Poland, Romania and Sweden. With a 2.5 million euro budget, the project focused on improvement of the quality, fairness and efficiency of asylum decision-making in the participating countries.

Following a joint survey of the national asylum system, Armenia has committed to build on existing strengths, to bridge gaps and to develop quality assurance mechanisms. “The progress in Armenia since the gap analysis report was prepared is notable. In particular, the authorities have developed draft legislative amendments to close gaps in the legal framework; have with UNHCR support adopted 7  Standard Operation Procedures to ensure procedures are consistently applied in line with international standards and have introduced a new staff position to undertake country of origin information research,” said Mr. Christoph Bierwirth, UNHCR Representative in Armenia.

Through more than 100 regional conferences, joint trainings, study visits and individualized training events, the project helped the participating countries to address the most important weaknesses and enhance practical cooperation on asylum matters. The EU Member States have provided good practice advice and shared their vast experience with the relatively new asylum systems in the region. Migration officials from Eastern Europe received access to several training modules developed for EU Member States by the European Asylum Support Office. Translated into the Russian language, these capacity building tools can be easily accessed and used by new staff and other countries.

The Head of the Migration Agency of the Ministry of Territorial Administration of the Republic of Armenia, Mr.  Gagik Yeganyan, highly appreciated the international engagement in the regional project: ‘’The international experience and support have been crucial in the future development of the asylum system in Armenia’’, he said.

Russian PM approves free trade zone deal between EEU, Vietnam

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved a free trade zone agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Vietnam, the cabinet announced in a Monday statement, Sputnik News reports.

“The implementation of the agreement will contribute to an increase in the mutual trade turnover and the development of trade and economic relations between its participants, as well as help solve the problem of getting the EEU involved in the integration processes in the Asia-Pacific region,” the statement said.

Vietnam will be the first country to sign a free trade agreement with the EEU, which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The agreement is expected to be inked on Friday in Moscow.


Eurovision 2015: Armenia through to the Grand Final

Tonight in the first show of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, broadcast live from the Wiener Stadthalle, 16 countries took part in the first Semi-final in order to qualify for the 10 places available in Saturday’s final. Below are the ten qualifiers, and these are as follows, in the order they were announced.

  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Russia
  • Romania
  • Hungary
  • Greece
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Serbia
  • Belgium