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Interviews, articles and comments

Interview of Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, to the "Off the Agenda" programme. Part 2


Question. Mr. Nalbandian, the Armenia-EU agreement, that was signed this year, indeed four years later, based on a ”and-and” principle, can be considered as a key achievement of our foreign policy, not only for this year but also in general. Can we affirm that this agreement will in any way affect the commitments of Armenia within the EAEU?

Edward Nalbandian: When the decision was made on launching the negotiation process for joining the Customs Union and in future the EAEU, the very next day I was in Brussels. During my meetings in Brussels, we expressed our willingness to sign what we had negotiated over. We were told from Brussels that it is not possible because we took the direction of accession to the EAEU and it is difficult to combine both. I will not go into all the details now, but there were opinions voiced that it should be an "or-or" approach. And our position was “and-and".

This is the reason why in November 2013, during the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Armenia and the European Union made a statement that we will continue our relations with the objective to enhance, deepen and develop our cooperation.

But hours before that summit, I think three hours before, we have exchanged letters with Ms. Ashton, who was at a time the EU High Commissioner. Today I am opening some brackets. We have exchanged letters which have not been publicized. Not because of us.

What were those letters about? In my letter it was said that Armenia is ready to develop, deepen and enhance its relations, cooperation with the EU in all the possible areas and directions of mutual interest, taking into account Armenia's commitments in other integration processes.

What did Ms. Ashton respond in her letter? She noted that she welcomes this approach. Moreover, we exchanged the negotiated texts of the Association Agreement with the expectation to continue the negotiations on that basis in order to elaborate a framework document which would also take into consideration our commitments in other formats, and to go forward, as far as the EU is willing.

And it was not a coincidence, when in December 2015 in Brussels we have launched the negotiation process with the new High Commissioner Mogherini, both I and Ms. Mogherini mentioned in our remarks that we would continue negotiations to elaborate a new framework document taking into consideration the commitments of Armenia in other formats.

Question. How did it become possible? How did the EU, in fact, change its position, Mr. Nalbandian? And Mogherini as well, during the briefing after the signing, mentioned that Armenia is the only country which is both a member of the EAEU and has signed an agreement with the EU. This was said personally by her.

Edward Nalbandian: The European Union is a serious organisation, which consists of 28 states, where different opinions exist, different discussions are being held, it is not an intractable situation. In the course of those discussions, exchange of views and opinions the positions are shaped and may have some developments. Due to the evolution and development of those approaches and positions, they came to the conclusion that the "and-and" was right, and it was right to negotiate such a document, which would also take into account Armenia's commitments in other formats.

And this was the reason why the European Union and, as you mentioned, Ms. Mogherini, and not only her, but many others as well said that this case can be exemplary, because Armenia is an active member of the EAEU and signed such a serious framework document with the EU. In this sense, it may serve as an example, and why not, perhaps, maybe one day it will also become a bridge between some integration processes.

Question: Can Armenia actually become a bridge between the EAEU and the EU? Mr. Nalbandian, this formulation can be often heard these days considering not so “sweet” relations between Russia and the West.

Edward Nalbandian: I have already said that it is the opinion of many that perhaps in the future the construction of bridges between those processes and between the integration processes in general will be possible, since it will be for the benefit of those countries, those regions and peoples living there.

Question: Mr. Nalbandian, literally a few days ago Armenia assumed presidency of the BSEC. There has been an incident in the parliamentary format of this organisation recently. What was the reaction of the official Yerevan?

Edward Nalbandian: The official response I voiced in the speech that I delivered upon assuming the presidency of this organization. I noted there that some unreasonable attempts by the Parliamentary Assembly of the BSEC to engage in parallel or separate activities which do not comply with the charter and goals of the organisation and to politicize this structure, of course, do not promote at all the authority of this body. On the contrary, they can harm the activities of this organization. I believe, that some of my colleagues have approached this issue with understanding. That is the reason why in the final document, I think for the first time ever, there was no positive word about the activities of the Assembly.

Question. Next year there will be an important diplomatic event. It is indeed unprecedented that Armenia is going to host the summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie. What can it give to Armenia?

Edward Nalbandian: First of all I would like to say, that it is not the first time that Armenia assumes the Chairmanships. We have already chaired in the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. We have chaired the CSTO, the Council of Europe etc. But those were rotational chairmanships. And in the case of La Francophonie, in this very prominent international organization, which consists of 84 member states, associated and observer countries, we have succeeded in assuming the chairmanship in a rather serious competition.

The Summit of La Francophonie, an organization which has fifty years long history will be held in Armenia, which is one of its youngest members states. And we were entrusted with this responsible mission. This speaks of a trust we enjoy. It also speaks of a great reputation that Armenia has on the international arena. Of course, we do realize that this is a great honour for us, but also a responsibility.

We have already started serious preparations. By the decision of the President of the Republic a relevant intergovernmental commission headed by the Prime Minister has been formed. Few days ago I was in Paris, where I met with the Secretary General of the OIF Madame Jean, and we have discussed in a very detailed manner all the aspects and, most importantly, the content of the preparatory work.

Question: Since this is the last, end of the year edition of our programme, what will be your message, Mr. Nalbandian, to our audience?

Edward Nalbandian: Next year we will have a transition to a new system of governance. It is quite a serious change that will strengthen the foundations of our democracy. The constitutional referendum and the parliamentary elections held in Armenia once again proved that democracy already has deep roots in Armenia and it is an irreversible process.

Of course, this is a continuing process and we intend to go forward and further strengthen the democratic foundations of our country. But the fact that we have made serious progress in this direction is not just our opinion. Look what the OSCE / ODIHR or the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission or the European Union and other structures say. This is obvious.

2018 is going to be a year of symbolic dates: the 30th anniversary of the Artsakh Movement, the Centennial of the First Republic, the 2800th anniversary of our capital. These symbolic dates, in their historical sense, seem so distant from each other, so different, but they have many similarities. The most important similarity is that these jubilees will once again demonstrate the aspiration of the Armenian people for freedom, the aspiration to live and create.

In this sense, I would like to extend my best wishes for a new year of peace, prosperity, success and progress for our country, our people, our sisters and brothers in Artsakh and the Diaspora, for all of us.

Question: Happy New Year and Merry Christmas, Mr. Nalbandian. Let our diplomacy have no setbacks and register only achievements in 2018.

Edward Nalbandian: I thank you.

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