Interviews and press conferences
I want us to build a country that, despite being small, will be smart and strong. President Armen Sarkissian gave an interview to the Russian "Russia 24" TV channel
In the recent issue of the "1/6" program on Russia 24 TV channel, dedicated to Armenia, President of the Republic Armen Sarkissian gave an interview to the author and leader of the program Kirill Vyshinsky. The shortened variant of the interview in Dilijan is presented below in translation.
Russia 24 - Let me start with politics. This summer, after a long political crisis, early parliamentary elections were held in Armenia. Speaking in the new National Assembly, you addressed the deputies with a proposal or a request to resolve the multi-layered crisis and try to overcome the split. Do you think they will manage to do it?
- I should not comment on whether they will succeed or not. The people of Armenia, those who elected this parliament, will comment. I can say that we really had a period of crisis. Of course, immediately after the ceasefire established owing to Russia and the cessation of hostilities, internal processes began in Armenia, which became a source of instability in the country.
The most importantly, already in the spring, I talked to different political forces and the Prime Minister. My proposal was simple: the way-out of this situation in a normal state, we are striving for, is elections. My proposal was more systemic because I think we need to change the Constitution as well. In my opinion, such a Constitution is not balanced, there are no restraint mechanisms.
I made a comprehensive proposal, which was partly fulfilled, elections were held. I am happy about that. I can clearly say that the street tension has sharply decreased. Or rather, that tension transferred to the parliament.
Russia 24 - Mr. President, you said that to resolve the multi-layered crisis, Armenia needs a new, qualified system of governance. What does it mean?
- In any country, the system of governance can be constantly improved. We live in the 21st century that dictates new concepts and new technologies. We are also a country that has gone through the war, and tries to be democratic. Regional policy is changing. That is, everything changes very quickly. Therefore, if you are a small country, you have one way to be successful, you must be a smart country.
For example, such countries are Singapore, Qatar, UAE, Israel, Ireland. In other words, they are countries that know what their advantages and disadvantages are, what their internal energy is. Among them are also countries that have great natural resources, for example, the Gulf countries but still spend a lot of resources to develop the human ones. That is, they spend money on education, science, and culture.
Imagine if thirty years ago, someone said that the UAE would send a satellite to Mars. We would only smile then, but now it is a reality. That is, in our case, being smart means using the vast resources we have.
We need to take it seriously and start using our advantage. Everyone knows about that advantage, they constantly talk and discuss it. We are talking about the Armenian Diaspora.
Russia 24 - Mr. President, the Diaspora helps Armenia in many issues. Those people who actively help their country with money cannot participate in the election of power in the country. The Armenian legislation is such that there are no polling stations abroad for the parliamentary elections. Is that fair?
- Their participation in the electoral process, especially if we want to make that process democratic, is the second part of the problem. We are a small country, but a world nation. There are as many Armenians living in Russia as in Armenia. Most of these people have RA passports, some of them pay taxes in Armenia. But this is the second part of the problem. The first is that people cannot participate in government or other elections, they cannot contribute to the country’s governance.
Now, we are in Dilijan, where the Armenian Summit of Minds is held. This is the third summit, which brings together Armenians from Armenia, Russia and other countries. I had a discussion with a wonderful person, Noubar Afeyan. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and developed the second vaccine in the United States. Noubar cannot be the Minister of Science in Armenia. According to the RA Constitution, during the last four years he must only be a citizen of Armenia, and during that time he must live only in Armenia. But this is a great treasure, people who live in Russia, USA, France, Argentina, have come a long way, and have a lot of experience. Or, Lord Darzi, who is the number one surgeon, doctor, politician, why can't he be the Minister of Health of Armenia? You can invite a person, who will make everything better, a person who has great connections, and who has created health systems in different countries, from Japan to the United States and Qatar. And they are many such people. Tigran Khudaverdyan is one of the leaders of a large Russian company called Yandex. He is a wonderful, young, and talented person.
When I say that the quality of governance needs to be improved, I mean that! Armenia has the immense potential of such people, but we do not use it. Governance is the core. We are like one of the Gulf countries that has great oil resources, but we have decided not to use that oil.
Russia 24 - To what extent is it possible to carry out constitutional reforms in Armenia today? What does it suppose?
- It is different for different people, political parties, and organizations. To me, it supposes what I see.
This Constitution, changed in 2015, started working from the moment I swore in as President. Everything seemed normal; we made a transition from a presidential system of governing to a parliamentary system. I do not think that one is better than the other or vice versa. In fact, both are good if all goes well, there is balanced power, and different tools of control.
It is not balanced in Armenia. The ruling party has a parliamentary majority, it forms a government. The government, having a majority in parliament, can make quite different decisions. The President cannot balance because I cannot veto the law. The only thing the President can do is clarify whether the law has a problem with the Constitution or not. If the President thinks it has, he sends the law to the Constitutional Court, where a decision is made, after which the President signs or does not. However, the law should not have problems with constitutionality. It can just be a bad law. For example, there may be a law on education, science or healthcare. If you have a President who is experienced in science, has been a scientist, has taught in various universities, and he understands that field, why shouldn't he have the opportunity to send the law back to the Parliament, to say that there are problems, it should be discussed again. The government has an absolute majority in the Parliament. The President cannot suspend the adoption of this law. It turns out that a person does not make much effort anymore, writes a law, which will be adopted in any case. And this is ba because every law must be discussed and generated. In our country, these laws instead of being born in nine months, can appear in one month. A baby born in one month cannot be a full-fledged baby.
Russia 24 - There is no balance in this regard.
- Yes, there is no balance. Its absence is a negative factor, first of all for those in power.
Russia 24 - Mr. President, we talked about governance. With your permission, let us talk about the economy now. Armenia does not have as many natural resources as its neighbours. In your opinion, at what expense should the country be able to continue further development?
- Soviet Armenia used to have that industrial power, which was created during the Soviet rule, but, unfortunately, we lost it all because of the governance. There was a large industry in Armenia in the fields of electronics, automobile manufacturing, chemistry, biochemistry, but, unfortunately, during that transition period we could not use it properly. Those factories, in which the Soviet Union had invested large sums of money, were closed whereas they should have been kept. I think that those factories should have been maintained, handed over to the people who understand those spheres. All these institutions and factories were connected with a big market, the markets of the member countries of the Soviet Union, the largest occupied by Russia. Losing those factories, we also lost access to those markets.
This is history. Today, it is absolutely different: to move forward and to choose the right path, one must look to the future. It is necessary to understand where Armenia and the world will be in 10, 20, 30 years. First, we need to understand what the world will be like in ten years. That is why we organized the Armenian Summit of Minds for the third time here to understand in which direction the international community is moving, where the economy and politics are going. After that, we must understand where our place is in that picture.
I define the world in quantum terms, i.e. it is not classical. The world is evolving very fast, you have to figure out exactly where it is going. It's very difficult to do, but it is possible to understand where it is going. Returning to the question of what resources Armenia has, I can say that it is the human resources. Armenia is a small country but a world nation. It is easy for us to find information, there is the network of personal connections. Everywhere, from Silicon Valley to Moscow State University, there are people who are Armenians by their genes, who love Armenia, and want to support it. That is, it is a natural resource that exists, and we do not use it very well. We need to focus on new technologies, be they biotechnology, artificial intelligence or different areas of IT. We must look ahead, and we must use human resources to produce high technology in this small country. Armenia produces everything in small quantities, from electronics, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies to agriculture because it is a small country with no large resources. This means whatever we do should be at the highest level, it may be in small quantity but the best. This is why new governance is needed.
We need to focus on new technologies, be they biotechnology, artificial intelligence or different areas of IT. We must look ahead, and use human resources to produce high technology in this small country. Armenia produces everything in small quantities, from electronics, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies to agriculture because it is a small country with no large resources. That is, what we do should be at the highest level, it may be a little, but the best. That is why a new governance is needed.
Russia 24 - Mr. President, speaking in the new parliament, you said that Armenia may have very deep relations with different countries of the world, but the relations with Russia are special. What did you mean?
- It is a historical, real and clear cooperation. Historically, in recent centuries, Armenia has been divided between Russian and Ottoman empires. Look at what happened to the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire, the 1915 genocide. What happened to the Armenians who lived in the Russian Empire? Look at the Armenians who live today in Moscow or other parts of RF. Armenians live a good life there.
Russia 24 - That is history. And what does the partnership with Russia give to those who live in Armenia today?
- Armenian-Russian relations are so deep that it is even pointless to discuss. I am always looking to the future.
What would have happened during the last war, what would have been our future, what would have been the future of this country if it were not for Russia? How would that war have ended without Russia? I want to look to the future. In the future, I would like to see an absolutely different relationship between Armenia and Russia. That is why we in Armenia must change our attitude towards ourselves. It means building a smart state that has a big, strong friend in the person of Russia, to become a small but strong friend of the Russian Federation. I would like to be the president of a strong country, which has a great, long-standing, historical friend with whom he can go to the future. There are all possibilities for that because if Armenians can bring new technologies to Armenia from all over the world, we will be able to develop easily.
The presence of Armenians in the Russian Federation is large in all regions. I am proud that Armenians living in Russia are good citizens. That's important. These people need to be more closely connected with Russia, to create a certain program. The best friendship is when you live with that friendship, you implement new projects, including new technologies, economics, science, which are aimed at the future.
I am convinced that there are many opportunities for much more detailed and deep cooperation between Armenia and Russia. After all these hardships, and heavy losses, I would like us to build a country that, despite being small, will be smart and strong. A small but strong country that has historically had a great friend, the Russian Federation.
Russia 24 - Thank you, Mr. President.