Aram Mp3 to represent Armenia in Copenhagen

Aram Mp3 to represent Armenia in Copenhagen

Yerevan, Armenia –

The night of New Year’s Eve is filled with presents and surprises. Having announced the representative in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, the Armenian public broadcaster AMPTV made the present to the whole Armenian nation and all Eurovision fans all over Europe. Aram Mp3, the famous singer, comedian and showman in Armenia will represent his country in Copenhagen.

Aram Mp3 has been announced in the Big New Year’s Gala TV Show, broadcast on the Armenian First Channel. Aram Mp3 is one of the most beloved personalities of the Armenian show business. He is not only well-known as the singer but also as the comedian and showman in his country. The singer is mostly famous for his live performances. He has a very unique style of covering the international hits and comedies.

The Armenian broadcaster AMPTV has made this decision internally. Among other candidates, Aram Mp3 was the best and the strongest choice. In tonight’s show, the singer performed his famous cover version of Jealousy by Martin Solveig. Here you can listen to his hit If I Tried:

The song for the entry of Aram Mp3 in Copenhagen is still to find. Follow our news to find out about it soon.

ANCA-WR Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian’s Speech at Annual Banquet

‘We Remember Our Past; We Remind The World Of Its Consequences; And We Demand Justice For Our People,’ Says ANCA’s Nora Hovsepian

Below is the text of a speech presented at the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Annual banquet by the organization’s chairwoman, Nora Hovsepian, Esq.

Good evening Your Eminences, Distinguished Guests, Honorees and Elected Officials, representatives of Armenian community organizations, and fellow Activists:

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region,   welcome to our 2013 Annual Gala Banquet! Seeing a packed house here tonight is so gratifying, as we highlight a busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend with our ANCA Grassroots Conference, which will end tomorrow with the Hye Tad Global Initiative. Our compatriots from Armenia to Europe, Canada to South America, and from the Middle East to Australia will participate in a groundbreaking interactive online presentation showcasing the activities of Armenian National Committees worldwide. We invite all of you who have not already registered, to join us tomorrow or, to watch it live-streaming on Asbarez.com. I guarantee you will be utterly impressed with the magnitude and scope of the dedicated work that is being done globally on behalf of the Armenian Cause.

The topics covered by our Grassroots Conference this year essentially highlight the mission of the ANCA. We analyzed the evolving inter-relationship between our Homeland and the Diaspora and how to meet the challenge of their dual roles in shaping our national destiny. We discussed how regional factors in Turkey, Kurdistan, Syria and Azerbaijan affect our quest to secure Western Armenia and Artsakh. We explored legal avenues to hold Turkey accountable for the Armenian Genocide and how to pursue reparations and justice through domestic and foreign courts. And we learned the best tools of advocacy through Film and the Arts, Hye Votes and Community Organizing, and citizen activism through the iZartonk campaign.

Nearly all of our 31 distinguished Grassroots panelists whose names are in your Program Books are here with us tonight. Thank you all for participating in our Conference and for sharing your expertise, wisdom and insight with us. And a special thank you to the Armenian Bar Association for collaborating with us on the Transnational Justice panel, and to Bared Maronian for adapting his award winning film Orphans of the Genocide in a special DVD which each of you has received tonight. So let’s all give them a big round of applause as they stand to be recognized.

I want to take a brief moment to explain about iZartonk. This was the brainchild of our dear friend and colleague, former ANCA-WR intern, community activist and visionary Allen Yekikian who we tragically lost along with his equally dedicated newlywed wife Sose Thomassian, in a terrible traffic accident on their way from Armenia to Georgia earlier this year. Allen and Sose were taken from us much too soon. But in their short time here on Earth, they inspired us all to serve our Nation, strengthen our Homeland, and activate our Diasporan communities based on the iZartonk credo, and ours, to “Speak Up, Speak Loud, and Participate in the 21st Century Reawakening of the Armenian Soul.”

So tonight I am very proud to announce that the ANCA Western Region will soon partner up with the Sose & Allen’s Legacy Foundation in a new project of iZartonk to promote activism and volunteerism amongst our youth. We extend our love, support and gratitude to the Thomassian and Yekikian families for sharing the memory of their beloved children with all of us, and even though Allen’s parents, Henrik & Asik Yekikian, were unable to join us tonight, please give a warm welcome to Sose’s brother Vache Thomassian and mother Emma Der Mardirossian. We are certainly all in this together, and we thank you for being here. So stay tuned for more details in the coming months as we embark on this exciting new joint venture.

For the first time, we have prepared and distributed to each of you our Annual Report and detailed Program Book, both of which outline the breadth and scope of our activities, including our financial resources and expenses. I won’t go into all the details, but I do want to specially highlight our trip to the Homeland, the first of many to come, where the ANCA-WR, working closely with our good friends Katcho Achadjian and Adrin Nazarian from the California State Assembly, organized and led an official California delegation to Armenia and Artsakh. I want to thank those members of our delegation who are here tonight: CA State Assemblymembers Cheryl Brown and Scott Wilk with his beautiful wife Vanessa Safoian Wilk, and of course Assemblymembers Achadjian and Nazarian and Councilmember Paul Krekorian and his wife Tamar. Please give them all a round of applause.

Finally, our hard-working Banquet Co-Chairs, Aida Dimejian and Sareen Bezdikian, have provided leadership, guidance, and dedication in heading our stellar Banquet Committee and helping us assemble all of you wonderfully generous sponsors, donors and supporters who sustain our work as we come together under one roof to celebrate our collective accomplishments. This is truly a team effort in every way, so let’s all give them a round of applause as well. Thank you!
***

In Armenian, ANCA’s name is Hye Tad: literally and simply translated as Armenian Cause. In short, these two words define and guide everything we do. We remember our past, we remind the world of its consequences, and we demand justice for our People. So if you are passionate about the Armenian Cause, about Hye Tad, then this is your place.

In every kind of environment, under adversarial circumstances, in the face of obstacles placed before us by Turkey, Azerbaijan, and even our own US Government, in every setting, we have done our work and activated our army of advocates and activists. We have a dual role, and we play it well as both the voice of the community and the watchdogs who challenge injustice wherever it may be. While some may say we are dreamers or idealists as if it is a bad thing, what they don’t realize is that dreams are for those who will not accept reality as it is. WE do not accept reality as it is, so we dream with eyes wide open of that which is not yet achieved, and we go out and find ways to get it done.

Whether that means removing Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s gag rule over our government’s foreign policy, or displaying a gift to the White House of a beautiful hand-woven rug by orphaned Armenian children of the Genocide, we as American citizens seek justice for our Cause. And I am happy to announce tonight, with his permission, that our dear friend Congressman Adam Schiff, acting on our behalf, has demanded that the White House release the rug for a display in the Capitol and that he is, in his words, “cautiously optimistic” that his request will be granted. So thank you Congressman Schiff for all that you do for us.

And if the elected officials who are here, to whom we are infinitely grateful, think we have been too demanding, it is for that reason. And we will be even more so as we continue to grow and the century-old experience of advocacy that our organization has developed becomes even stronger and more sophisticated.

This is precisely why we must all speak up, stand up and make our collective voices heard. We owe it to our parents and grandparents who were victims of the Genocide. We owe it to the brave soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. We owe it to our 4,000-year-old mighty Nation whose history and culture have survived and thrived against all odds. And we owe it to our children who deserve to live free of this burden of injustice that we all continue to carry.

This is our mission.

As my friend Maria Titizian says, “Nation-building is not a spectator sport,” and she is absolutely right. We haven’t survived by being passive. We all have a job to do to build and strengthen our Nation and our Homeland wherever we may choose to live. We must each ask ourselves whether we are fulfilling this obligation, but rest assured that simply by being here tonight, we are each doing our own small part, and I can prove it.

Our local ANCA chapters are our true grassroots working on a daily basis at the local level from the ground up. Our wonderful dedicated staff work very long hours and truly live and breathe the ANCA on a daily basis, day and night. Our interns and volunteers take time out of their otherwise busy lives to play their part in the advancement of our Cause. I want to take a moment to acknowledge them all by asking them to please stand up, and if you will indulge me, please remain standing.

Let’s take it one step further: Please stand up if you have ever volunteered your time for any community organization. And please remain standing for a moment.

If you have ever run for political office, worked on a political campaign, cast your vote for an ANCA-endorsed candidate, or responded to an ANCA Action Alert by contacting your elected representatives, please stand up.

If you have ever written a letter to an editor, responded in any way to negative propaganda, spoken out against injustice, or if you have ever donated your hard-earned dollars to support any aspect of our Cause, then please, stand up.

And finally, if you have ever attended any other ANCA event or even if this is your first time with us, then stand up, all of you, because you are here for a reason.

Look around you. Here you are: our army of Grassroots activists who are committed not to stand on the sidelines but to stand up for justice. Rest assured that your enthusiasm inspires us. Your generosity sustains us. Your commitment unites us. And your unyielding and consistent activism propels us all forward.

So give yourselves a big round of applause, because you are the ANC. You are Hye Tad. We need you, and we rely on you. And it is only with you that we will fulfill our dream together of achieving a truly free, truly independent, truly democratic, and a truly united Armenian Homeland where our Nation can prosper forever.

ARS Social Service Centers Assist Those in Need

The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA (ARS), Social Services division serves the needs of low-income community members. ARS clients have been new immigrants, refugees and the elderly, who have difficulties in accessing services due to language barriers and hardships in adjusting to their new lives.

The offices help individuals and families by providing them case management services, and helping them become self-sufficient and productive members of society. Services, which are provided, include in person or by phone interpretation, counseling and translation of information or referral forms such as:

General inquiry or relief, immigration-green card lost/renewal or naturalization, employment authorization/placement, low income housing application (Section 8) or Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), Healthy Families and health care, including Medi-Cal determination, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), access taxi or bus transportation tokens, access telephone, and jury duty forms. The bus tokens from the International Institute of Los Angeles are distributed monthly to low income elderly and the disabled.

A social worker assists a community member at the Glendale center

The ARS Social Services staff provide services based on the requirements of various grants, such as the Los Angeles County Refugee Employment Program (REP), Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), and Aging Grant (AAA), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) through the cities of Burbank, Glendale, Montebello and Pasadena, and a City of Los Angeles grant.

Uncertainty of the future of the ARS Social Services office in Hollywood became a concern, after the grant funding was exhausted by July 1, 2013. Due to limited private donations, the office continues to operate with volunteer efforts. A fundraising event took place on November 10, 2013 at the Hollywood Armenian Center. In attendance were key elected officials, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian (2nd district), who both spoke in support of the ARS Hollywood Social Services office because of their positive experiences with the ARS.

Hundreds have found employment through the Social Service centers’ job listings

During Thanksgiving week, fifteen turkeys were provided by the City of Pasadena Mayor’s office (donated by Ralphs/Food 4 Less stores) and ten turkeys were donated by Congresswoman Judy Chu (32nd District), which were distributed to needy families in Pasadena. California Senator Kevin De Leon’s office (22nd District) donated eight food coupons ($25 each), which were distributed to needy families in Hollywood for Thanksgiving.

Boxes of canned food were donated by Chamlian Armenian School during the Thanksgiving holiday, which we distributed to needy families in Glendale. In addition, Chamlian Parent Support Committee Members donated complete Thanksgiving family meals to four needy clients.

Sean and Nadia Shamsi’s family sponsored a Thanksgiving party for young children on November 26, 2013, at the ARS Regional Headquarters in Glendale. More than 200 children were entertained by the Hoy Lari singing group and received music CDs, along with frozen turkeys. ARS Regional Executive Chairperson Lena Bozoyan made welcoming remarks, and President Bako Sahakyan of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), accompanied by the Honorable Republic of Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles Sergei Sarkisov, spoke to the children about Armenia-Artsakh.

The ARS Social Services provided arranged for needy children to receive gifts at the ARS on December 28, 2013, in Glendale. Christmas gifts have been received from Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School, Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, and Los Angeles City Council Member Mitch O’Farrell’s office (District 13).

The Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard’s Christmas party was held on December 7, 2013, and the Treasure Little Children distributed gifts to the ARS Sosse Chapter Saturday School on December 14, 2013, in Pasadena. They were coordinated by the ARS Social Services.

Social service was always part of the ARS objectives, implemented through volunteers. Since 1979, the ARS has served the community in Southern California through various offices. Since 2000, the ARS Child, Youth & Family Guidance Center assists low-income clients, who need psychological services for acculturation, enculturation, marital and personal issues.

With governmental funding cutbacks, it is up to the ARS membership and supporters to fill in the gaps left by funding limitations. To donate funds for those in need, please send your contributions to ARS Social Services, 517 W. Glenoaks Blvd., Glendale, CA  91202-2812. Contributions can be made on-line by as well at the ARS website, arswestusa.org, where more information is available.

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

During the year there has been an ongoing debate in Armenia and other post-Soviet countries about whether it is expedient “to revive a new Soviet empire” under the name of a Eurasian Union. But at the end of the year plans to create such a union remain relevant – in May 2014 Armenia is going to be one of the six founders of the Eurasian Union (along with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).

Before September 3, Armenia was actively engaged with Europe, stating about shared values and ‘civilizational’ approaches. Armenia even dared reproach Russia for selling offensive weapons to Azerbaijan.

After September 3, however, Armenia suddenly remembered its centuries-old friendship with Russia as well as Russia’s ‘salutary’ role. Pro-Russian rhetoric increased and some even stated the readiness to return to the Russian Empire. In particular, publicist Zori Balayan wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, mentioning the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813, according to which, as a result of the Russian-Persian war, Persia renounced claims to Karabakh that went under Russia’s control.

The Russia-West struggle for post-Soviet countries, including for Armenia, in 2013 came out of its passive phase and acquired the character of an open confrontation. In the course of this battle all methods were employed – from economic blackmail to high-level visits. In particular, thevisit by Putin to Armenia on December 2, as some analysts say, marked Armenia’s losing another portion of its sovereignty and security to Russia.

There have been some new developments in the Karabakh settlement process as well. In particular, on November 19, in Vienna, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev, met for the first time in almost two years. During the meeting some new proposals were apparently discussed. The talks were confidential, but on the basis of available information experts assume that Russia and Turkey are promoting the project of opening the Turkish-Armenian border at the expense of Armenia’s concessions on two districts around Karabakh. The U.S. and Europe appear to insist on settlement and opening of communications while maintaining the current status quo in Karabakh.

Partially this version was confirmed on the eve of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s visit to Yerevan on December 12 (he was attending a regional organization’s forum in the Armenian capital). The Turkish press openly reported the offer from Turkey, but President Sargsyan did not receive Davutoglu, while Minister Edward Nalbandian stated that preconditions are unacceptable in Armenian-Turkish normalization.

The sudden change in the policy of Armenia, according to analysts, could lead to some adjustments in the positions of Armenia on relations with Turkey. At the beginning of 2013 Yerevan set up a commission to study possible legal claims to Turkey. The body was headed by the then Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepyan. It was followed by assumptions that in 2015, when the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be marked, Armenia, with the support of the West, intends to advance serious claims to Turkey. However, the commission has not yet taken any public steps, and after September 3 decisions on claims to Turkey may already be made through Moscow.

Turkey has made no secret of its concern, especially in connection with the probability of combined Kurdish and Armenian claims. In this regard, Turkey has launched a wide-ranging process of reconciliation with the Kurds. 2013 became auspicious also for the Kurdish movement as the prospect of establishing Kurdistan became even closer.

The agreement on the conflict in Syria became an important event of the year also for Armenia in view of the sizable ethnic Armenian community in this Middle Eastern country. In accordance with this agreement, the world power centers decided not to support any side in the Syrian conflict, to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and lead the country to democratic elections in 2014.

An even more significant agreement was reached by the end of the year on Iran’s nuclear program, which immediately led to the lifting of a number of sanctions that had been imposed on the Islamic Republic by the West and its activation in regional politics. In particular, Iran immediately tried to offer natural gas to Armenia that would apparently be less expensive than Russia’s. Projects in energy and communication sectors have also become more relevant in view of the recent developments and Armenia may play an important role in them.

Armenia Adopts ‘Roadmap’ to Customs Union Accession

YEREVAN—Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian participated in a special meeting of the Russian-led Customs Union’s regulatory body, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, which was attended by the Presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan, and the Prime Minister of Ukraine.

The Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC) confirmed a “roadmap” for Armenia’s accession to the economic union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The governments of the three countries and the SEEC have been instructed to work jointly with the Government of Armenia to ensure the implementation of the events envisaged by the roadmap.

The SEEC has been tasked with monitoring the implementation of the items laid out by the program and to inform Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russian about the results of the monitoring. The Commission will present a report at the next meeting.

The Presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Armenia signed a statement on the “roadmap” of Armenia’s accession to the Common Economic Space of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Armenia.

Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus have coordinated the basic principles of the future Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Russian President Vladimir Putin said, opening a top-level meeting of the SEEC in Moscow on Tuesday. He hailed “progress” made since the last meeting in Minsk two month ago.

“The institutional part of the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union has been drafted,” Putin said, the Voice of Russia reports.

He explained that the document specifies the legal status, organizational framework, aims and functional mechanisms of the EEU, which is due to become operational as of Jan. 1, 2015.

“We have fixed the basic principles of the Eurasian integration project,” Putin said.

Armenian president Serzh Sarkisian signs documents at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow. Dec. 24.

The key principle is that EEU activities should fully meet the national interests of all its members, he added.

“We are creating the Eurasian Union in order to strengthen our economies and ensure their harmonious development and a closer rapprochement,” the Russian leader said.

The future alliance, Putin said, will make goods produced by its member states more competitive and consequently benefit their well being.

“Now that preparations for the first part of the project are nearly over, it is necessary to focus our efforts on the functional and economic parts,” he said, adding that work in that direction was already under way.

“Our integration project is interesting and holds appeal for many partners in the CIS due to objective economic reasons. As we know, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have not only expressed their wish to become its participants, but have already accomplished a significant amount of work in this direction. A roadmap outlining further steps as part of Armenia’s accession will be put up for debate today. A similar document concerning Kyrgyzstan is currently being negotiated,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday at the SEEC session in the Kremlin.

Armenia, Russia expand air communication
On Dec. 23, a delegation headed by the Deputy Minister of the Economy Garegin Melkonyan left for Moscow to take part in discussions on bilateral cooperation in civil aviation with aviation authorities of Russian.

On Tuesday, Dec. 24, the Armenian delegation had a meeting with representatives of the Russian Ministry of Transport. During the meeting, the Russian side noted the high interest of Russian airlines to conduct flights to Armenia.

After the meeting, the parties signed a protocol, making changes to an agreement signed between Russia and Armenia in Oct. 4, 1993.

According to the protocol, there will be a higher degree of freedom in the field of civil aviation and air communication, which will allow airlines from both countries to expand their services.

So far, Armenia has already conducted negotiations with multiple governments in regards to Armenia’s new “open skies” policy.

A Homeless Christmas to Be Remembered

A Homeless Christmas to Be Remembered

From time to time, people will ask what story has brought me the greatest joy and fulfillment.

After 50 years, it’s a lot like picking which grandchild you love most.

There are favorites, but after giving it some thought, nothing could ever measure up to the time I went homeless one Christmas season.

No, my parents didn’t kick me out of the house. If anything, they would have opened their door to a vagrant or a derelict.

And, no, my wife didn’t point her finger to the outside and ask me to vacate the premises.

Oh, we’ve had our share of arguments over the Christmas tree and what gifts to buy for whom. But in such cases, I have gamely deferred to the mistress of this house and let harmony take its place.

Instead, I took to the streets during the Christmas season in the best interests of journalism to get the story that wasn’t coming to me.

I kissed my wife goodbye, gave my children a hug, and lived inside a shelter for three days and two nights. I went homeless at a time when I enjoyed all the comforts of my world: a loving family, a good home, a reliable job that led to some shenanigans like these, and plenty of food on my table.

The only people who knew were the editor who suggested the assignment, my family, and the director of the shelter. Even my co-workers were kept in the dark and assumed I had just taken some vacation time.

I had a theatrical make-up artist change my appearance, and didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I was incognito from the moment I stepped out of my home to when I returned—all the better for my experience.

I slept in their bed, ate their food, talked their talk, and walked their streets during the day. It was the experience of a lifetime—all the more accentuated by the Christmas season—including the time I spent behind bars in an undercover mission or frequenting AA meetings as a concealed alcoholic.

As a reporter, I often got to choose my assignments, even if some of them were meant to incriminate me. Most often, you have to live the experience to write about it effectively.

The first day I walked into that shelter, I’ll admit it: I felt like a mouse at an owl convention. My body was shaking until one of the regulars came over and gave me the welcome sign.

“I’m Ronald,” he said, “but people around here call me Buddy. Welcome to our home. We ask no questions, give no answers, mind our own business, and get along just fine together.”

They took me under their wing, possibly struck by the haggard wardrobe I was wearing and the shoes with the tattered laces. I was suddenly a part of a very indigent community, many of whom were one paycheck away from becoming wayward.

Buddy said it best that evening during an after-dinner chitchat, words that left me with an indelible impact.

“We’re not homeless, son,” he pointed out. “Just down on our luck.”

They wanted to know who this “new kid on their block” was and how I happened to wind up there. Without blowing my cover, I told them I was just passing through town with nowhere to go and needed a place to stay. Somebody recommended the mission house up this street.

No reporter pad for this story, not even a napkin note. No communication with anyone from the outside. My bed was a communal cot, much like an army barracks, where the snoring and stench of complete strangers kept you sleepless.

By the third day, I had gotten to know some of the most compassionate people you’d ever want to meet—people like me and you who deserved a better fate. My stomach turned when a young man brought his father to the door in a blatant gesture of neglect.

A pregnant woman was getting close to her due date, worried about her fate as well as her newborn’s. Those spending the night in that mission acted like the town of Bethlehem at Christmas and offered the woman their support.

On the third day, I ate a cold breakfast, bid farewell to my newly adopted family of castoffs, and walked out the door to a nearby CVS parking lot where I had left my car. I felt exonerated.

The story I had intended to write turned into a three-part series on homelessness in my community, straight from the source. It was a good Christmas after all, maybe my best, as people in my city rallied together in donating both money and resources to the shelter.

I felt truly blessed.

Zvartnots airport development project approved

Zvartnots airport development project approved

 

Chaired by Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, the government held this year’s final session.

The Government approved the concessionaire-drafted Master Plan of Zvartnots airport development project for 2013-2017 in line with the arrangement signed between the government of the Republic of Armenia and Corporation America S. A. on December 18, 2001.

“The concessionaire is believed to invest USD 102 million in the project, which is recognized as the best in the CIS. The investment will, on the one hand, help enhance the quality of services and, on the other hand, develop tourism. This is a priority for us.”

The government approved the Tourism Support Services 2014 program and its implementation schedule. The program seeks to enhance Armenia’s standing as a tourist-friendly and attractive country through active and effective marketing policies in the international market, diversify tourism products and ensure harmonious regional development.

Answering the Prime Minister’s questions, the speakers noted that tourism has already been promoted with the government’s open skies policies, which led to partly devaluation of the airfare. In this connection, the Prime Minister said that serious changes are expected in 2014, with the appearance of new airlines whose flights may create better conditions for the development of inbound tourism in Armenia.

The government amended an earlier decree to establish that the basic pension will be AMD 14 thousand, with 700 dram seniority value added for the first 10 years of employment and 450 drams for each following year. Thus, the average pension will be 36 thousand drams in 2014 as compared to about 31 thousand in 2013.
An increase is also due in the disability and perished breadwinner’s retirement pensions paid to rank and file soldiers and their family members (from 16.400 to around 17.500). The scheduled rise in military pensions will be effective from July 1, 2014.

With its next decision, the government set the size of the old-age allowance at AMD 14 thousand. Disability benefits will range from 14 thousand (third group) to 19 600 drams (first group). Funeral allowance will be paid to the extent of AMD 200 thousand as of January 1, 2014.

The meeting also amended another decision to lower the threshold set for family allowances. As a result, the scope of beneficiaries will be expanded by some 270 thousand people entitled to free health care.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister extended his New Year’s greetings: “I wish you all every success so that all the projects and goals that you have set before you may come true as they are aimed at improving the socio-economic situation, better our citizens’ life and raise the standard of living in the country.”