Hovhannes Hovhannisyan said there is a quite strong opinion in Armenia that the country’s future lies with Europe. “There is no talk about Asia,” he said, adding that Armenian society considers itself European and celebrates its European origins and values. He also said Armenia shares a significant history with Europe because Armenian comes from the same language family as many European languages.
in collaboration with Heghine Manasyan, a research fellow at the
Caucusus Research Center, spoke Monday at a seminar about socio-economic
and political life in Armenia, organized by Istanbul Kültür
University’s Global Political Trends Center, or GPOT, in cooperation
with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and the United States Agency for
International Development, or USAID, in Istanbul.
Armenia looks West
said public debate regarding Armenia’s European future has intensified
since 2001, when Armenia became a member of the Council of Europe.
“There are no real plans in the nearest future [for Armenia] to become
an EU member,” he said, adding this did not imply it was an impossible
Hovhannisyan said Armenian public bodies paid a lot
of attention to the Eastern Partnership Program with the EU, especially
the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. He said the ministry, with assistance
from the EU, had founded a Diplomatic Academy where EU partners and
representatives gave lectures.
Manasyan said projections
regarding the Armenian economy and the country’s long-term sustainable
development focused on integrating with the European economy, which
sounded very strange to people in the beginning. “Now it has become
clear that Armenia is eager to accept all EU standards,” she said,
adding that if Armenian goods meet all EU quality standards penetrating
European markets would be possible.
While it is good to diversify
trade partners, Armenia’s trade relations with Russia remain the
primary Armenian economic concern, as Russia is the country’s biggest
trade partner, she said.
“We are importing fuel and cereals from
Russia and it is exporting labor to us, thus we also get remittances
from there,” Manasyan said.
Manasyan said efficient cooperation
with the world’s Armenian diaspora would make the country much more
powerful. High levels of corruption had to be reduced to make the
country more attractive to foreign direct investment from the Armenian
Trade between Turkey and Armenia?
closed border with Turkey is one of the main challenges to improving the
Armenian economy, this does not necessarily imply that Armenia does not
trade with Turkey, according to Manasyan. Research has revealed that
trade happens through Georgia, she said.
“Businesses managed to
establish third entities in Georgia and thus it is difficult to guess
which was the country [to have instigated trade],” Manasyan said, adding
that while the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TurkStat, records zero
trade practices with Armenia, the Armenian national statistics office
has recorded huge quantities of imports from Turkey, which is the sixth
main trading partner, representing 5 percent of total imports. On the
other hand, exports to Turkey represented only 0.2 percent of Armenia’s
Both speakers at the seminar said building closer
links through non-official channels was one way to effectively improve
relations between the Turkish and Armenian people. “Track-two diplomacy
is as crucial as official diplomacy,” Hovhannisyan said.
Armenia’s healthy relations with the U.S., Russia and Iran,
Hovhannisyan said Armenia managed to maintain such relations by a
process of so-called silent diplomacy.
“We never ask questions
[on issues that might be sensitive for any of the countries],” he said.
This is how Armenia has managed to maintain relations with these three
countries, whose conflicting interests often curtail active and
simultaneous diplomatic engagements, he said.
As an example of
good relations between countries, Artak Shakaryan, the Armenia-Turkey
Program Manager at the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, cited Armenia and
Iran. The two countries were exchanging natural gas for electricity
within the scope of a barter system, he said.
"Armenia gives Iran
electricity during summer in exchange for natural gas from Iran during
winter," he said. The Armenian diaspora has also done much to affect
this possibility, through lobbying and maintaining good relations with
Russia, Iran and the U.S., Hovhannisyan said.
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