Working visit of the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan to Kingdom of Belgium
President Serzh Sargsyan’s working visit to the Kingdom of Belgium has started. This morning in Burssels, the President of Armenia met with the President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul at the headquarters of the EPP.
The parties spoke about the prospects of development of the Armenia-EU relations, the process of the comprehensive reforms going on in Armenia, including the transition to a new system of governance after the changes made to the Constitution, works aimed at the further development and strengthening of the democratic institutions, and preparation for the parliamentary elections to be held in April.
Serzh Sargsyan and Joseph Daul discussed also issues related to Armenia’s cooperation with the EPP partners at the international platforms, general problems and challenges, as well as exchanged views on the strengthening of the interpartisan ties.
Noting, that the agenda of his working visit to Belgium is full of substantial meetings and discussions with the leadership of the European Union, the President of Armenia acknowledged a prominent role of the EPP - as the most influencial political force in Europe - in the deeping of the relations between Armenia and the EU. President Sargsyan stressed the importance of a continuous deepening of cooperation between the Republican Party of Armenia and EPP and expressed gratitude for the constant readiness to provide support and practical assistance to Armenia and RPA.
In this context, the parties stressed also the importance of the coopeation with EPP in different interparliamentary platforms aimed at the protection of human right and liberties, development of democratic institutions, social, humanitarian and cultural cooperation.
The President of Armenia and President of EPP spoke also about the NK problem. Serzh Sargsyan presented the positon of the Armenian side related to the resolution of the conflict, the situation at the NKR-Azerbaijan line of contact, permanent violation by the Azeris of the ceasefire regime, provocation and steps aimed at the escalation of the situation.
Noting that the NK conflict remains the gravest challenge to the regional security and security in Europe, President Sargsyan underscored that Armenia, just as the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, sees no alternative to a peaceful settlement and unlike Azerbaijan doesn’t want to see our region engulfed once again in the nightmare of war. President Sargsyan reiterated that Armenia will spare no effort together with the OSCE Minsk Group to solve the conflict through exclusively peaceful means, which according to the President, is the shared approach of the international community.
At the meeting, the President of Armenia expressed gratitude to the President of EPP for the invitation to participate at the EPP political summit which will take place late March in Malta.
While paying a working visit to the Kingdom of Belgium, President Serzh Sargsyan had a tête-à-tête meeting with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council. Negotiations continued in the format of a working dinner hosted by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, in honor of Serzh Sargsyan, President of the Republic of Armenia. President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and President of the European Council Donald Tusk issued press statements to sum up the outcomes of the meeting.
Statement of President Serzh Sargsyan on the outcomes of the meeting with President of the European Council Donald Tusk
Once again I would like to extend my gratitude to the President of the European Council and our good friend Donald Tusk for both the invitation to visit Brussels and our detailed and open talks. I have met Mr. Tusk on numerous occasions both in his previous and current capacities. Indeed, I recall all our meetings with warmth. I appreciate the sincerity. Thank you very much.
As Mr. President noted, the core issue of today’s meeting was the new framework agreement between Armenia and the EU. Today I am pleased to announce that the parties have completed the negotiations. The new legal document – Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement reflects the real scope and depth of the Armenia-EU relations.
At the same time it is worth mentioning that along with the framework agreement we have registered a significant progress in sectoral cooperation by signing both the COSME programme (for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and the “Horizon 2020” program on innovation. Soon we will successfully complete the activities to join the agreement on Common Aviation Area and “Creative Europe” initiative, as well. Overall, the past two years were exceptionally active in the context of Armenia-EU cooperation: political dialogue has been significantly intensified, cooperation in various areas has expanded.
Indeed, together with Mr. Tusk we also discussed other issues on the Armenia-EU agenda; we touched upon the regional and international developments. In the near future we expect to launch visa liberalization dialogue enshrined in the Joint Declaration of the Riga Summit of Eastern Partnership Summit, which will greatly contribute to the widening and deepening of ties between our peoples.
As you know, the axis of our cooperation is the reforms being implemented in Armenia. During 25 years of Armenia’s independence the EU has always been with us and has been providing significant financial, technical and moral support. The results are visible in various fields: the areas of public administration, justice, agriculture, statistics, and government procurements have been improved; vocational education has been refined to meet the requirements of the labor market. Business environment and investment climate in Armenia have been improved as well. We are determined to advance this cooperation not only in the mentioned areas but also in other fields of mutual interest to register new achievements. Thank you for this assistance.
Within a month parliamentary elections will be held in Armenia, which will be the first one after the 2015 Constitutional reforms. While changing the state governance system, we have one vision – to make a strong step forward towards the further development and strengthening of democracy. To prepare for these elections the electoral system has undergone serious changes. A new Electoral Code has been adopted as a result of the consensus among all the political forces, serving as a firm basis for open, transparent and fairer elections. Our goal is to hold such elections so that to remarkably raise public trust towards the electoral procedures. To that end, we have invited and encouraged large participation of authoritative international observation missions in the upcoming elections, including from the European Parliament. At the same time we call on local observers and civil society representatives to be active.
I expressed my gratitude to Mr. Tusk that EU stands next to us in this important period for Armenia and provides significant resources for the implementation of the provisions of the Electoral Code. I am sure, the results of this assistance and our cooperation will be visible for everyone.
Naturally, during the talks we touched upon the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and reaffirmed that it has no military solution. Even though the Armenian side is ready for reasonable mutual compromises, nevertheless, the issue is based on the right of the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) to determine its future through free expression of will. There can be no other approach. The right of people of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination is not only enshrined in international fundamental documents, it is also recognized and embodied in numerous statements of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – the only specialized structure dealing with this conflict.
In other words, this is not only Armenia’s approach, it is the collective perception of the international community regarding this issue. We are thankful for the balanced stance of the EU on the peace process, and for trusting and supporting the OSCE Minsk group Co-Chairs.
In the end, I want to note that EU is an exemplary history of building civilized relations with its philosophy and idea behind. The European Union is a history of overcoming issues between neighbors through joint efforts, which leads to success - something we need so much today. We duly appreciate this achievement and together with you are ready to preserve and cherish it.
I am pleased to welcome President Sargsyan to Brussels today.
Armenia whose independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity we support is an important partner for the European Union.
I am very pleased to announce today the conclusion of negotiations on the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement.
This new agreement will broaden the scope of our relations, taking into account the new global, political and economic interests we share and challenges we want to face together.
We are looking forward to stronger cooperation in sectors such as energy, transport and the environment, for new opportunities in trade and investments, and for increased mobility for the benefit of our citizens.
We have discussed today our shared values including our commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, which underpin the new agreement and our future cooperation.
The EU is already the first trade partner of Armenia, its first international donor and strongest supporter to reforms. We intend to expand these relations further in the coming years and have encouraged Armenia to continue reforms across a range of issues, including economic development, the business environment, the judiciary, human rights, the fight against corruption and measures to ensure free and fair elections.
We also discussed the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The status quo is unsustainable. The conflict needs an early political settlement in accordance with international law. It does not have a military solution. The EU continues to fully support the mediation efforts and proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
Mr President, thank you very much for coming to Brussels for your visit, for all your efforts and for our cooperation.
Within the framework of his working visit to the Kingdom of Belgium, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan met with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Headquarters.
Serzh Sargsyan and Jens Stoltenberg held a joint press conference summarizing the outcomes of the talks.
The remarks of the President of the Republic of Armenia at the joint press conference with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Thank you, Mr. Secretary General,
It’s a great honour for me to visit the NATO Headquarters again and meet with you to discuss the issues of mutual interest.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance. It was a quarter of a century ago, in 1992, when the newly-independent Armenia joined to the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, laying the foundation for establishing partnership relations with the NATO. And today I am glad to emphasize that during that quarter of a century our partnership has grown and has been completed with new content, thus becoming one of the components of Armenia’s multilayer security system.
The Armenia-NATO relations have a quite broad agenda based on clearly understood common interests and needs. It includes both political dialogue at the highest level and numerous examples of practical cooperation.
Together with the Secretary General we highlighted the importance to maintain the current level of political dialogue and continue regular contacts, and discussed issues related to the further development and expansion of our partnership with the NATO.
We acknowledged that four Armenia-NATO Individual Partnership Action Plans have been successfully implemented and currently the fifth plan for 2017-2019 is in the stage of approval. We emphasized the importance of the upcoming launch of the activities of the NATO Trust Fund in Armenia. And I invited Mr. Secretary General to visit Armenia, which will provide a very good opportunity to sum up what have been done over these 25 years and to outline our future activities.
Armenia continues its important contribution to the collective efforts aimed at establishing international peace and stability, thereby turning from a security consumer into a security provider. While facing serious security threats, Armenia makes its input to the security and stability in various parts of the world by realizing full well to which extend the world is interconnected today and that there are no longer security challenges of individual states. They challenge both the individual countries and everyone. I would like to commend that by developing its peacekeeping capacities as a result of the Armenia-NATO cooperation, during the recent years Armenia has extended the geography of its engagement. Along with our involvement in Kosovo and Afghanistan today our servicemen also participate in the missions in Lebanon and Mali being carried out under the aegis of the UN. I am glad to note that Armenia is assessed by the Alliance and its member states as an “active partner of the NATO”.
I am also proud that our servicemen are assessed as well prepared, disciplined and responsible participants of these missions. I am convinced that our servicemen will use the international experience and capacities acquired within the framework of peacekeeping missions for our army-building.
Indeed, we touched upon the most explosive security challenge of our region – the recent developments on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. In this context I attached great importance to the support of the NATO and Mr. Stoltenberg personally to the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs aimed at the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I am thankful to you, Mr. Secretary General, for supporting us, I mean the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
The April war, followed by continuous regular shootings with the use of heavy artillery and military equipment demonstrate that this conflict is an “active” one and today more than ever it is essential that the international community unite around a civilized settlement by supporting the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs countries towards the peaceful settlement. We noted that according to “Partnership for Peace” program’s framework document, “The protection and strengthening of fundamental freedoms and human rights, ensuring freedom and justice, and establishment of peace through democracy are key common values for the partnership”.
In conclusion, I would like to reaffirm the commitment of the Republic of Armenia to continue to set an active positive agenda with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its member states for the further consolidation of international peace and security. I also hope that my next meeting with the NATO leaders will take place in Yerevan.
Warm welcome to NATO Headquarters. It’s a pleasure to meet you again. We last met at NATO Summit in Warsaw in July last year.
And I also welcome our very constructive and interesting discussions we just had in our meeting. And I also welcome the partnership that we have developed, between NATO and Armenia, over many years. That is good for Armenia, and it’s good for NATO. And I also welcome that in our meeting we discussed how we can take that partnership further and continue to strengthen the cooperation between Armenia and NATO.
We have developed our partnership over many years; in fact, this year is the 25th anniversary of you joining the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. It was a crucial time following the end of the Cold War. It proved to be the foundation of our partnership and we have built on that partnership over many years. You attended the Warsaw Summit because of your country’s important contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Thank you very much for Armenia’s presence and contributions to NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan fighting terrorism.
Armenia also contributes forces to our KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, helping keep the Western Balkans stable. Armenian troops are helping to bring stability to those countries and we are very grateful for your contributions, helping to make EuroAtlantic area safer and more secure.
The NATO Alliance is committed to working with you, as well as other partners, because cooperation between NATO and Armenia is in both our interest. Together, we are developing a new, individual Partnership Action Plan, tailored to your needs and requirements and I see opportunities for us to cooperate more closely on interoperability, defense reform and defense education. NATO and our Allies have considerable expertise in defense and security sector reforms. Armenia can draw upon these resources.
I also want to congratulate you on your participation in the Building Integrity program to counter corruption in the armed forces and your progress on implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women peace and security. These are important steps for all of us.
We also discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I am concerned about the continuing violence along the line of contact, including this weekend. It is important to avoid escalation, because there is no military solution to this conflict and its persistence is holding back the region. So we encourage both Armenia and Azerbaijan to return to the negotiating table and to work towards a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. NATO fully supports the Minsk Group process to that end.
So thank you once again, for coming here today and thank you so much for our close partnership, which, I think, is good for Armenia and good for NATO.
Thank you so much!
At the end of the first day of his working visit to the Kingdom of Belgium, President Serzh Sargsyan at the Villa Empain Centre of art and dialogue between cultures of the East and the West in Brussels met with the representatives of the business community of Belgium.
President Serzh Sargsyan started the second day of his working visit to the Kingdom of Belgium by visiting the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels.
Hosted at this prestigious research institution, President Sargsyan met with the experts of the Center. The moderator of the meeting, a scientific researcher of the Carnegie Endowment Stephen Lehne, who has been studying the EU foreign policy developments and relations among the member states since the Lisbon Agreement, presented Serzh Sargsyan to the audience. President Serzh Sargsyan made a statement and answered the questions raised by the participants of the event. The audience was interested in Armenia’s foreign and internal policies, as well as in the RA President’s viewpoints and assessments on the regional and international pressing issues.
Remarks by President Serzh Sargsyan at the Carnegie Center
Distinguished Mr. Lehne,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor of course for me to speak at the event held at the Brussels office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I am here for the first time but I recall warmly my meetings and discussions held at the Carnegie headquarters in Washington, D.C. Reputable platforms such as this one, on one hand provide the opportunity to present the logic behind the developments taking place in our country, and on the other hand, we learn from the very source about the latest expert analysis, estimates, and approaches.
Finally, the very idea of international peace, which is laid in the basis of this Endowment, is the objective that has always attracted the entire civilized world.
Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life.” A good citizen is indisputably a guarantee of the success for a state. The more mature and informed the civil society is, the more efficient the state structures are. Strong civil society, along with the separation of powers, is one of the best mechanisms for checks and balances.
That was the driving force behind the process of constitutional reforms we initiated in our country, and it has been going on for over two years. The amended Constitution has defined more precisely the authority framework for different branches of power, stressing the respect for human rights and making the voice of people heard in all areas. As a result, in our country has already commenced the process of building such a political system in which the influential actors will be not the individuals but political forces, political institutions. Enlargement of political parties and formation of political coalitions is going on in Armenia at this moment; that is a welcome development, and we have been striving to achieve that. Political parties are getting consolidated as stable institutes; smaller parties are disappearing or merging together.
For Armenia, to amend the Constitution was a bold step aimed on one side to the decentralization of the government, on the other hand – at the strengthening of the legal and constitutional order, which will allow to eradicate unacceptable manifestations of the post-Soviet flaws, decrease the corruption risks and provide the best possible conditions to move the country forward on the path of sustainable development.
In coming weeks, Armenia’s political system will undergo a serious test: at the beginning of April, in accordance with the amended Constitution and the new Electoral Code, we will conduct parliamentary elections. Fundamental changes were introduced into the Electoral Code as well, some of which resulted from the unprecedented dialogue and consensus between the authorities, opposition, and the civil society. To ensure a considerably greater public trust towards the electoral process and to conduct free and fair elections, we have actively introduced contemporary technical measures for the election monitoring. Moreover, in line with the wishes expressed by the opposition, we agreed to introduce such transparent and novel approaches towards which certain reservations were voiced by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. We agreed to do it because at this point a greater trust towards the process was the most important objective.
With this regard, I express gratitude to all our international partners, and particularly to the European Union, for the assistance provided from the very beginning of the process. The reformation process and its results have been praised by our international partners, such as the OSCE/ODHIR, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, and the European Union.
We have set the bar high: to conduct democratic, free, fair, and transparent elections. I have no doubt that we will reach this goal, and the atmosphere of the elections and the results of the entire process will prove the aptness of our approaches.
When we started the process of constitutional reforms, our major objective was not just to introduce a parliamentary model of government but to further strengthen democratic institutions through the decentralization of the authority and introduction of a fully proportional voting system. I think with this regard Armenia sets a positive example for other post-Soviet and regional countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The reckless four-day military escapade carried out by Azerbaijan in April 2016 was the epitome of Baku’s years-long belligerent policy and ideology. It dealt a heavy blow to the NK peace process. Azerbaijani aggression proved once again that the struggle of the people of Artsakh for living safely on their own land and be free has no alternative. This is not an opinion, but the reality created and imposed on us by Azerbaijan’s policy.
There are strictly defined agreements reached in Vienna and Saint Petersburg after the April war, related to upholding of the unlimited tri-party ceasefire agreements of 1994-1995 and on the creation in the conflict zone of the mechanisms to investigate violations of the ceasefire regime. However, Azerbaijan, true to its long-standing tradition, refuses to implement these agreements and declares that their implementation will allegedly reinforce the existing status quo in Nagorno Karabakh.
If Azerbaijan is truly concerned with changing the status quo in Nagorno Karabakh, there is only one way to do it – to recognize the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh for self-determination.
It would be naïve to assume that Azerbaijan was unaware of the heavy blow it dealt to the peace process, to reinforcing the status quo, to pushing pack the peace process. Obviously, Baku is using the Nagorno Karabakh conflict to divert the attention and rising discontent within its own society related to the pressing social and economic issues and blatant violations of human rights in the country.
For that very reason, Baku recently stated that Nagorno Karabakh was its “internal affair.” It has been for years that the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, namely France, Russia and the US, who form the agreed international format, have been mediating the Nagorno Karabakh issue. Someone in Baku might have had a bad dream and based on that deluded himself that these three major international actors have put aside their own complicated issues and suddenly chose to engage in Azerbaijan’s “internal affair.”
This was just an episode from the theater of absurd which is being staged in Baku. We encounter it almost on a daily basis. However, sincere outbursts also happen. On one such instance, the leader of Azerbaijan, trying to boost his very significance in front of his subordinates, admitted publicly that at the negotiations behind the closed doors he was under pressure to recognize independence of Nagorno Karabakh, and he was the sole person able to withstand the pressure coming from the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, as mediators, are also called upon to prevent possible escalation in the area of conflict. Negotiations conducted under the shelling hold no promise.
That is the stage the Artsakh conflict resolution process has reached now. Both Artsakh and Armenia are in principle against the use of force and are in favor of solving the problem as soon as possible through peace negotiations.
Azerbaijan’s new attempts to engage in a military adventure can have unpredictable consequences for Azerbaijan itself. Armenia, as the guarantor of Nagorno Karabakh’s security, has stated on many occasions that it was ready to respond adequately to any attempt to use force.
Despite Azerbaijan’s incessant threats, the people of Artsakh continue to build resolutely their own future. On February 20, a referendum took place in Nagorno Karabakh on constitutional reforms.
The people of Artsakh have voted for the presidential model of governance. As you see, with regard to the system of governance, the positions of Armenia and Nagorno Artsakh differ; however, the resolve to build a democratic system is unwavering. The people of Artsakh have been manifesting that resolve for decades – they formed through the elections their executive, legislative, and local government bodies. The people of Artsakh dream of no other future and are busy with creating a free society based on human rights and basic liberties.
Just as anyone in the democratic world, people of Artsakh have every right to enjoy all universal and fundamental freedoms. People of Artsakh know better than anyone the price of being free because they paid for it with the blood of their sons. Today, Artsakh is building democracy under fire. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, is trying to silence the voice of freedom, urging to condemn democratic processes in Artsakh. While Artsakh is taking consistent steps on its path towards a consolidated democracy, its neighbor Azerbaijan, especially at the current stage, has been taking consistent steps towards the establishment a totally hereditary tyranny.
I see that all gathered here are notable experts. If there are alternative mechanisms of governance and self-organization for unrecognized entities, I would appreciate if you let us know. It is hard to explain to our colleagues in Artsakh why the unrecognized Kosovo can cooperate with the OSCE/ODHIR and form its governmental institutions democratically, while some think that the people of Artsakh cannot do it. Even though Armenia has not recognized independence of Kosovo, by the virtue of financing the OSCE budget we are part of that process. I am confident that the international community should start to gradually assist Artsakh in its democratic processes, regardless of the status of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
It is well-known that sustainable development is one of the most critical components of the public security, while with regard to a state, development cannot be sustainable unless it is based on a strong economy.
Recent developments prove that Armenia has been able with scarce resources to form a flexible economic system. These achievements are called to verify that the main source for our economic development is the human capital. I will give you one example: the area of information and communication technologies in recent years has become one of the locomotives of our economy. In this area, Armenia is working with prominent companies such Microsoft, IBM, Sysco, D-Link, Oracle, Synopsis, Mentor Graphics and others. There are nearly 400 enterprises functioning in Armenia in this area alone, with the number of employees close to 15 thousand. In this sphere, the women in Armenia are among the most engaged in the world. In this area we register a 20-25% increase on average each year; it makes nearly 4% of the GDP which is comparable to that of many developed countries.
It would be hard to ensure through the standard models of economic development the level of advancement that would allow us to withstand the current global challenges. Therefore, we need a new vision with innovative approaches and solutions. We have been able to form an economic system that is free of the impact of the raw natural resources. Armenia differs positively from a number of the regional countries, where the economic crises of the recent years resulted in the destabilization of the economy and devaluation of the national currency. Armenia proved that even under a blockade and limited availability of resources we were able to form a stable and predictable economy, which registered progress with regard to a number of international indices, in particular, the World Bank “Doing Business 2017,” as well as most recent reports by the Fitch Ratings. In accordance to “Doing Business 2017”, Armenia has improved its standing by five points and occupies the 38th position among 189 states while Fitch rated Armenia stable with B+.
Our new government, which was formed at the end of last year, has come up with the impressive reforms agenda. The reforms should enhance the level of recognizability of the country and investment attractiveness, especially for the European investors; it will boost the public-private partnership, ensure a comprehensive state assistance to the business projects which will encourage a rapid economic growth.
While speaking about improving Armenia’s international milieu, I would be remiss not to mention the Syrian crisis. From the beginning of the crisis and until today, over 20 thousand Syrian refugees of the Armenian descent have found a safe haven in Armenia. Certainly, it is painful to state because they are not refugees in our understanding. They are part of us, who because of certain historical developments had found salvage in Syria. Today, as a result of the unfolding tragic geopolitical developments they found refuge in Armenia.
However, we are doing more than that. Armenia is regularly sending humanitarian aid to Syria: another aircraft with the cargo, days ago landed in Syria. The aid is sent not only to our fellow Armenians in Syria, but to all Syrians, regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations. This is the least we can do as a token of appreciation to the people of Syria who once opened their doors to the Armenians who had survived the Genocide.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yesterday with President Tusk we announced that the negotiations on the Armenia-European Union framework agreement have basically been concluded.
The new Armenia-EU agreement is first and foremost a political document that allows us to accommodate various interests towards the vitality of the so-called policy of “both, and.” It is true that back in 1996, we signed the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement to regulate the relations between Armenia and EU. It, however, was not fully reflecting either the real scope, or depth, or the ambitions of the Armenia-EU relations. Therefore, with the new Agreement we will register the achievements and development milestones and announce that we will continue to develop our bilateral agenda in all areas.
It is important that this cooperation is based on shared values. Even at the most difficult junctions of its history Armenia has never been confronted with making a civilizational choice. Nobody is forcing upon us the implementation of democratic reforms; it is our choice. Our people view themselves as Europeans: our spiritual and cultural heritage and our lifestyle are European. It is no coincidence that today hundreds of thousands of Armenians reside in Europe, and are exemplary citizens, whose talents and hard work serve their countries. They also present an important link which connects Armenia and the European Union.
It is true that Armenia’s accession to the EAEU at the initial stage was received as a thorny issue by some of our western partners. I am glad that time made things fall into place and sorted them out.
We are ready to promote the mutually beneficial EU-EAEU relations to make them closer. Armenia is interested in the Pan-European cooperation. We are fully aware that cooperation is the best way to solve the existing issues, while confrontation and a policy of creating new dividing lines has no future.
At the same time, Armenia has historically accumulated a rich experience with Iran, and our current close economic, political and cultural contacts make Armenia a good platform for those European companies that might wish to enter Iran. Developing an exemplary regional cooperation with Iran, Armenia has good prerequisites of becoming the safest and the shortest transit route connecting the seaports of the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea. That was the reason behind the inclusion of the North-South highway, which runs from the seaports of Georgia to Yerevan and further to the border checkpoint with Iran, among the main routes of the European Union.
Friendly relations between Armenia and Georgia are an important element of the security in the South Caucasus. With Georgia, we have always able to address every issue in the atmosphere of good-neighborly relations and mutual understanding. We have never conditioned our relations with the relations with third countries.
Current cooperation between Armenia, as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, and Georgia, as an EU associated partner, proves that there are new opportunities for the mutually beneficial cooperation.
Armenia is ready to become a stable partner in the region which will encourage the process of ironing out differences existing between the major actors, developing the avenues for the economic advancement and forming efficient investment policy.
In conclusion, I would like to stress again the importance of a durable peace in the world and in our region. I strongly believe that any conflict can be solved through the joint efforts of the international community. It is symbolic that at the Yerevan Brandy factory there is a “peace cask” that is surrounded by the flags of Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, Azerbaijan and countries of the OSCE Minsk Group. It is just a sign, one among many, of our anticipation of peace and reconciliation. We are looking forward to the day when we will herald to the world the establishment of a long-awaited peace in our region and celebrate it with our world-renowned brandy, opening new opportunities of development for all those living in the South Caucasus.
In Brussels President Serzh Sargsyan met with a group of members of the European Parliament.
The President of Armenia congratulated them on the occasion of the meeting and handed high state awards which the parliamentarians were bestowed last year.
In particular, for the considerable contribution to the expansion of the parliamentary cooperation between the Republic of Armenia and the European Union the Vice President of the European Parliament, Vice President of Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Ryszard Czarnecki was awarded the Mkhitar Gosh Medal. Members of the EP committee on Foreign Affairs and members of delegations at the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Jacek Emil Saryusz-Wolski, Knut Fleckenstein, member of the EP, the Head of the Friends of Artsakh Group at the European Parliament Frank Engel, member of the EC committee on Foreign Affairs, member of the Armenia-EU parliamentary cooperation committee, member of the delegation at the Euronest PA Jaromír Štětina for his contribution to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, member of the Armenia-EU parliamentary cooperation committee, Co-Chair of the Euronest PA Heidi Hautala for her contribution to the strengthening of the RA and EU parliamentary cooperation and international recognition of the Armenian Genocide were also bestowed this award. The Mkhitar Gosh Medal was also awarded to the Chairperson of the EU-Armenia Friendship Group at the European Parliament Eleni Theocharous who was bestowed the award for the development of the friendly relations between Armenia and Cyprus and for the considerable contribution to the expansion of parliamentary cooperation between the Republic of Armenia and the European Union. The member of the EC committee on Foreign Affairs Charles Tannock received the Medal of Gratitude for his considerable contribution to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
President Serzh Sargsyan, who is the Kingdom of Belgium on a working visit, met with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
The President expressed gratitude for the warm welcome and spoke with satisfaction about the substantial and busy schedule of his working visit to Brussels. He expressed hope that the discussions with President Tusk and President of EPP Daul, which were held in the atmosphere of openness, as well as the upcoming meetings with the EU High Representative Mogherini and the newly elected President of the European Parliament Tajani will unquestionably bring their contribution to the deepening of the Armenia-EU cooperation.
Serzh Sargsyan highlighted the importance of the recent announcement made together with President Tusk on the conclusion of the negiations over the new Armenia-EU framework agreement, which were in progress for almost a year.
According to the President, the new agreement will become a solid legal base for the deepening and developing the Armenia-EU relations in coming years, while mutual commitments enshrined in the document will also spearhead Armenia’s large-scale political and economic reforms, constituting the basis of the bilateral relations. President Sargsyan expressed hope that in addition to already reached agreements, the parties will soon start works aimed at the attraction to Armenia of the investments from the EU.
At the same time, the President expressed hope that the EU assistance to the process of reformation in Armenia will be continuous. Serzh Sargsyan assessed as undeniable the fact that the cooperation with the EU has already stimulated advancement in the areas of economy, justice, state governance in Armenia and the strengthening of the democratic institutions for the protection of human rights and fundamental liberties.
The parties spoke in detail about the Armenia-EU relations and their prospects.
At the meeting with the President of the European Commission, President Sargsyan underscored that Armenia, which is a member to the Eurasian Economic Union, attaches a great importance to the development of the economic relations with the EU, striving to continue and move forward the reformation agenda in various areas.
Discussed were also the situation in the region and recent developments.
Serzh Sargsyan and Jean-Claude Juncker spoke also about the NK issue. The President of Armenia presented the recent develpoments and concerns related to the NK conflict resolution. President Sargsyan hailed the balanced position of the EU on a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict which concurs with the efforts and formulations of the only internationally mandated format of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
The parties also exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East, including the crisis in Syria, spoke about the refugee problem and Armenia’s, along with many other countries’, humanitarian assistance to the friendly people of Syria and the Syrians of the Armenian descent.
President Serzh Sargsyan in Brussels met with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini.
At the beginning of the meeting, the President of Armenia stated with satisfaction that the meeting with Mrs. Mogherini is taking place at the important for Armenia and the EU juncture: a day before President Sargyan and President Tusk announced the conclusion of the negotiations on the new framework agreement. Serzh Sargsyan assessed as important the fact that only one year ago, the process of the negotiation on a new legal document, which was announced personally by Mrs. Mogherini, was being discussed in Yerevan. President Sargsyan said that this achievement was a result of the mutual commitment and a dedicatd and serious work of both parties.
The parties discussed a wide range of issues pertinent to the futher development and strengthening of the Armenia-EU relations. The President underscored that it is proper indeed to speak of joint accomplishments of the last two years.
At the President’s meeting with the EU High Representative, just like at the meeting held a day before with the leaders of the EU structures, the parties spoke about the reforms carried out in Armenia in different areas, large-scale works implemented after the constitutional changes aimed at the developing and strengthening of the democratic institutions in Armenia, as well as about the upcoming parliamentary elections.
In response to Mrs. Mogherini’s question, President Sargsyan spoke about the preliminary works for the parliamentary elections and expressed gratitude to the EU for the assistance in conducting the elections.
The two sides discussed the NK peace process, existing problems and concerns.
The President of Armenia spoke in detail about the destructive position of Azerbaijan, about the provocations incited regularly by the Azeris at the contact line with Artsakh and Armenia’s state border, their refusal to implement agreements reached in Vienna and Saint Petersburg, which, according to President Sargsyan, challenges the years-long efforts of the international community aimed at a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the entire preace process.
Tonight, President Serzh Sargsyan, who is in the Kingdom of Belgium on a working visit, met with the newly elected President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.
Prior to that, the President of Armenia gave an interview to the Euronews TV network.
Responding to the questions of the reporter, the President spoke about the Armenia-EU relations and prospects of their development, the strategic Armenia-Russia partnership, which is a pivotal area of Armenia’s foreign policy, Armenia’s opportunities of development after the accession to the Eurasian Economic Union and his vision for the future of that structure, Armenia’s potential in exporting goods to Europe, cooperation with NATO and forthcoming programs, reasons behind his absence on the electoral roll of the RPA, Armenia’s future after the transition to a new system of governance which stems from the constitutional changes.
At the meeting with Antonio Tajani, President Sargsyan took the opportunity to once again congratulate him on assuming the position of the President of the European Parliament and expressed confidence that during Mr. Tajani’s tenure in office the highest legislative body of the European Union will continue to bring its substantial contribution to the further advancement of that reputable international structure.
The President of Armenia expressed hope that Antonio Tajani’s activities will promote also the upward development of the Armenia-EU relations. Serzh Sargsyan and Mr. Tajani recalled warmly their meeting in Brussels in 2008. The President highly valued Mr. Tajani’s unequivocal and principled position on the issues related to the basic human rights which was manifested also during the adoption by the European Parliament of the resolution on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
The President of Armenia cordially invited the President of the European Parliament to conduct a visit to Armenia, to familiarize first hand with the developments going on right now in our country as well as with the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of our country. The President expressed confidence that the visit by Mr. Tajani will be a strong message, especially considering the fact that Armenia is making a transition to the parliamentary system of governance which is characteristic of the European democracies.
The parties spoke about the interparliamentary cooperation and noted with satisfaction that active relations with the European Parliament are being developed. According to President Sargsyan, the constitutional changes implemented in Armenia will allow the future parliament, which will have greater authorities stipulated by the Constitution, to be even more active in the issues related to the cooperation with the EP as well as the EU member states.
In the strengthening of democratic institutions in Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan assessed as invaluable the continuous assistance of the European Union which, according to the President, will undoubtedly get a new impetus after signing the new framework agreement which regulates the Armenia-EU relations.
President Sargsyan expressed gratitude to the members of the EP who, responding to the invitation of the Armenia side, will attend as part of a monitoring mission the parlimantary elections in April which take place for the first time after the constitutional changes were made.
The parties discussed also the regional developments, existing problems and challenges, and in that context referred to the NK peace process. The parties stressed the importance of solving the conflict in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. The President of Armenia informed Mr. Tajani about the situation at the Artsakhi-Azerbaijani line of contact, spoke about Azerbaijan’s destructive and provocative steps. President Sargsyan hailed the efforts of the parliamentarians, who have visited Artsakh personally and know for sure what the people of Artsakh want. Serzh Sargsyan expressed his concern and condemned the fact that Azerbaijan has declared a manhunt against these members of the European Parliament.