The COVID-19 outbreak has evolved into a global pandemic. It has killed over half a million people, strained communities, increased calls for social protection, shrunk business activity and disrupted supply chains. Its consequences will be profound in the European Union EU, in the countries of the Eastern Partnership and all around the globe. Armenia is particularly vulnerable as a landlocked country yet with an open economy that mostly relies on tourism, agriculture, trade and remittances.
This historic crisis requires a fast, massive and coordinated global response to protect all people, save lives and tackle the economic fallout. In such context, the Armenian authorities, the private sector, civil society and ordinary Armenians are responding with extraordinary levels of resilience, responsiveness and creativity.
The EU as the largest donor and a strategic reform partner for Armenia, is already at the forefront of this effort hand in hand with EU Member States and Armenia. The EU has already taken a series of concrete and quick actions to contribute to the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic: an EU emergency support package of Euro 92 million is being delivered to address immediate/short-term needs but also in the mid-term recovery of the country in all its humanitarian, health, social and economic dimensions. Reinforcing resilience is precisely the overarching framework proposed by the recent EU Joint Communication on Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020.
On July 1st, Germany took over the Presidency of the EU Council with main focus on Europe’s immediate response to and overcoming COVID-19, promoting economic recovery, a stronger and more innovative, fair and sustainable Europe.
Furthermore, the EU response follows a Team Europe approach. It draws contributions from all EU institutions and combines the resources mobilised by EU Member States, development agencies and European®ional financial institutions, in particular ADA, GIZ, KfW, EIB, EBRD, FMO and AFD. Working together, Team Europe leverages critical support, reinforcing both governmental & non-governmental actions in support of the most vulnerable Armenian people and businesses. -Please see Annex with some genuine and visible success stories of Team Europe approach by EU Member States-.
Several Team Europe initiatives are jointly carried out by the EU and its Member States, notably in the mobilization of Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) & supplies with EU Civil Protection Mechanism support. Such humanitarian missions allow to share expertise, help those most in need of medical care and strengthen the Armenian health system resilience. Together with European and regional IFIs, Team Europe is also preparing affordable schemes to support micro-businesses, SMEs in accessing credit and guarantees to boost business & jobs after the crisis.
The current crisis is a reminder that the full implementation of our Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement CEPA, the Eastern Partnership deliverables, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement remain crucial to help better equip the world for future systemic shocks.
From emergency crisis to recovery & resilience in the EU and Armenia
Our own EU response to COVID-19 is integrating key strategic objectives with regard to the environment and climate, as set out in the European Green Deal, and the Digital & Youth Agendas, which remain fully valid. Ongoing work on these objectives under a Resilience-building Framework will in fact reinforce the efforts to address the short & long-term challenges linked to the pandemic. Bilateral initiatives taken by EU Members States further strengthen these ambitions. In the European Union, the core purpose of recovery will be to create a more sustainable, resilient and fairer Europe for the next generation.
The EU and its Member States have taken unprecedented measures to protect lives and livelihoods, pooling forces and resources to fight the virus and its consequences. Armenia too, is taking multiple actions to strengthen its health services, and the social and economic foundations.
We, Team Europe, believe that the European Green Deal strategy & principles can serve the next European, Armenian generations by equipping them with competitive sustainability. Transformation towards a clean, circular, competitive and climate neutral economy will not only reduce harmful emissions and climate change induced risks, but equally, will transform economic, trade and social patterns providing for green job-creation, sustainable growth, and greater resilience. Green transformation can have powerful social benefits, such as healthier living conditions, lower energy bills, and reducing energy poverty for vulnerable groups. Green Deal investments, among them those in transport, sustainable agriculture and rural systems, will protect and restore natural ecosystems and biodiversity, so important in limiting future epidemics.
Further and deeper digital transformation is both necessary and promising for all European and Armenian citizens. The current pandemic and its consequences have been largely addressed by using and developing information and communication technologies, indicating the importance of digitalisation. New technologies have allowed keeping businesses and public services running, and trade flowing. They helped people to stay connected and many – to work remotely and support children’s learning. Important societal and economic improvements are expected: telework, e-health, e-commerce, e-learning, e-government, etc.
A fair and inclusive recovery needs to become a pathway towards a fairer and more inclusive next generation. Provision of livelihoods, work security and quality, social protection must be at the centre of recovery actions, with focus on the most vulnerable groups and isolated communities. Equal treatment and inclusiveness must be integrated into recovery actions and reshaping the economy and society. It should address important issues such as decent jobs and economic opportunities, minimum wage, gender pay gap, pay transparency, and social economy development.
Team Europe in support of a Mid-Term Recovery Plan MTRP for Armenia
We, Team Europe, welcome and stand ready to support the RA Government efforts to lead, prepare a Mid-Term Recovery Plan MTRP in an open, consultative process engaging all stakeholders i.e. private sector, civil society, academia, local authorities in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In that context, within the Team Europe approach, the EU is offering a COVID-19 Resilience Contract for Armenia in the form of a flexible, grant-based budget support programme of EUR 30 million for the National Budget in support of the future implementation of the MTRP. Besides, the EU is also mobilizing an extra amount of EUR 35 million as a result of the restructuring of other existing grant-based budget support programmes to deliver more services for all Armenian people and businesses** while targeted support, in particular in terms of much-need liquidity, will be also provided to small and medium-sized enterprises through IFIs. Many other Team Europe initiatives will seek alignment and/or provide complementary support to the MTRP goals and objectives.
We, Team Europe together with Armenia, will definitely transition from this initial emergency and humanitarian phase and will enter into a new recovery and resilience phase very soon. In adversity so often comes opportunity and it is now time for the European Union and Armenia to start getting back to their feet and move forward together to repair damage from the crisis and prepare a better future for people.
e-signed by EU and Member States Ambassadors and Heads of European, regional IFIs, ADA and GIZ
** Euro 65 million in the form of flexible, grant-based budget support was offered to Armenia as part -75%- of the Euro 92 million announced on April 8th.