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Armenia's Millennium Challenge failure

08 December 2014 [17:31] - TODAY.AZ

/By AzerNews/

By Mushvig Mehdiyev

Armenia is marking the 22nd anniversary of establishing relations with the United States in December. Despite the two-decade partnership, the U.S. government is still hesitating to fully support Armenia given several problems in the post-Soviet state, particularly lack of democratic values and widespread corruption.

Political experts say the U.S. sees Armenia as a country failing to achieve significant successes in several fields including the politics and economy. Armenia failed to get a sustainable support from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an innovative and independent U.S. foreign aid agency, due to its poor democratic progress and imbalanced foreign policy.

The U.S. Congress created the Millennium Challenge Corporation in January 2004 as part of its efforts to deliver smart U.S. foreign assistance to foreign countries based on good policies. The U.S. authorities grant financial aid to countries which observe challenges of progress. The main requirement for benefiting from the MCC is to pursue democratic norms and standards in every field.

In 2006, the Challenge Corporation and the Armenian government signed an agreement to reduce rural poverty in the post-Soviet country through a sustainable increase in the economic performance of the agricultural sector. Armenia received nearly $250 million over five years since it joined the MCC.

But the MCC has decisively halted its financial backing to Armenia after the bloody events on March 1, following the presidential elections in 2008. Assessing the fatal skirmishes, the MCC announced that Armenia did not follow the democratic standards.

Manager of the MCC John Danilovich delivered a letter to then President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan, warning him about the corporation's worries on the democratic commitments of Armenia. According to political sources, Kocharyan sent a reply letter to Danilovich, but it is still missing and unknown to the public.

Being deprived of the financial aid from MCC has turned into a hard blow on the Armenian government. In December 2012, Former Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan visited the White House to convince the U.S. authorities to resume the aid assistance to his country. His meetings with Vice-President Joe Biden and MCC Executive Director Daniel Johansson sparked hope in the Armenian government for a restoration of the regular financial aids.

But the U.S. government didn't resume the money deliveries to Armenia. "Remnants" of Kocharyan's political activity dashed the remaining hope in the former Soviet state. About $64 million of the MCC aid, which was planned to be invested in repair of the rural roads in Armenia, was directed to Georgia and spent for the construction of Akhalkalaki highway.

Former Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan instructed the finance ministry to develop a new appeal for financial aids saying the government hoped to see the comeback of the money inflow. Nevertheless, Armenia's rhapsodic request was rejected by the corporation.

Arthur Sakunts, former member of the Trustees Union of the Millennium Challenge Foundation - Armenia, Head of the Helsinki Assembly's Vanadzor Office, revealed the major factors behind the rejection of Armenia's appeal.

Sakunts said the MCC ignored Armenia's request due to its indifference to include international and civilized standards in its foreign policy, political decisions and behavior. "Armenia will isolate itself from all civilized processes as it has joined the Eurasian Economic Union - an anti-civilization club," he said.

Sakunts added that Armenia had a chance to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union last year.

"Integration into the EU would bring a desire to make reforms. But now it has problems with the World Trade Organization and the MCC is not willing any more to support the country. Numerous programs will stop and isolation from the world will deepen in Armenia following its membership in the EEU," he noted.

Sakunts pointed the blame finger at former president Robert Kocharyan for his failure to implement MCC’s program, calling on him to bear all responsibility for it.

He said Armenia would not see implementation of any program in its territory as long as the bloody events in 2008 have not been legally investigated and assessed.

Modern Armenia doesn't differ from the country in 2008, since the same ruling elite yields the power in the country. One of the key principles of getting MCC aid is lowering the corruption rate.

Corruption has always been stated as an "invincible" problem of the post-Soviet nation. Even U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern claimed that Armenia still fails to eradicate bribery, not reaching the pre-defined goal in fight against corruption. Now, the Armenian authorities are waiting for a miracle to bedazzle the eyes of the U.S. leadership to see Armenia as a perfect country, which deserves all the best, including the MCC financial aid.


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