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EU Official ‘Very Confident’ Over New Deal With Armenia

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The European Union’s Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn expressed confidence on Thursday that the EU member states will soon authorize the launch of official negotiations on a new treaty with Armenia.

“I’m very confident that we will get very soon a mandate to start negotiations,” Hahn told reporters in Riga ahead of an EU summit also attended by leaders of six ex-Soviet states, including Armenia.

The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, formally requested that mandate from the member governments earlier this week. Hahn said it submitted a “convincing” report explaining the wisdom of negotiating a new legal framework for closer ties with Armenia.

Armenia To Avoid Anti-Russian Statements At EU Summit

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Armenia has reportedly refused to join in any condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea at this week’s summit in Riga of the European Union and six former Soviet republics involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.

The two-day summit, which began its work on Thursday evening, is due to adopt by consensus a concluding declaration on the EU’s ongoing efforts to deepen links with its ex-Soviet neighbors. Senior diplomats from the participating nations met in Brussels earlier this week to discuss a preliminary text drafted by EU officials.

The Reuters news agency quoted unnamed EU diplomats as saying that Armenia and Belarus objected to language in the draft that called Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula illegal. As a result, the diplomats said, the EU will come up with a compromise text that will note the EU’s condemnation of the Crimean situation.

Armenian PM Again Rules Out Recession

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Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian insisted on Thursday that the Armenian economy will continue to grow this year contrary to gloomy forecasts made by international lending institutions.

Abrahamian forecast an economic growth rate of “at least 2-3 percent” in opening remarks made at a weekly session of his cabinet.He claimed that it could even reach 4 percent if the Armenian government manages to implement all of its planned “programs.” He did not elaborate on them.

The government forecast 4.1 percent growth in its 2015 state budget that was approved by parliament late last year. That target has looked increasingly unrealistic in view of a deteriorating economic situation in Russia, Armenia’s number one trading partner and main source of worker remittances.

ERBD Loans Armenia €3.5 Million for Kotayk Solid Waste Management Project

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14:42, May 20, 2015

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) has provided a €3.5 million fifteen year loan to the Republic of Armenia for the construction of the first EU compliant regional landfill and relevant infrastructure in the country.

The landfill will be located in Hrazdan, capital of Armenia’s Kotayk Province, and will be used by eight municipalities in the nearby region – Hrazdan, Abovyan, Charentsavan, Yeghvard, Nor Hajin, Tzaghadzor, Byureghavan and Sevan (Gegharkunik Province).  

The solid waste management project will also include the acquisition of vehicles, bins and equipment for waste management.  

In addition, the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility (“NIF”) has approved a grant in the amount of €3.5 million to provide co-financing for the Project.

Sarkisian To Attend EU Summit In Riga

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President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday confirmed his participation in this week’s European Union summit in Latvia’s capital Riga which could shed more light on the future of the EU’s relations with Armenia.

In a statement, Sarkisian’s office said he will also hold bilateral meetings with unnamed European leaders on the sidelines of the gathering scheduled for May 21-22.

The main focus of the summit will be on the EU’s Eastern Partnership program offering six ex-Soviet states, including Armenia, privileged partnership in return for political and economic reforms. Three of them — Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine — have already signed far-reaching “association agreements” with the 28-nation union in line with that program.

European Union: Mediterranean Migrant Crisis Package Could Fail

May 20, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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14:24, May 20, 2015

The European Commission’s attempt to launch a comprehensive strategy to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean has apparently failed, as major member states such as France and Spain withdrew their support for the controversial quota system at its heart.

The strategy package included proposals to allow European Union (EU) member states to deploy military force against human traffickers, seizing boats in countries such as Libya and even sending in ground troops.

But the divisive quota proposal, which would “share the burden” of migrants between member states by divvying them out, could prove the sticking point that sinks the whole raft of policies.

EU Moves To Open Talks On New Deal With Armenia

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The European Union’s executive body has asked the EU member states to authorize it to open official negotiations on a new agreement to deepen political and economic ties with Armenia, a senior official in Brussels said on Tuesday.

The deal would serve as a less ambitious substitute for an EU-Armenia Association Agreement which was all but finalized almost two years ago. The Armenian government precluded its signing after unexpectedly deciding in August 2013 to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Yerevan has since been trying to work out a different legal framework for closer ties with the EU that would not run counter to its membership in the Russian-led bloc. Earlier this year Armenian and EU officials identified concrete areas to be covered by it. The executive European Commission now needs a “mandate” from the EU’s member states for the start of official negotiations on the new accord.

Armenian Military Vows ‘Restraint’ During Baku Games

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The Armenian military will do its best to prevent a fresh upsurge of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone during the upcoming European Games in Baku, Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan said on Tuesday.

Tonoyan also warned Azerbaijan against escalating tensions along the “line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border after the Olympic-style games scheduled for June 12-28.

“Olympic games will be held in Baku and Armenian forces will display restraint until their end,” he told Tert.am in an interview. “They are already showing restraint now, which is evident and visible. We are not provoking [skirmishes] or escalating the situation.”

Romania: High Court Sentences Minister in Election Fraud Case

May 18, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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22:48, May 18, 2015

A Romanian court has convicted Regional Development Minister Liviu Dragnea of electoral fraud, making him the latest casualty of Romania’s ongoing crackdown on corruption.

Dragnea, a high-powered figure in Romanian politics, also resigned from his position as executive chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), reports Balkan Insight.

Prosecutors said Dragnea had mounted a campaign to increase voter turnout using bribery in the run-up to a 2012 referendum to impeach former president Traian Basescu, a political rival.

The referendum drew concern from the international community. Romania’s judicial system is under close watch by the European Union.

74 others allegedly aided Dragnea’s efforts by stuffing ballot boxes to increase the number of votes, but the referendum ultimately failed due to low turnout.

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Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.