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Relations between the European Union and Armenia are based on the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, which was signed in the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels in November 2017. In July 2003, the European Union appointed a Special Representative for the South Caucasus. Armenia has been part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) since 2004 and in the Eastern Partnership since its creation in 2009.
Negotiations on a new framework agreement were launched in December 2015, resulting in the signing of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit held in Brussels on 24 November 2017. The Armenian Parliament ratified the Agreement unanimously on 11 April 2018, triggering its provisional application as of 1 June 2018. The CEPA is a modern, comprehensive and ambitious agreement, which deepens EU’s and Armenia’s relations in political, sectorial and trade areas of mutual interest.
In line with the new agreement, Armenia and the European Union have jointly developed Partnership Priorities, which defined the priority areas of cooperation. These are: strengthening institutions and good governance; economic development and market opportunities; connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate action; and mobility and people-to-people contacts.
The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains an obstacle to increasing stability and prosperity in the region. The European Union firmly believes that the conflict needs an early political settlement in accordance with the principles and norms of international law. Since 2003, an EU Special Representative has been working to facilitate dialogue between the European Union and the countries of the region and to assist the EU in developing a comprehensive policy towards these countries. The EU, including through its Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, supports and complements the efforts of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (France, the Russian Federation and the United States) to facilitate the resolution of the conflict. The EU also promotes peace-building activities across the conflict divide.
Since 2014, the EU has provided close to €120 million of financial support to Armenia with a focus on areas such as economic development, innovation and personal development, improving the rule of law and the business environment, electoral assistance, and connectivity. Furthermore, Armenia has also benefited from funding for multi-country projects. Transport infrastructure development and energy efficiency has been supported under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility, while further EU support is aiming at delivering concrete results to citizens in areas such as judicial reform, access to finance and economic development, connectivity, education and mobility. Since 2014 Armenia has benefited from €70 million of grants from the Neighbourhood Investment Facility, leveraging €412 million of investment.
The Mobility Partnership with Armenia was signed in 2011. This is a commitment to improve mobility of people between the EU and Armenia, whilst working to ensure better management of migration flows, including preventing and reducing irregular immigration. In this context, the EU-Armenia Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements were signed, which entered into force in January 2014. The 2015, 2016 and 2017 meetings of the EU-Armenia Joint Committee on the implementation of the Visa-Facilitation and Readmission Agreements concluded that the overall implementation of these agreements was satisfactory, allowing for consideration of the opening of an EU visa dialogue with Armenia in due course.
At the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels on 24 November, the EU and Armenia concluded negotiations for a new aviation agreement. It is estimated that this agreement will bring an additional 87,000 additional passengers and will generate more than €16 million in the first five years. This agreement will improve market access for airlines, providing better connectivity, more choice and lower fares for travellers. More flights also means more jobs and more wealth for all partners.
The EU is Armenia's main export market and second largest source of imports, with a 26% share in total exports and a 22% share in total imports. In 2016, EU imports from Armenia amounted to around EUR 300 million, while exports from the EU to Armenia amounted to around EUR 600 million. Metals and diamonds are among the top exports of Armenia to the EU. The EU's exports to Armenia consist of machinery and transport equipment, miscellaneous manufactured articles and chemicals.
Since 1 January 2014, Armenia has benefitted from the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+). This provides additional tariff preferences to Armenia for exporting to the European Union and is based on strict criteria. 95% of total EU imports from Armenia entered the EU with zero duties in 2016, of which 35% entered under the GSP+ regime. The GSP+ scheme supports these countries in assuming the responsibilities resulting from the ratification of 27 core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance as well as from their effective implementation. The main EU imports from Armenia under GSP+ preferences are aluminium foil and ferrous alloys.
Negotiations for Armenia's participation in the EU's biggest research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, were concluded in 2015 and in November 2016 the programme became operational for Armenia. Thanks to this agreement, Armenia's research institutes, universities and individual researchers now have access to all opportunities offered by Horizon 2020 in diverse areas, from fundamental science to demonstration projects, on an equal footing with researchers and organisations from EU Member States and other countries associated to the programme. Armenian Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and businesses are also able to benefit from increased support to develop new ideas and bring products and services to the market.
In November 2016, Commissioners Carlos Moedas and Johannes Hahn launched the EU4Innovation initiative in Yerevan. This initiative combines all EU activities that support the development of Eastern Partnership countries' innovation capacities. An EU4Innovation Centre is about to be established in Yerevan to promote scientific education and close links between universities and businesses.
Since December 2015, Armenia has participated in the COSME programme for small and medium-sized enterprises. The programme promotes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture, improves access to finance for SMEs and boosts their competitiveness. Armenia is actively participating in activities to promote economic integration and regulatory convergence, especially in the field of business development. In the framework of the Harmonisation of Digital Markets and Digital Community, Armenia will coordinate the work of the network EU4Digital: eSkills, which will promote national digital skills strategies in Eastern Partnership countries, notably by establishing national coalitions for digital jobs.
In the area of education, reforms have taken place in line with the Bologna process with the support of the Erasmus+ programme. Armenian universities have been able to modernise study programmes, moving towards a better match with labour market needs.
In the period 2015-2017, 1,300 students and academic staff from Armenia will have studied or taught in Europe and some 580 European students and staff will have gone to Armenia as part of the Erasmus+ programme. 25 scholarships have been awarded to Master students and two to doctoral candidates from Armenia supported by Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programmes. Armenia is a beneficiary of 16 capacity building projects aiming at modernising higher education. 70 schools have participated in eTwinning Plus, a platform to enhance school collaboration through the use of ICT. Armenia also participates in 2 Jean Monnet activities to promote excellence in teaching and research in the field of European Union studies. Young people and youth organisations benefited from Erasmus+ activities, with 4,000 participants from Armenia taking part in the Erasmus+ youth exchanges, policy dialogues, and volunteering.
€215 million from the budget of the European Neighbourhood Instrument has been earmarked for 2015-2020 for the participation of the Eastern Partnership region in Erasmus+. It is estimated that by 2020, Erasmus+ will have supported over 20,000 students and academic staff to move between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries, including Armenia.