YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The European Parliament is planning to allocate around 40 million euros ($50 million) for development projects that will be launched in three regions in northern Armenia this year, according to a senior EU diplomat.
“We are discussing with the Armenian government our action plan for 2018 and will most probably focus on three directions: tourism, agriculture and creative economy,” Piotr Switalski, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, said over the weekend.
Speaking during an EU-sponsored cross-country ski festival in Ashotsk, a small town in northwestern Armenia, Switalski said the fresh aid package is aimed at stimulating economic activity and reducing poverty in the Shirak, Lori and Tavush provinces.
Shirak has long been the country’s poorest region. It is still reeling from a devastating earthquake in 1988 that killed tens of thousands of people and left many others homeless.
Commenting on aid programs planned for Shirak, Switalski said in particular that the EU will spend more than 500,000 on euros on a pilot project designed to support commercial wool processing in Amasia, an impoverished provincial town 23 kilometers southwest of Ashotsk. The EU will also be promoting tourism in the area known for harsh winter weather, he said. The ski festival held there is part of that effort.
“We see a potential here,” Switalski told reporters. “We believe that together with its Armenian and other partners the EU can help to create employment and other opportunities for locals so that they see the realization of their dreams here.”
The EU has been one of Armenia’s leading foreign donors ever since the early 1990s. Switalski said in November that it will provide the country with at least 170 million euros in fresh aid over the next three years. The diplomat spoke shortly after the signing of a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the EU and Armenia.