Saturday, 4 February 2017

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Military Seeks More Weapons
January 27, 2017
Sargis Harutyunyan

Armenia is planning to more arms acquisitions in addition to $200
million defense contracts recently signed with Russia, Defense
Minister Vigen Sargsian said on Friday.

Sargsian made clear that Russia will not be the sole source of more
arms supplies to the Armenian military. But he refused to name other
potential or actual suppliers.

"What we have been receiving from Russia # cannot satisfy our Armed
Forces' need for state-of-the-art weapons," he told a news
conference. "We are therefore looking for all opportunities in the
Russian market and other partner countries to supply our Armed Forces
will necessary weapons."

Sargsian said that Yerevan is also negotiating with Western nations on
possible arms supplies but refused to name any of them. "I cannot say
much because such negotiations are confidential," he said.

"We are continuing our dialogue with all potential partners and
already have results and even supplies," added the minister appointed
in October.

Russia has always been Armenia's number one arms supplier, reflecting
close militaries ties between the two states. Membership in the
Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has enabled
Armenia to receive Russian weapons at discounted prices or even for

In 2015, Moscow approved a $200 million loan to Yerevan which is being
spent on the purchase of more Russian military at internal Russian
prices that are well below market-based levels. The Russian government
subsequently publicized a long list of items which the Armenian side
is allowed to buy with that money. It includes, among other things,
the Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, TOS-1A heavy flamethrower,
anti-tank weapons and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

Sargsian said that some of that weaponry has already been delivered to
Armenia. The Armenian Defense Ministry is keen to get hold of the
remaining weapons covered by the loan "as soon as possible," he said.

The Armenian military demonstrated Smerch systems as well as several
other new weapons at a September 2016 parade in Yerevan.

The parade also featured Iskander missiles also acquired from
Russia. The cost and source of funding for that acquisition remains
unknown. Citing senior Russian defense industry executives, the
Russian daily "Vedomosti" said earlier in September that Armenia did
not use the $200 million loan to pay for the advanced missiles that
have a firing range of at least 300 kilometers.

RFE/RL Report
French Court Again Overturns Law On Armenian Genocide Denial
January 27, 2017
Ruzan Kyureghian

France's constitutional court has struck down a new bill criminalizing
the denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and other
crimes against humanity recognized by the French state.

The bill passed by both houses of France's parliament last year took
the form of an amendment to a French law on "equality and
citizenship." It stipulated that any public denial of those atrocities
will be punishable by up to one year's imprisonment and a 45,000-euro
($50,000) fine.

The French Constitutional Council ruled late on Thursday that this
represents an unconstitutional "blow to the freedom of expression
which is neither necessary nor proportionate."

The court already overturned in 2012 a similar law that was engineered
by then President Nicolas Sarkozy.

French Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande promised to help enact
a new law making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide before he
was elected France's president later in 2012. Socialist lawmakers
overwhelmingly backed the new bill in 2016.

The measure has long been championed by France's influential Armenian
community. Accordingly, the CCAF, an umbrella structure uniting
leading French-Armenian organizations, on Friday condemned the court's
decision as a "humiliation" and vowed to continue to fight against
genocide denial.

By contrast, Turkey, which strongly denies the extermination of 1.5
million Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, welcomed the
ruling. "This decision is a significant legal gain preventing the
unlawful restriction of democratic debates on historical controversies
for the sake of futile domestic political concerns," the Turkish
Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Armenia did not officially react to the development as of Friday
evening. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian praised French lawmakers
after they passed the bill in question last year.

France formally recognized the Armenian genocide with a special law
enacted in 2001. 
Armenia needs 7-10% annual growth to secure sustainable economic expansion
January 30. 

To ensure a sustainable economic growth Armenia needs an annual economic expansion of at least 7-10%, a former chairman of Armenia’s Central Bank, Bagrat Asatryan, told a news conference today. According to him, the economic growth in 2016 will hardly exceed 1%, and a similar low growth is projected for 2017.

Describing the past year as ‘gray and colorless’ that gave Armenia nothing in terms of economic growth, Asatryan said the drop in such sectors as construction and  agriculture, which are important in terms of employment is a serious concern, while growth was reported by industry, which is not accompanied by a proportionate increase in jobs.

According to Asatryan, these negative developments can trigger a new wave of out-emigration, which in turn has a negative impact on the overall economic situation.  Asatryan said the economic downturn last year was caused also by an unprecedented surge in violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and  the seizure of a police station in Yerevan by a group of rebels.

The positive economic developments in 2016, according to Asatryan, included  the growth of exports and a drop in imports.

"In general, the past year was a logical continuation of the policy, conducted by the authorities in recent years, a policy that has led to an 11.5% decrease in GDP in the last 8 years (2008-2016) if calculated in US dollars, while the national debt has increased by 311% and  the poverty rate rose from 26.4% to 29.8%, " Asatryan said.

He also said that the government’s spending calculated in the national currency,  increased by 165% in eight years, while the money allocated for the maintenance of  the state apparatus  increased by 265%. For comparison,  the education sector’s budget  increased by only 23.3%.

"Despite the change of prime minister there is still no clear-cut solution to  the general situation, " - Asatryan said.

With regard to projections for 2017, Asatryan said this year is going to be a little easier, because of mitigated effect of  external factors on Armenia. According to him, the global crisis resulted in a significant reduction in foreign investment in the country last year, however, the situation is expected to improve a little in 2017.

"The expected positive changes in the Russian economy, which is  projected to grow by 1.5% this year  may to some extent have a positive impact on Armenia,"  Asatryan said.

According to Armenia’s National Statistical Service, Armenia’s economic activity index in 2016 grew by 0.5%, down from the government projection of 2.2%. --0 -
The Financial: 41,000 Georgians reside in Armenia
30 Jan 2017 

There are 41,000 Georgians living in Armenia today, according to a study published by The Financial.

“Georgia was one of the richest republics in the Soviet Union, and so, in 1990, very few Georgians – even among those with Armenian background – had reasons to emigrate to Armenia. Less than 2,000 Georgians resided in their southern neighbor country. The subsequent failure of Shevardnadze is nicely illustrated by the migration development in the years that followed: by 1995, almost 28,000 Georgians had moved to Armenia, and in the year 2000, this number stood at 47,000,” the study says.

“When the reformers took over in Georgia, many of these people decided to return to their home country. By 2005, there were only 31,000 Georgians left in Armenia, and by 2010, this number had gone down to 26,000. Now we are back to 41,000, giving support to the perception of many people that in the last years, Georgia’s economic fortunes worsened,” the Financial said.

According to the study, in 2015, there were 1,980 Armenian nationals residing in Georgia, while there were almost 41,000 Georgians in Armenia.

In search for the reasons of the difference, The Financial refers to the figures presented by the Armenian statistical office Armstat, which claims that wages are slightly higher in Armenia. “In 2014 the average wage was 788.5 lari in Georgia and 818 lari in Armenia (converted by the official rate of the Central Bank of Armenia). These numbers do not conflict with the fact that most sources state a slightly higher nominal per capita GDP for Georgia.”

“Unlike in Tbilisi, walking around in Central Yerevan evokes the impression that one is in a rather wealthy and very well-developed country. However, the suburbs of Yerevan do not look much different than the suburbs of Tbilisi, and the countryside of Armenia is in many places very dilapidated,” the Financial writes.

“A more plausible explanation might be that many of the Georgians in Armenia are in fact ethnic Armenians who moved to Armenia in the 1990’s for good, integrated in the Armenian society and just did not return their Georgian citizenships. They would still be counted as Georgian migrants living in Armenia, while in fact they are Armenians living in Armenia who are essentially culturally and economically indistinguishable from their compatriots.”
Small Village in Armenia: Turning Biological Waste into Fuel Pellets
Yeranuhi Soghoyan

The village of Basen, in Armenia’s Shirak province, is leading the way in terms of coming up with innovative technical solutions to reuse biological waste.

For the past month, such waste has been transformed into pellets for use as fuel.
The technology has been used globally since 1947, especially in Denmark, Austria and Sweden. Basen is the first similar venture in Armenia.

“We struggled for three months before achieving success on our own,” says Basen community mayor Hamlet Petrosyan. The experimental unit in Basen is small. Gurgen Petrosyan, who heads the Basen Community Development Foundation (BCDF), is now looking for assistance to enlarge capacity.

“We were able to start pellet production with assistance from the U.N.’s Global Ecological Fund, with a grant of $44,600. Our contribution was the building, with a value of some $17,000. The community invested a similar amount. So did the Arot Consumers’ Production Cooperative. We started preliminary work in September. Our first product was realized in late December,” says Gurgen Petrosyan.

The cost of the entire project, designed to reduce poverty and comprehensively manage soil and water resources, is $58,100.

With savings of $4,460 from the U.N. grant, the BCDF plans to purchase a 3-4 kilowatt photovoltaic system to generate electricity to produce the pellets.

“We are now using 250 kilowatts to produce one ton of pellets. The new photovoltaic system will reduce the electricity cost. We calculate using 40,000 kilowatts of electricity if we work six hours daily. The new system will reduce our costs several fold,” says Gurgen Petrosyan.
Basen residents have decided to use straw as the raw material to produce pellets, even though they could use any vegetable matter. Petrosyan says leaves, animal feed remnants or even barnyard waste can be used.

Some villagers collect straw left over from wheat and barley harvests for animal feed. Others just leave the straw on the field as fertilizer. Many just burn the waste. Using farm waste to make pellets would cut down on field fires and cutting down trees to use as fuel would become a thing of the past.

“Burning the straw is bad for the environment in terms of air pollution. It also burns away the rich topsoil. Plants that spread by seed transfer are also damaged. Habitat for small animals is also wiped out,” says Gurgen Petrosyan.

Basen has 1,800 hectares of cultivable land. Most of it is farmed. The crop was good last year according to the mayor.

“Our villagers know about the project. But since there was no sample results, they couldn’t figure out what they would get in the end for their investment of straw, we didn’t have enough to begin production with,” says Basen Mayor Hamlet Petrosyan.

In one month, more than ten tons of pellets have been produced and sold. The capacity of the machine now in use is 200 kilograms. It’s now working at around half capacity. If they can attract orders for the entire year, the unit can start producing more.

Three families in Basen decided to heat their homes with the new pellets this winter. Some orders have been placed by people in Yerevan. Heating businesses have also expressed an interest in the new product.

“We set about heating the kindergarten with pellets this year,” says the Basen mayor. “Thus, we purchased a $1,000 stove, made especially to burn pellets, from Russia. The stoves commonly used in rural homes aren’t efficient. The pellet stoves are great. They don’t have to be continually tended to keep the fire burning. The pellet stoves do it automatically. They can produce a minimum temperature of +20c.”

The price for one kilogram of pellets is 50 AMD, if the straw is purchased locally. It’s then sold in sacks, also made on the spot.

The straw is first pulverized and then taken by conveyer belt for final processing into pellets.
Basen, with its 460 households, is regarded a leader, in the province and the country, in employing new technologies to solve basic problems.

“Should we freeze if we don’t have heating oil? Must we burn dung forever if we don’t have gas? We have to start using our resources. Most importantly, we have the brainpower,” jokes Mayor Petrosyan.

Basen started using solar power to heat the community’s kindergarten and grow vegetables in 2013.

“Back then, we weren’t sure if residents would use the technology on an individual level. Now, thirty houses have installed solar water systems and others want the system as well. I see the same future for the pellets. This winter three families are using pellets to heat their homes, and I’m certain that number will increase next year,” says the Basen mayor.
He tells me that there are plans to set up wind-powered generators in the village and to install solar panels on a grand scale.

“We’re in the study phase right now. We’ve sent data regarding local winds, sunlight duration, etc. If the response is positive, Basen will surely invest in cutting edge technology.”

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