1 Nov 2015
Armenia – October 2015
Updates on Perincek vs. Switzerland case, the Turkish helicopters in the Armenian airspace, the renewed EU cooperation negotiations and the meeting of CIS leaders
The intense escalation of violence in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in September saw its extension on the “front” of the rhetoric this month. More and more frequently, officials in Armenia voice the possibility of official recognition of Nagorno Karabakh in case of further violence. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs arrived to the region at the end of the month with the agenda of reducing tensions in the region and started with meetings in Armenia. According to the US Co-chair James Warlick, a meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan may be expected before the end of the year. Taking into consideration the constitutional referendum in Armenia scheduled for December 6, and based on the two presidents’ schedules, the meeting may be organized after the referendum, but before the end of the year.
On October 15, the judgment passed at the European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber in the case of Pernicek vs. Switzerland concluded that Switzerland breached human rights law by taking legal action against Dogu Perincek, a Turkish ultranationalist politician. Perincek publicly challenged the existence of the Armenian Genocide in a series of lectures in Switzerland in 2005. Whether the decision should be interpreted as a failure for Armenia or accomplishment remains a topic of public debate.
On October 6 and 7, Turkish military helicopters twice violated Armenia’s airspace for 2 to 4 minutes. According to Head of Armenia’s Directorate General on Civil Aviation Artyom Movsesyan, official Ankara said that the helicopters chose that route in order to bypass an area of bad weather conditions. The incidents occurred only a few days after Russian warplanes carrying out bombing raids in Syria violated Turkey’s airspace. Some Armenian analysts suggested, therefore, that the Turkish helicopter flights were deliberate and geopolitically motivated.
On October 12, the EU Foreign Affairs Council authorised the European Commission and the High Representative to open negotiations on a new, legally binding and overarching agreement with Armenia, and adopted the corresponding negotiating mandate. This agreement will replace the current EU-Armenia partnership and cooperation agreement. The official launch of the negotiations is envisaged to take place before the end of the year. Official Yerevan has welcomed the EU’s decision regarding new talks on a legal framework for relations with Armenia. On October 21, First Deputy Minister of Economy Garegin Melkonyan announced that tariff privileges and customs nullification would not be included in the new agreement taking into account Armenia’s commitments towards the Eurasian Economic Union.
On October 5, by a vote of 104 to 10 with 3 abstentions, the Armenian National Assembly adopted a decision to hold the referendum on constitutional amendments on December 6, 2015. On October 23, at the Plenary Session of the Venice Commission, the opinions presented by the Expert Group were unanimously approved. President of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) Gianni Buquicchio noted: “I am convinced that the Armenian people will be wise and will vote for the proposed draft”.
On October 16, the meeting of the CIS leaders in Burabay, Kazakhstan, appointed the next head of the Eurasian Economic Commission. The presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan agreed that Tigran Sargsyan, the former prime minister of Armenia who is now the country’s ambassador to the United States, will replace Viktor Khristienko, the current chairman of the executive body. The decision was announced by Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s re-elected President, who chaired the session.
A new Iran-Armenia gas pipeline with a bigger diameter is being discussed, according to President of the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia Arsen Ghazaryan. “This is noteworthy by the fact that the existing Iran-Armenia gas pipeline is operated in only 20-25 percent of its capacity,” wrote the newspaper “Haykakan Zhamanak”.
On October 16, President of Tashir Group Samvel Karapetyan, now the new owner of the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA), made a statement unveiling the strategy of upcoming reforms at ENA. According to Karapetyan, the reforms first and foremost plan to modernize the infrastructure of the power distribution networks through effective investments. Karapetyan said, “We will launch an uncompromising fight against corrupt staff members and mala fide consumers”. Tashir Group and Inter RAO UES signed an agreement of sale and purchase of up to 242.59 million Inter RAO UES capital shares.
Society, Culture, and Sport
The first Yerevan Duduk Festival was held in Armenia from October 9 to 11 by gathering not only distinguished masters of duduk, but also young and emerging musicians. The program of the festival included concerts of famous musician Georgiy Minasov with his ensemble “Duduki”, Emmanuel Ovannisyan with the band “Emotion”, and Norayr Kartashyan with the band “Menua”. Duduk is an instrument, recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
On October 3, “Triumphal Poem” opened the 3rd Khachaturian International Festival under the patronage of President Sargsyan. Throughout the next two months, the festival will present an interesting and rich program in a particular format – chamber concerts on Wednesdays and symphony concerts on Saturdays. The concerts will feature international and Armenian premiers hosting famous musicians from more than 10 countries. At the closing ceremony of the Festival, the State Youth Orchestra and the State Jazz Orchestra of Armenia will present an innovative program – for the first time the works of Aram Khachaturian will be played in a jazz interpretation.
This news review reflects the major events of the month and is based on media publications. The views expressed in the Review may be different from the views of the editors of the Caucasus Edition.