European Union set to allocate 20m euros to Armenia

European Union set to allocate 20m euros to Armenia

Mediamax news agency
15 Mar 04

YEREVAN

The European Union (EU) will allocate 20m euros to Armenia for the
realization of a national indicative program designed for 2004-06.

The agreement on the realization of this program was signed by
Armenian Minister of Finance and Economy Vardan Khachatryan and the
head of the EU delegation in Armenia and Georgia, Torben Holtze, in
Yerevan today, Mediamax reported.

Torben Holtze said that under the program 13.5m will be directed to
assist the carrying out of institutional and administrative reforms
and 6.5m euros to liquidate the social consequences of the transition
period.

The EU annual aid to Armenia makes 50 to 60m euros.

Kocharian: Russia makes choice in favor of stability & democracy

RIA Novosti, Russia
March 15 2004

PRESIDENT OF ARMENIA: RUSSIA MAKES CHOICE IN FAVOR OF STABILITY AND
DEMOCRACY

YEREVAN, March 15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) — President of Armenia Robert
Kocharyan has congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election to the
post of the President of the Russian Federation.

In the opinion of the Armenian leader, on March 14 Russia has made
her firm choice in favor of stability, democracy and prosperity.

“The elections have shown that the people of Russia see in the
re-elected Russian President the leader, who is leading the country
along the path of sustainable development, upholding of the national
interests and adherence to the policy of good-neighborliness and
cooperation,” Mr. Kocharyan’s congratulatory message says.

According to him, Armenia highly praises the great personal
contribution of Mr. Putin to furthering allied Russian-Armenian
relations. The successes are evident here along the entire spectrum
of bilateral ties, the Armenian President stressed. He assured
Vladimir Putin of Yerevan’s readiness to continue efforts aimed at
promoting cooperation between the two states.

Adzharia Needs Cool Heads

Moscow Times, Russia
March 16 2004

Adzharia Needs Cool Heads

By Pavel Felgenhauer

The day after being re-elected President Vladimir Putin faced a
serious crisis in Georgia, involving Russian interests and Russian
troops. A long-simmering confrontation between the Georgian
government, now led by President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the tiny
autonomous Adzharian Republic in southwest Georgia seems to be edging
towards an armed confrontation.

Moscow has supported the separatist leaders of autonomous republics
in Georgia since the country became independent. During an armed
confrontation in South Ossetia in 1991-92, and a war in Abkhazia in
1992-93, the Russian military supplied separatists in both regions
with arms and munitions, and provided them with artillery and air
support.

Officially the Russian authorities never acknowledged these facts,
but in private Defense Ministry officials admitted the high level of
Russian involvement. In 1994 in Abkhazia, a Russian Hind Mi-24 attack
helicopter pilot said, “In 1993, we were given orders to cover the
Russian insignia of our aircraft with dirt. We did bomb the
Georgians.”

The Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts ended with the Georgians
defeated and cease-fires brokered by Moscow. Russian troops were
deployed to ensure that these regions stayed separate from Georgia.
Constant low-level guerrilla warfare has since continued on the
Abkhaz-Georgian cease-fire line, while South Ossetia has been
peaceful.

There are no proper border guards or customs posts on the Georgian
side of South Ossetia, because Tbilisi regards the area as part of
its sovereign territory. This has facilitated a massive trade in
contraband going through the Rokhsky tunnel highway connecting South
Ossetia in Georgia and North Ossetia in Russia. The North Ossetian
authorities, who believe South Ossetia to be an integral part of the
Ossetian nation, allow more or less free transit of goods and people
at the northern end of the tunnel without proper visas or customs
controls.

The Ossetians (unlike most North Caucasian nationalities) are
Christians and have historically been enemies of the Muslim Chechens
and Ingush. But while the Ossetians have strongly supported the
Russian war in Chechnya, most foreign volunteers (or mercenaries, as
the Russian authorities call them) reach Chechnya through Georgia and
then through Ossetia and the Rokhsky tunnel — through a hole in the
border Moscow itself helped create.

All attempts at a political solution to the separatist problems of
Georgia have failed during the last decade and now Adzharia is also
becoming an issue. While wars ravaged Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
civil war raged inside Georgia proper and hundreds of thousands of
ethnic Georgians were evicted from Abkhazia, Adzharia was peaceful.

The local population considers itself Georgian and does not aspire to
independence, though under centuries of Turkish rule most were
converted to Islam. Adzharia has been ruled by Aslan Abashidze, the
scion of a dynasty of princes that were the traditional rulers of
Adzharia for centuries.

While Tbilisi has often been in conflict with Moscow over the last
decade, Abashidze developed a good relationship with the Russian
military and the authorities in Moscow. The Russian military keep a
garrison in the Adzharian capital, Batumi — the rundown remains of a
Soviet motorized rifle division, now just over 3,000 men (mostly
local Adzharian recruits) and a couple of hundred pieces of heavy
equipment (tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery). Batumi
port, fully controlled by Abashidze, is used to supply other Russian
troops in Georgia and Armenia.

Moscow also fostered Abashidze as a possible pro-Moscow Georgian
national leader to replace Eduard Shevardnadze. The sudden rise to
power of Saakashvili foiled the ambitions of the nationalist siloviki
clan in the Kremlin to install “our man” in Tbilisi, and has put
Abashidze’s future in jeopardy.

This week Abashidze’s private army barred Saakashvili from entering
Adzharia. Saakashvili, in turn, demanded that Abashidze’s forces lay
down their arms and that control of Batumi port and customs be handed
over to Tbilisi. Over the coming days, Putin must act promptly to
stop Abashidze and his allies in Moscow provoking an armed conflict,
while also pressing Saakashvili to refrain from drastic action.

A war in Adzharia and the consequent destabilization of Georgia are
not in Russia’s national interests, a fact that some of Putin’s
cohorts do not seem to understand.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.

EU commits to assist Armenia with 20million in 2004-2006

ArmenPress
March 15 2004

EUROPEAN UNION COMMITS TO ASSIST ARMENIA WITH 20 MILLION IN 2004-2006

YEREVAN, MARCH 15, ARMENPRESS: On 15 March Armenian Finance and
Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian, who is also EU National
Coordinator, and Torben Holtze, Head of the European Commission
Delegation signed National Indicative Program 2004-2006. The program
describes overall objectives and ways to assist Armenia through the
European Union’s Tacis program for the three years. The Indicative
Program will support the overall European Union strategy of
strengthening the independence of Armenia and its progress to a
market economy and fully developed democracy.
Tacis Indicative Program 2004-2006 covers the following two
priority areas:
a) support for institutional, legal and administrative reform with
an indicative budget allocation of 13.5 million and b) support in
addressing the social consequences of transition with an emphasis on
the vocational education sector. The indicative budget allocation for
the latter is 6.5 million. The overall funding under the Indicative
Program 2004-2006 will be 20 million euros.
“As it was reiterated by the current Government, strengthening
Armenia’s partnership with the EU remains one of the main priorities
of Armenia’s foreign policy and is aimed at gradual deepening of
integration with the EU. Tacis along with other EU programs will
continue to be the main tool to assist the Government in the
implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, being
the cornerstone of our partnership relations between Armenia and the
EU,” said Mr. Khachatrian.
Holtze stressed: “The present Indicative Program shows commitment
of the EU to assist Armenia and aims to respond to the priorities of
the deeper political relationship, with the expectation that each
project should contribute in some way towards meeting the objectives
worked out jointly.”
A more detailed bi-annual Action Program will be adopted setting
out specific projects and the funding available, within the
guidelines given in the Indicative Program.
Speaking to reporters after the signing ceremony, the Minister
mentioned that the construction of Iran-Armenia gas pipeline is
possibly to start later this year, and added that there is some
ongoing work for development of alternative sources of energy,
particularly, three airheads are expected to be built this year,
apart from negotiations on building 2 or 3 hydro power plants. He
argued also that after upgrading the Yerevan Thermal Power plant the
prime cost of electricity will decrease significantly, nearing the
price of electricity produced by the nuclear plant. These measures,
according to the minister, would enable the authorities and EU
representatives to start negotiating a closure deadline of the
Armenian nuclear power plant. He added that the EU has pledged only
100 million euros to that end, while replacing the nuclear plant by a
similar facility will require at least $1 billion.
Torben Holtze in turn said that the EU’s support in the
construction of Iran-Armenia pipeline may come only after fixing the
concrete date of the nuclear power plant’s closure. He said that the
pipeline may also ship gas to Europe, but added that for the time
being it is still early to speak about it. Khachatrian added that the
plant will be closed as soon as there are equal facilities to replace
it, without even waiting for construction of Iran-Armenia pipeline.

AAE calls on AGBU to reconsider decision to close Melkonian School

PRESS RELEASE
REF: PR /04/03/006
Assembly of Armenians of Europe
Rue de Treves 10, 1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 647 08 01
Fax: +32 2 647 02 00

THE AAE calls upon the AGBU to reconsider its decision of closing the
Melkonian School

Brussels, March 15th, 2004 – It is with deep regret that the Assembly
of Armenians of Europe learnt about the decision of the AGBU
Administrative Board to close gradually the Melkonian School of
Cyprus. The Boarding School of the Melkonian Educational Institution
will be the first to be shut down.

It is undeniable truth that the Armenian School is the stronghold
that preserves the Armenian Diaspora from being assimilated and keeps
alive the Armenian spirit. Indeed, since its foundation the Melkonian
Educational Institution has not been just a school, but the principle
basis for the preservation of our national identity outside of
Armenia. Many political and cultural figures have been educated here.

Taking into consideration that many young Armenians attend the
Melkonian School, the closing of the latter will have grave
consequences not only on the Armenian Community in Cyprus, but also
in the countries of Middle East, Europe and countries of ex-Soviet
Union Republic. The Melkonian School offers the best opportunity to
the young Armenians to get acquainted with the Armenian history,
culture and traditions and inspires them with the Armenian values.
The fact that the Melkonian Educational Institution is the only
Armenian secondary school in Europe (besides the school, recently
established in France) emphasizes its importance.

Such decision puts under question the very principles and objectives
of the AGBU Administrative Board which for many decades has been
administrating the Melkonian School and their commitment to the
preservation of Armenian values.

Therefore, the Assembly of Armenians of Europe calls upon the
Administrative Board of the AGBU to reconsider their decision for the
sake of the whole Armenian Diaspora. By applying such a decision, the
AGBU will definitely fail to fulfill its historical mission, which is
the preservation of the Armenian Identity and Armenian values.

Georgia on the brink of another civil war of another civil war]

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)
March 15, 2004, Monday

GEORGIA ON THE BRINK OF ANOTHER CIVIL WAR

SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, No. 50, March 15, 2004, p. 3

by Yuri Simonian, Anatoly Gordienko

In Moscow yesterday, Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze stated that
today could see an armed clash between Georgian special troops and
the Adzahrian autonomy’s resistance forces; he requested assistance
from the Russian military. Speaking at a news conference in Moscow,
Abashidze reported that he has called on the Russian president, the
Duma, and the Federation Council to take all available measures to
prevent the conflict between Tbilisi and Batumi from sliding into
bloodshed. The Adzharian leader said that one possible form of
intervention by Russia could involve airlifting Russian peacekeepers
stationed in Georgia to the territory of Adzharia, so they could
place themselves “between peaceful people and the armed forces of
invasion, to prevent blood being shed.”

In Adzharia itself, anxious expectation prevails: everyone is
expecting an armed incursion by Georgian government troops. On
Saturday, Abashidze said that around 100,000 people from various
districts of Georgia were set to march into Adzharia on Monday. Among
them are some with military training, but at the head of this vast
column would be some women – as a human shield, followed by regular
troops.

>From Moscow, Aslan Abashidze issued a public appeal to the
international community. He said: “I want our voice to be heard by
the highest international organizations, in Europe and worldwide,
including the Council of Europe and the UN Security Council, and our
neighbors – Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, and the
governments of the leading European nations, in order to stop a force
which will leave grave consequences behind it.”

Meanwhile, the situation in relations between Georgia and Adzharia
continues to escalate with every passing hour. Television broadcasts
in Batumi showed footage confirming that the administrative border of
Adzharia has been taken under the control of armed formations loyal
to Aslan Abashidze. This cordon, created overnight, is substantial –
as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili himself discovered for
himself: on Sunday morning, he was simply denied permission to enter
Adzharia. The president’s motorcade was stopped by armed men at a
checkpoint on the Choloka River. Moreover, as sources at the Georgian
State Chancellory told us, there was even some gunfire involved. The
shots were fired into the air; but President Saakashvili decided not
to tempt fate, and his motorcade rapidly departed in the direction of
the port city of Poti, to the north of Batumi.

This report of the incident involving the president’s motorcade on
the Choloka River has been confirmed by the leadership of Adzharia.
Batumi Mayor Georgi Abashidze, son of Aslan Abashidze, told the media
yesterday that the president of Georgia may visit Adzharia at any
time – but he should not do so in the company of special troops.
Batumi claims that President Saakashvili was accompanied to the
Adzharian border by tanks and armored personnel carriers, as well as
buses carrying up to one thousand armed Georgian special troops.

After encountering such a welcome, President Saakashvili reached Poti
and called an urgent news conference, attended by Prime Minister
Zurab Zhvania and the leaders of Georgia’s security ministries and
agencies. Judging by reports coming in from Poti yesterday,
Saakashvili has no intention of “being liberal” with Batumi any
longer. This was indirectly confirmed in Tbilisi by Chief of the
General Staff Givi Iukiridze, who told the media that the Armed
Forces of Georgia have been placed on alert by order of the head of
state. Preparations for war are also under way in Adzharia: according
to the Georgian media, by midday Sunday there were tanks and armored
personnel carriers on the streets of Batumi, and weapons were being
distributed to civilians. The situation is also escalating directly
on the border of Adzharia. Large numbers of troops, tanks, and other
military hardware are concentrated along both sides of the border.

President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia has also appealed to Russia.
At his news conference yesterday, he stated that he has received
reports of the Russian military base in Batumi “offering military
hardware to the Adzharian authorities, but refusing to assign
troops.” In connection with this, the Georgian president requested
the Russian leadership to “take the situation in Adzharia under their
personal supervision, and not permit mistakes to be repeated.”
Addressing the governments of the world’s leading nations,
Saakashvili called on them to see that “not a single Russian tank
leaves the Batumi base.”

Translated by Gregory Malyutin

Putin ranks 9th among all presidents in former Soviet Union

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)
March 15, 2004, Monday

PUTIN RANKS NINTH AMONG ALL PRESIDENTS IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION[

SOURCE: Kommersant, March 15, 2004, p. 1

by Dmitri Kamyshev

Vladimir Putin won his second presidential election yesterday, with
around 69% of the vote, according to exit polls. His closest rival,
Communist Party (CPRF) candidate Nikolai Kharitonov, lagged by more
than 56%, with 12.6% of the vote. In this election, Putin wasn’t
competing with the other candidates as much as with his fellow
presidents in other countries of the former USSR. And in that
long-distance competition, Putin didn’t even manage to make the top
five.

According to exit polls done by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM),
Vladimir Putin received 69% of the vote; Nikolai Kharitonov got
12.6%; Sergei Glaziev, Duma memember with the Motherland bloc
(Rodina), and Irina Khakamada, former co-leader of the Union of Right
Forces (URF), got 4.7% each; Oleg Malyshkin, Duma member for the
Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), got 2.3%; Federation
Council Speaker Sergei Mironov got 1%. And 5.7% of voters voted
against all candidates.

Almost 70% of the vote for candidate Putin – of course, this is much
less than the 80% which some pollsters predicted as recently as
mid-February (for example, Yuri Levada, head of the Levada Center
polling agency). However, in late February and early March, FOM polls
registered a substantial drop in Putin’s support rating. Given that
this happened soon after Mikhail Kasianov’s government was dismissed
and a new prime minister appointed, the popularity slide was due to
ordinary voters finding the president’s actions incomprehensible. All
the same, even this lower figure has enabled Putin to exceed his own
result from four years ago (he got 52.9% of the vote in 2000) and
even break a record which has stood for nearly 13 years: in June
1991, Boris Yeltsin won Russia’s first presidential election with
57.3% of the vote.

Yet a comparison of yesterday’s voting results with the outcomes of
presidential elections in other former Soviet countries shows that
President Putin still can’t compete with his counterparts there. In
this long-distance competition, Russia’s leader is only ranked ninth
– with the worst result for any leader who has won in the first round
of voting.

If the government had not been dismissed, and candidate Putin had
indeed received the promised 80% of the vote, he would have been in
the top five – overtaking President Nursultan Nazarbaev of
Kazakhstan. Still, he wouldn’t have crossed the 90% threshold – which
markes the start of truly universal love for their leaders among
citizens.

There is a similar picture in the “winning margin over nearest rival”
category. In Russia, a 56% margin over the runner-up is an all-time
record: the previous record was set by Boris Yeltsin in 1991 (with a
40.5% margin over Nikolai Ryzhkov). But in the championship of the
former USSR, Vladimir Putin is only ranked eighth – and might have
been ninth if there had been any alternative choice in Turkmenistan’s
election of 1992. The Russian leader has only outscored President
Robert Kocharian of Armenia (21.26%) and President Leonid Kuchma of
Ukraine (14.25%).

Not counting the president of Turkmenistan, the lead in this category
is held by the presidents of Tajikistan and Georgia, Emomali
Rakhmonov (with a winning margin of 94.86%) and Mikhail Saakashvili
(94.42%). Then again, the Georgian leader has moral superiority:
while Rakhmonov faced only one other candidate, Saakashvili – like
Putin – had five rivals.

Actually, Vladimir Putin still has a chance of improving his result
in the battle for a more convincing margin over the runner-up. If his
result rises by even a couple of percentage points as voting results
are finalized, and if the number of votes for candidate Kharitonov
falls by a couple of points, Putin may yet overtake President
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus (who has a 60% winning margin),
President Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan (60.58%), and perhaps even
President Ilkham Aliyev of Azerbaijan (62.87%). However, Putin
certainly won’t be able to catch up with President Nursultan
Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan (68.08%).

Translated by Alexander Dubovoi and Andrei Ryabochkin

Number of Female Offenders Reduced in Karabakh

NUMBER OF FEMALE OFFENDERS REDUCED IN KARABAKH

Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)
15-03-2004

According to the annual report of the head public prosecutor of the
republic Mavrik Ghukassian presented to the National Assembly of
Nagorni Karabakh, in 2003 the number of women offenders reduced,
totaling 29 against the 44 in 2002. Of the total number of offenders
(467) 144 were jobless. According to the conclusion of the
corresponding parliamentary committee, despite the reduction of the
crime rate in the republic in the last 2 years, as a ratio to the
number of population in Karabakh the crime rate remains high in
comparison to Armenia and other CIS countries. Moreover, if in Armenia
0.4 percent of the state budget is spent on the needs of the public
prosecution, in Karabakh it is 1 percent.

NAIRA HAYRUMIAN.
15-03-2004

Unemployment Reduced

UNEMPLOYMENT REDUCED

Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)
15-03-2004

According to the data of the NKR National Statistics Service, the
average number of workers on the play-roll employed in the branches of
the NKR economy was 32 686 in 2003 which increased by 1881 or 6.1
percent. The number of people employed in the sphere of industry grew
by 1420 or 11.8 percent. By January1, 2004 4272 people have been
registered at the department of work and employment of the NKR
Ministry of Social Security of which 3314 or 77.6 percent have the
status of unemployed. The number of citizens looking for jobs in
Stepanakert is 2364 of which 2361 or 99.9 percent are unemployed. The
number of people looking for jobs dropped by 9 percent, and the
unemployment rate dropped by2.6 percent from January 1, 2003. The
level of unemployment as the correlation of the unemployed registered
in the employment agencies and the economically active population
(employed and unemployed) totaled 5.7 percent in 2003 against the 5.9
percent of 2002.

AA.
15-03-2004

Lithuania planning to establish embassy in Georgia

Baltic News Service
March 15, 2004

LITHUANIA PLANNING TO ESTABLISH EMBASSY IN GEORGIA

VILNIUS, Mar 15

Lithuania’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee approved during
its sitting on Monday of the proposal to establish Lithuania’s
embassy in Georgia.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gediminas Kirkilas told BNS it was
scheduled to establish embassy in Tbilisi in the end of May, and it
would represent Lithuania not only in Georgia but also in Armenia and
Azerbaijan.

Lithuania is currently represented in Georgia by an ambassador
residing in Ukraine, ambassador to Russia represents the country in
Armenia and envoy residing in Turkey represents it in Azerbaijan.

Meantime, the Georgian Embassy in Vilnius was opened in September
last year. Before that, Georgian Consulate General operated in
Vilnius since 1996.

In Kirkilas’ words, decision on the candidacy of Lithuania’s
ambassador to Tbilisi should be made in the nearest months.