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Armenia: Remarks by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi at the press point with Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan (video)

Yerevan, Armenia, 09/07/2021

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be able to make my first visit to Armenia.

As you know, this visit was long overdue, unfortunately prevented by COVID-19 crisis, but we hope that we are getting back to normal soon.

I have just met, as you know, Acting Prime Minister [Nikol] Pashinyan, we had a very good meeting yesterday with the [Acting] Deputy Prime Minister [Mher Grigoryan] and I received a very warm welcome, for which I am thankful. Later today, I will also meet the President [of Armenia] Armen Sarkissian and I will also meet His Holiness Karekin II.

Today I also visited already the [Creative Centre for Technologies] TUMO, a centre of excellence – if I may.

I think that from which I did yet, I understand much more now –or even more- where we could work together in the future.

First of all, I want to emphasise that the European Union continues to be a key partner for Armenia, be it in the implementation of the reforms –for example, on the rule of law area– or be it in other parts of the reforms agenda. And I take comfort in the commitment made by the Government – the new government to continue the reforms. These are essential reforms, not only for Europe to see it, but also for people of Armenia to see it. 

Of course, we have discussed also the double challenges of the recent hostilities and the COVID-19 pandemic. I welcome, of course, free and fair elections as confirmed by the OSCE/ODIHR this year. And I do hope that we will have very quickly a strong Government of Armenia, with a strong Parliament. A strong Parliament with a majority, because there is a lot of work ahead.

As you have seen, the European Union is supporting the recovery of Armenia after the pandemic. Only last year we have mobilised over €100 million to help Armenia to fight the [COVID-19] crisis and to be able to support most immediate needs and responses. We are now working hard to, first, support the resilience of the healthcare sector and to ensure safe and effective vaccines for everyone who would like to get vaccinated. We are working on that with the World Health Organization to support the necessary infrastructure for the vaccination campaign, but also through the COVAX Facility that we have built upon, we are delivering already vaccines to Armenia. On top of this, we are also working with our Member States to get additional vaccines to the country. 

But let me stress one point, when it comes to vaccination. No one is safe until everybody is safe, no one is safe until everybody gets vaccinated. And this pandemic will not end before everybody gets vaccinated. Everything we have done would be in vain if we have a fourth wave, a fifth wave or a sixth wave. Armenia has no time to waste. Armenia has no economy to waste anymore. We need everybody to go and get vaccinated. Therefore, I encourage the people of Armenia to go and get vaccinated. 

As a second point, I was of course saddened by the loss of life that we have seen around the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and in this context -as you have seen- we have mobilised first humanitarian aid of €6.9 million and then later on of €10 million in humanitarian aid. And this is being deployed as we speak, and I want to confirm that the EU is ready and committed to take a very active role in the post-hostilities situation, both as a facilitator of confidence-building measures -especially to first overcome the humanitarian crises-, and later on as a key partner in the economic recovery in the crisis-hit region and the Syunik region. 

And third, the main purpose of my visit, the package I brought along for this visit as a present for my host, is ourEconomic and Investment Plan for the recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are ready to contribute in a very significant way, in a very operative way, to the own recovery of Armenia, together with the entire Eastern Partnership region. 

We have been working on a plan, together with the government of Armenia, a plan that should bring growth and jobs the fastest it can after the pandemic. Because Armenia and its people they need jobs, they need growth to get out of the crisis, but when we are designing it we should also look at the challenges that we have seen before. The challenges, the bottlenecks that prevented a boost in economic recovery and development in the region. And therefore we want to [put on the] front hold the digital economy, we want to promote the green transition but most importantly we want to create the trade routes, the connectivity with the European markets and the European economy, through which we can bring this region much faster and much closer to the European economy.

The plan is to put on the table €2.3 billion of grants for the entire region, and it is capable of mobilising, together with our international partners, at least €17 billion of investments throughout the region. 

For Armenia, the plan that we have been working on together with the Government, we are proposing five flagship initiatives. Flagship initiatives meaning key areas of investment, key areas of reform through which we think, in the next four to five years, that the realities on the ground can change significantly for the people of Armenia. Because they will have growth, they will have jobs and they will have a completely different, stronger economy, and more resilient economy. 

Our plan includes therefore transport connectivity, resilience and recovery of the Southern provinces, energy efficiency and renewable energy, the digital transformation and the support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. We allocated €1.6 billion for these special flagship initiatives and altogether we are able to mobilise €2.6 billion for Armenia under this plan.

I think that this plan creates major opportunities for Armenia and I do hope that we can work with the [Acting] Prime Minister [Nikol Pashinyan], and [Acting] Deputy Prime Minister [Mher Grigoryan] very actively to make it happen. We have four years to deliver it, on my side I am ready.