Statements and messages of the President of RA
President Serzh Sargsyan’s address at the first session of the 6th National Assembly
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly,
I once again congratulate the Republican Party of Armenia, Tsarukian Alliance of political parties, Elq Alliance of political parties, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation on assuming their share of political responsibility for the Republic of Armenia for the next five years. It happened through the free and transparent elections which were highly praised. I congratulate all participants of the first session of the 6th National Assembly and wish you productive work.
Two years ago, when the concept of the RA constitutional reforms was being approved, I was confident that soon we would enter a groundbreaking period of time which would be promising but also challenging. That day has come, and I congratulate us all on that occasion. And I congratulate you, dear parliamentarians, twofold since on this critical stage you are to make the first and most important step towards the establishment of a new state system of governance. We all realize that there is much work to be done but we have resolve, great optimism, and enduring experience of many years to bring our task to a successful end.
Certainly, the laws pertaining to the priority functions of the Parliament have already been created, the laws which should not only be legally correct but also functional and coherent. Constitutional reforms cannot be fully carried out without such laws. Some would say, it’s better to have a deficient law than no law at all. It is a minimalistic approach, and for me it is unacceptable. At this most serious period of time, when the country is going through legal and political changes, we cannot afford such luxury. Deficient or bad laws are not only unapplicable but also harmful. Your mission is to create laws which will meet the expectations of the public; you, as the main actors of this process, are responsible for the task.
However, activities of the legislature are not limited to adopting legislation. Transition to the parliamentary system of governance, which is stipulated by the changes introduced to the RA Constitution, entails a considerably greater role of the parliament also in foreign policy issues.
From this point of view, the priority should be given to the introduction of the principles aimed at the enhancement of parliamentary diplomacy as well as implementation of concrete steps and actions. It is obvious that nowadays Armenia should intensify her actions at the international parliamentary organizations and come up with new initiatives. International parliamentary organizations are the best and probably the largest platform for introducing different idea to the international community and presenting the views of the Armenian side. It is necessary to conduct active politics in the framework of that platform to reduce the number of the anti-Armenian resolutions and projects regularly instigated by Azerbaijan, promoting instead the truth.
It is expedient to re-organize our parliamentary diplomacy to make it more efficient laying its foundation on the following principles: participation, initiative, partnership, constant ongoing work, accountability, coordination, personal responsibility, continuity, and consistency. This is indeed a vast and important area of work, which we will revisit later.
As a result of the amendments made to the Main Law, the parliament is from now on entitled to form constituonal bodies endowed with important and extensive functions. Constituonal Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court Council – these are the new and significant justice structures which will be formed through your direct participation. It is the greatest popular and democratic trust which is given to form independent and professional judicial authority. At the same time, you will be responsible for the results – positive as well as negative - of these bodies’ activities.
I also envision a law enforcement structure - robust and cooperative, strong and ready to assume responsibility. To promote the development of that structure is everybody’s duty. Only structure like that will allow for everyone – the state, the entire society, and every member of it, to feel strong and safe, and in the development of such structure you, through your control and containment functions, are to play the pivotal role.
Appointment of Prosecutor General and Ombudsman, formation of autonomous bodies and investigation commissions: these are constitutional tools whose utilization allows the parliament to participate directly or indirectly in the improvement of the law enforcement structure, or rather to say, law upholding structure. Consistency of each parliamentarian and constant parliamentary control should result in transparency and public accountability of the structure becoming an established practice, a workstyle. I am sure you realize that.
At the same time, I would like to invite your attention to an important issue: We have said on many occasions that the amended Constitution will enhance the role of the political parties in our public life. We have also stressed that that ideologically like- minded people will be the driving force behind these parties. However, as the President of the country and as the head of the largest political structure, I urge all political forces represented at the National Assembly while electing individuals dealing with the justice or law enforcement systems or in formation of such bodies to be guided by the principle “he or she is a professional” rather than “he or she is a confederate.” Only based on this approach we can ensure a viable justice system.
I would also like to underscore that such a system will be successful only if there is intolerance towards corruption. No doubt, the face of corruption today has changed.
Gradually it becomes more visible and vulnerable. The state continues to enroot in the minds of the society and individuals the culture of “zero tolerance towards corruption”. But we cannot be content with the exiting results. We need to improve the institutionalized anti-corruption system and ensure its consistent development. We all realized that otherwise all initiatives are doomed to failure.
“Honesty plus professionalism minus corruption” – this is the desired formula of success. Here, we have to rely on experts. Corruption is appealing to the amateurs; to the professionals it is disgusting, repealing, and simply lossmaking.
The newly elected National Assembly has also a very unique mission: You will ensure the transformation of the state governance system. The difficult but also historic role of switching to a parliamentary system of governance is on your shoulders, and a successful accomplishment of this transition phase greatly depends on that. The more smoothly and fully this process is carried out, the more infallible the transformed state machine will function.
The key to the efficient state system is in the harmonious interaction of all branches of power and their interconnection. At least, my years-long experience of state activity speaks of it.
I ancipate a greater degree of cooperation between the National Assembly and other state bodies, and I, as the Head of state, as the guarantor of the Constitution, today, just as yesterday, state my readiness, in the framework of the authorities vested in me by the Constitution, to assist and promote that cooperation and strengthening of mutual links. I will do it also tomorrow, at least as long as I am the President.
I am confident that through the joint efforts we will be able to persistently enforce the role of the parliament and its influence in inside Armenia as well as outside our country because the parliament is the main platform for political dialogue, pluralism, and presenting diverse ideologies.
This is the main institution which shapes political culture, where political competition should appear and crystalize. In the light of new constitutional regulations, the activities of the National Assembly should be aimed not only at the enforcement of statehood but also at the development of parliamentarism. I am confident that mature parliamentarism, with all its ideological and regulatory functions, will be the number one guarantee for the development of our renewed statehood.
The international community highly values Armenia’s resolve and readiness to conduct elections which testified to a democratic and statebuilding advancement. This is gratifying for me, and I believe for you too. You have received the required mandate of trust. As the saying goes, a good start is a half the job done. Now, it is necessary to carry on and move the process forward.
When we inititated constitutional changes back in 2013, we conditioned them by the necessity to apply the principle of supremacy of the law, improvement of constitutional provisions which guarantee basic human rights and freedoms, factual balance of power, and improved public administration.
When in the past we spoke of the existing problems and conditioned them in part by the peculiarities of the system of governance, inconsistent utilization of the division and balance of power, structurally inefficient solutions, the low level of political and constitutional culture, immaturity of partisan system, many were sceptic about it. The period of time after the constitutional changes of 2015 and especially the April 2, 2017 elections to the National Assembly and the post-election situation proved that we were right in choosing the path for solving problems.
By switching to a parliamentary system of governance, we have considerably reduced or even eliminated political resistance or the threat to turn a crisis into public confrontation. Establishing a parliamentary system of governance, we have neutralized the threat of political monopoly. I also believe that constitutional changes eliminated inconsistencies among the functions and authorities of different governing bodies and officials.
The reforms have created a sufficient constitutional base so that disputes between the President of Armenia and National Assembly, President and Government, National Assembly and Government as well as disagreements between the different state power bodies with regard to the constitutional authorities are solved not on the political but legal field.
Constitutional changes overcame the functional dualization of the executive branch. The Government will be endowed with the executive authority, whiled the President of the Republic will have predominantly balancing and restraining authority as it is typical for the Head of state.
The constitutional changes of 2015, while highlighting the issues of further development of the lawmaking and regulatory functions of the National Assembly, also strengthened the role of the NA bodies in the areas of legislative activities, increased the share of the parliament in the formation of state power and governing bodies, expanded its supervisory power, enforced the constitutional guarantees for the rights of parliamentary minority.
As a result of constitutional changes, the role of political opposition in the parliament has increased significantly. The main dividing political line in the parliamentary system runs not between the government and the parliament but between parliamentary majority and minority. Thus, parliamentary minority has been endowed by the Constitution with the rights adequate to its role.
The Constitution provides important role to parliamentary opposition in the adoption of constitutional laws which need to receive a qualitative majority, which means the approval of at least the 3/5 of the total membership, the NA Charter, Electoral Code, Judicial Code, the Law on the Constitutional Court, the Law on Referendum, the Law on Political Parties, and the Law on Ombudsman. These are the laws which affect directly basic human rigths and freedoms as well as the administration of state power and require greater stability and a wide consensus.
In the same manner, parliamentary minority will have influence in the electons of the Prosecutor General, Ombudsman, Chairman of the Central Bank, election of the members of the Central Election Commission, Commission on TV and Radio, Control Chamber, in the shaping of judicial bodies because it will also require the consent of the 3/5 of the members of the National Assembly.
At the same time, political minority will have additional opportunities for establishing and chairing investigative commissions, to be elected as one of Vice Speakers of the NA, and in some cases to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
As a result of these changes:
1. There will be a consolidated executive branch, headed by the prime minister.
2. The President of Armenia through his new authority will become a non-partisan, unbiased arbitrator
3. Personalization of power will decrease dramatically
4. Power will not be overconcentrated in the hands of the head of the executive branch while political responsibility of the government before the parliament will promote a collegial governance.
5. Legislative as well as regulatory role of the parliament will increase
6. Enhanced political role of the parliament will gradually form in the country a classical two-polar, authorities-opposition political system
7. The country will be more flexible in dealing with the external political challenges as the entire process of adopting political decisions will be more collegial.
Distinguished members of the National Assembly,
We adopted the new provisions of the Constitution after long and heated debates. The purpose of these changes is to have a more balanced, efficient, controllable, and consolidated authorities. The degree to which it will become a reality greatly depends on the people gathered here, first of all on the parties represented here, on the activities of the parliamentarians and members of the government.
Parliamentary system of governance implies a new kind and philosophy for the parliament-government interaction. As a result, this platform will become the number one political podium where statements will be voiced which will show the avenues for having a safe, secure, and just country.
This auditorium will become the place number one where decisions pertainting to the various areas of our internal and foreign policy will be discussed and adopted. It means in a very short while your decisions will shape the kind of homeland we will have tomorrow, five, fifty, or one hundred years from now.
Every period of time has its own problems: ensuing decisions adopted in this hall, we will pass on to our future generation a country with fewer problmes, more powerful, a state which stands firm on its two feet – that’s the state we will pass on to our generations.
Obviously, the members of the parliament and the government will very soon assume extensive authority. If in the case of a semi-presidential system, there factually was another institute which stood above these two bodies, i.e. the institute of the President of the Republic, which had the ability to amend some probable errors or secure these bodies from possible pitfalls, with the parliamentary system of governance there is no such institute. It means that it will be necessary to rely on your own abilities, experience, and reasonability.
Greater authority does not come for nothing. Every one of you is responsible not only before his or her political force but first and foremost before the voters, before all those people who gave their vote to the people present here, pinned their hope on them, the hope of having a better Fatherland, a more secure and just Fatherland. And we, all present here, have no right to let these people down.
We have to do everything not to let them down, make sure that the atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding, and tolerance reigns in this hall, that differences in this hall are settled through negotiations and debates, that every one places the insterests of the state and the Fatherland about one’s own personal interest, interests of your close circle, or interests of your Party.
Not to let the people down, it is also necessary for every one present here to realize that pluralism, even contradictions should not make you enemies. We have to understand that being the majority doesn’t mean that we know all right decisions for all questions; it doesn’t mean that political majority and political minority are adversaries, it means that they see differently the ways to solve problems facing our country.
Not to let people down, it is also necessary to forget accussions thrown at each other during the pre-election campaign: to be fair, I need to say that during the recent campaign they were fewer than before.
We need also to leave in the past the notion that the main and ultimate task here is to voice mutual accusions.
Parliamentary syntax probably allows some jokes, or play of words, but I’d rather hear from this podium sharp, critical but at the same time substantiated, factual statements, words which might form a good political taste and can provide some guidance. I am confident that there is no lack of such parliamentarians in this hall.
I would like to invite your attention to this: a glance into the voting pattern reveals that some members voted against 95 or more percent of the introduced laws. There is that idea that a member of the opposition, who voted in favor of the intiative presented by the authorities, cannot be considered opposition anymore, or even worse – he or she is venal. Such logic and approach can hardly be good. I want you while voting to be guided not by this principle but by the simple truth – is this decision good or bad for our state, for our Fatherland?
These days, I am most frequently asked this question: Am I happy with the NA election results? As the Chairman of the Republican Party, I am happy for the results our Party has shown. As for the other parties, which received mandates, I respect the opinion of our voters formed as a result of the free expression of will, and I am ready to work with all parties regardless of our political approach, apparent or hidden differences.
The constitutional amendments allowed to create a good base for bridging the chasm existing between the Constitution and the real life.
Today, more than ever we are resolute to find legal ways for the resolution of political, social, economic, and other issues through the constitutionalization of the constitutional and public relations. Today, more than ever we trust that the guarantee for sustainable development, progress, security and justice is achievable through filling the deficit of constitutionalism.
Constitutional changes of 2015 created a good base for excluding the coalescence of the political, economic and administrative potential in the country, for ensuring and providing for the constitutionalization of the objectives and activities of political forces as well as for political and public behavior of the authorities.
And finally, the constitutional changes of 2015 present a new stage on the road towards the persistent maturing of the principle of the rule of law and improvement of the constitutional provisions which guarantee basic human rights and freedoms.
Constitutional amendments allowed to create an efficient constitutional base so that human rights are constitutionally recognized, ensured legally, supported and protected by adequate provisions. To respect and guarantee the principle of equality before the law, to ensure that laws and other legal norms correspond to the principle of legal precision, are predictable, clear-cut, void of loopholes and ambiguity.
To guarantee the principle of banning arbitrariness, to define the discretion lines for the public authority bodies, so that the state has positive responsibility in ensuring, upholding and protecting the rights and assumes adequate public and legal responsibility, so that any interference with the rights and any step of the authorities stem for the principle of proportionality, so that all legal disputes are resolved through the legal means only, to be provided with the necessary mechanisms for the efficient resolution, so that justice is independent and unbiased.
Today we have to fight on two fronts: One is the external enemy, the other is internal. We know the external enemy all too well, we also know efficient ways and means to fight it. Eternal glory to our fallen soldiers and officers, eternal glory to the soldiers and officers who guard our borders today.
The internal enemy is as dangerous as the external one. The internal enemy is a certain kind of thinking and certain occurrences. The most dangerous among them is probably injustice.
Injustice is an evil for any state; it’s venom which weakens and drains the state out, which kills the hope for the future, dwindles the love for the homeland, and repels thousands of its citizens. Thus, today we more than ever have another battlefield, and victory here is not less important. Today, we declare a new phase of war with injustice.
I appeal to all: each of us, just as we have fought for independence of our Fatherland, for the security of our borders, with the same vigor and dedication we have to fight for justice. Justice must become the vital idea which will nourish our kids, which our state employees must be rewarded with, which must inspire our judges.
Each of us must defend justice at least the way our soldiers defend our borders. Leaving the border in all time has been considered treason. Any injustice, particularly the one committed by the judge, must be considered treason against our tomorrow. I probably sound a little emotional but perhaps it’s the only way. We cannot uproot this evil through the good laws only just as a good medicine alone cannot cure if we have no trust in our abilities to get cured and don’t fight will all our strength against the malady which is wearing us out.
I am confident that the new law on the Constitutional Court, the Judicial Code, all regulations pertinent to this area, our combined efforts will elevate our justice to a qualitatively new level. Leniency will not be tolerated, any deviation from this route is reprimandable.
I followed closely the pre-election campaign of all political forces. Many ideas were voiced, there were critical statements, different approaches. But when I mentally go through these ideas, they ultimately have the same bottomline: We need to build a strong Armenia. In the end of the day, that’s the massage from all, it is our national goal.
I am confident that efforts and works of the previous and current governments have been aimed at achieving this goal. Efforts of future governments will also be aimed at achieving this goal. It means that I attach the utmost importance to securing targeted economic indicators achieving which will not only be a duty for the government of Armenia but also the matter of honor and dignity.
Over 25 years have passed since Armenia became independent. It’s a decent period of time to make a thorough analysis and draw conclusions. It’s time our horizon for programming, setting targets encompasses 25-30 years, expresses our wishes and objectives, which we are striving for and will achieve through our work regardless of partisan affiliation.
We have no carbon stocks or other plentiful natural resources, however Armenia’s natural and climate conditions and geographical position and the most importantly – creative and entrepreneurial citizens, are important and realistic guarantees for our long-term sustainable development and improved standards of living. Natural resources tend to expire, human potential – never, moreover, it tends to grow. Our country should become the most favorable and safe country for living and self-expression for all citizens of Armenia. Each citizen should chip in to the process, creating a strong and just state. To achieve this goal, it is critically important to develop and implement economic policies which will be aimed at a long-term sustainable economic growth. In addition, coordinated monetary, tax, and budgetary policies should create a dynamic and stable macroeconomic environment, which will allow to achieve a short-term, as well as medium- and long-term sustainable economic growth, securing the 2040 target indicators. It is necessary to ensure that the tempo of the average economic growth is considerably higher than the average international growth so that the difference between the GDP per capita in the developed countries and Armenia gradually diminish. In particular, in 1990-2015 Armenia’s GDP increased from 2 billion 257 million USD to 10 billion 529 million USD, which means nearly 4.7 growth. In 2016-2040, we need to ensure a nearly 5 percent GDP growth rate to achieve a GDP close to 57-60 billion USD, which means nearly 5.5 growth.
It is envisaged to raise the 2015 per capita GDP indicator of 3500 USD up to 15000 USD in 2040, which is calculated based on the GDP growth rate and the programmed improvement of the demographic situation. Taking into consideration Armenia’s traits and existing economic situation, the state should have a proactive engagement in the economy. The state should encourage and promote expecially the areas which are competitive, have a great export potential and work on local resources and, why not, also develop and implement concrete programs. In particular, we have achieved noticeable success in the state-private sector cooperation in the areas such as infrastructure, expecially water supply, aviation, however many areas so far have not benefited from the positive results of that cooperation. Thus, it is necessary to conduct targeted work to make the state-private sector cooperation accessible for different areas and expand participation opportunities, relying also on the international and domestic experience.
It is necessary to constantly improve the business climate and eliminate barriers, taking also into consideration the reports of different international organizations, especially those related to doing business and competitiveness. They make our economy comparable to over 150 economies, and fingerpoint the problems whose elimination will improve Armenia’s attractiveness and competitiveness. Our goal is to advance in the ratings of Doing Business to the first 20 countries and in subsequent years to secure our position among the first 15 states. We really need it.
It is necessary to break a stereotype that for us, Armenians it is easier to achieve success in foreign countries than in Armenia. Yes, it is incomparably more difficult for us to compete with each other than with foreigners, but it must not become an obstabcle for the development of the Armenian economy but rather an impetus and precondition. Imagine how difficult it will be for foreigners to compete with the united Armenians. The key to success is to create conditions and give a boost to the areas and programs where the main competitors compete on foreign markets, i.e. in which products and services are predominantly ment for export. With this regard, Made in Armenia should be not exclusively about the place the produc has been made but should imply high quality, compliance with the high standards for dependability and safety. This and similiary references should become the common umbrella which brings together the Armenian power, vigor, and creative thought, providing for the competitiveness of the Armenian economy in foreign markets. Among prerequisites for achieving this is the formation of safety and quality administration, certification and control systems and infrastructure. It will require purposeful and largescale works of the state and private sectors. In this case, Armenian production, even if a litte more expensive than the competitors’, will be not non competitive but will rather prove that Armenian production is high quality and superior, and will ensure its competitiveness even with higher prices. This perhaps is the only way to overcome the obstacle presented by the small size of the Armenian market. Besides, to have a higher export rate, it is necessary to work continuously towards our greater integration in the market Eurasian Economic Union as well as European and other markets. As a result of enhanced competitiveness and promotion of exports, in the coming five years the share of export of goods and services should make 40-45 percent of GDP, and later, preserving this tendency by year 2040 it should reach 50-55 percent of GDP. From the viewpoint of improving the business climate and boosting employment, important role is assigned to the constant improvement of tax structure and administration.
Once, when tax administration was still at its initial stage, a decision was made to transfer to the customs border of the Republic of Armenia the taxation of the VAT of the imported goods. It was a tough but pragmatic decision which allowed at the expense of economic activity with comperatiely less resources to ensure the planned collection of taxes. I am sure that the time has come to gradually move in coming years the VAT taxation of the imported goods from border to the economic realm, first of all with regards to raw materials and machinery. Such a step will give a considerable boost to the economy as well as will provide the Armenian producers with the opportunity to save financial resources and channel them towards the expansion of production and modernization of technologies. There is no doubt that Armenian production, which is based predominantly on local resources and is using the best international technologies available in that particular area, is able to supply international markets with the competitive products of high quality standards. Thus, it is necessary to encourage the import of new technologies to Armenia, in particular to create a business support system which will assist our entrepreneurs in choosing, shipping, and adjusting to the Armenian conditions modern technologies which meet their requirements. We all know that there are certain peculiarities for shipping Armenian production to the external markets which is reflected in higher transportation fees. We need to work continuously and constantly to have more a favorable transportation infrastructure but at the same time one should not undertake initiatives based on the best case scenario. We must be ready to be competitive even under the most difficult conditions, while the improvement of such conditions will make Armenian production even more competitive. In the development of economic programs, we need to make conservative forcast, i.e. consider also the fact that the relations with our two neighbors in the region do not show signs of improvement. It doesn’t mean, however, that we will not do our best to improve them.
Keeping the equal territorial development as a long-term goal, with regard to mid and short-term period, it is necessary to channel adequate resources to the implementation of the programs for territorial development which have already been developed and have certain prerequisites. They will in turn bring the creation of the centers of local growth, gradually expanding and resulting in the long-term equal territorial development. At the same time, special attention should be given to the development and strengthening of the border communities which remains an importan issue from the economic as well as national security viewpoint. It is especially inadmissible to have a high poverty rate in Armenia because Armenians are well-known for the exceptional entrepreneurial abilities. It would be no exaggeration to state that in every family there is a member who is thinking about opening a business. With this regard, it is necessary to ensure minimal required conditions and provide every citizen with the chance to try, I am confident, to carry out successfully their projects. At the same time, it is critically important to ensure justice in the distribution of revenues and improve indicators of equality so that the results of the economic growth are visible and tangible for all strata of the society. It would be impossible to ensure a long-term sustainable economic growth if the system of distribution of the results of that growth are not fair and not transparent, are not tangible for every citizen and doesn’t work towards the reduction of poverty. One of the ways to reduce poverty is to provide certain allowances or implementation of different social assistance programs. However, the main route is the creation of jobs and support of the entrepreneurial abilities. In this case, every one will improve his or her and the family’s well-being at the same time enhancing one’s dignity and self-respect. The main indicator of poverty, is the ration of poor people in total population, and that indicator in the coming five years should be not higher than 18 percent, and 7-8% in 2040. It is necessary to constantly raise the transparency level of labor and social protection administration and improve the efficiency and focus of the programs. Salary should become the base of each employee’s prosperity, provide for his or her and family’s dignified living.
Towards that end, it is necessary to act consistently to provide for a continuous increase of the ratio exiting between the minimal wage and the upper level of poverty, reaching 190% before year 2022, and 300% before 2040. At the same time, the retired people should stay out of the group of socially insecure people. We need, in particular, to ensure that the minimal level of pension is above the upper level of poverty. In the last 25 years, the demographic situation was conditioned by a number of objective and subjective factors, the consequences are very concering and unacceptable. For the next decades our task number one must be a dramatic improvement of the demographic situation in Armenia. Works in this area will advance on three directions: 1) end the emigration, 2) increase in the birth rates and greater life expectancy, and 3) creation of preconditions for the return of those who left the country. On each of the mentioned directions, it is necessary to conduct analysis, and based on that develop and implement steps which unlike previous 25 years, in the next 25 years and beyond will ensure the utmost possible growth of the population. The considerable and steep improvement of the demographic situation should result in the population totaling at least 4 million people in 2040.
Our goal is to have an intellectual Armenia: Educataed generations are the guarantee of our country’s success and base of prosperity. It means that we have to ensure the availability of high-class education, at the same time persistently improving its quality. It is also critically important to ensure a link between education, science, and economy. Education and science should primarily provide solutions for the problems which our economy and our businesses face. The funding system for education and science should be augmented with the elements which will ensure the mandatory participation of the private sector. It will prove that the financing of a given project is in demand, while the outcome will be concrete and measurable, aiming at the increase of the competitiveness of the Armenian economy in the short as well as mid and long-term perspectives.
Health and healthy life style of the citizens of Armenia is an important guarantee of the country’s advancement. Thus, enhanced quality of healthcare services provided by the state and introduction of medical insurance are priorities. Free and high quality medical services should be available based on the principle of social vulnerability and justice. At the same time, the state must support any one who needs emergency care. The issues related to maternity and child care should be held in the focus of constant attention because they have an immense impact on modeling healthy citizens of the Republic of Armenia.
Accessibility of high quality vocational and higher education of young people is important for the self-expression of young people and their active engagement in promoting the prosperity of Fatherland. It is necessary to create conditions when the abilities of young people rather than their social status play a decisive role in receiving appropriate education and employment. Youth employment should be supported and expanded along with the housing programs. Strong families of healthy and well-educated young people, as well as their optimism towards the future, are important prerequisites for Armenia’s advancement and development.
We strive to preserve, increase and pass on to the future generations our rich cultural heritage and disseminate it in Armenia and beyond. It is necessary to enhance close engagement of the economic element, including tourism, in the cultural production and services, preservation of the historical and cultural heritage, its development and proliferation. The efficiency of state and state-private programs should be raised constantly, working towards the resolution of cultural issues in the regions as well.
In the lack of a proper and efficient system of environment protection, it is impossible to ensure a long-term and sustainable economic growth, to provide for the health and improved life standards of the future generations. Strict and relevant environmental standards should become a prerequisite for the implementation of urban and business projects. It is also necessary to continue to restore the ecological balance of the Lake Sevan, as well as to implement programs and steps aimed at the resolution of the ecological problems, providing for a long-term sustainable creation of biodiversity.
These are all critical priorities which will be debated in this building every day, which will always be voiced from this podium. I am confident that we will be able step by step to find solutions and move forward. At the same time, as a society, which has a 25 year-long statehood, we need to learn to look forward so that along with addressing through the ongoing activities the current problems, we always have a wider horizon. From this point of view, we have also to develop in the coming 5 years a program-vision whose horizon will encompass 50 years and will target indicators which will take us to the Armenia of the future, towards a powerful and secure Armenia.
From this podium, in the coming years particularly often will be voiced issues related to our number one problem – the NK issue, our security and defense, and it is quite natural. I have stated my position and credo on these issues on many occasions, and we will speak about it for many times again. Today I will speak and clarify only a number of issues raised during the pre-election campaign which, in my opinion, cannot be left unanswered because it might form erroneous attitude in our society.
Quite understandably, during the pre-election campaign, when political forces are trying to raise their ranking with the voters by all possible means, almost any issue is being exploited. This time it was true also with regard to Artsakh issue.
First, an attempt was made to revitalize discussions on one of the proposals made long ago, which certainly failed. And it was only natural. To claim that the best document was negotiated in the past which today could become the key to the resolution of the conflict simply means to sin against the reality. And the reality is that the December 1997 document was not even aspiring to solve the conflict but rather, as is shown it its title, was aimed at the cessation of the hostilities. It envisaged kind of a new ceasefire agreement, this time seasoned with peacekeeping forces and a number of other provisions. The Armenian sides would receive some dubious security guarantees, and a not less dubious and uncertain prospect of the political resolution of the conflict in return to unproportional concessions.
Proponents of this twenty-years old proposal accuse those who rejected it in that time as well as now, calling them the advocates of preserving the status quo. When Baku is lying that we are trying to preserve the status quo at any cost, it probably is justifiable considering the adversary’s logic, but such a viewpoint voiced in Armenia is unacceptable.
Changes to the status quo are acceptable for us but only and only if there is a comprehensive solution to the problem. Armenia has stated her position on many occasion, expressing readiness to find a solution based on compromise the essence of which is the recognition and implemention of the right of the people of Artsakh for self-determination. This approach was reflected in the Kazan document. Although it was rejected by Azerbaijan, unlike previous documents it was not deposited with the OSCE Secretariat, which means it remains the latest working document.
Yes, based on compromise and not on unilateral concessions, yielding to Azerbaijan’s threats that otherwise war is inevitable. Yes, we don’t want the preservation of the status quo not for another day. We don’t want to place on the shoulders of the future generations the burden of solving this conflict, and our joint efforts with the Co-Chairs for the resolution of the conflict are aimed at precisely this. I will not speak of the advantages of the Kazan document compared to previous documents since it will violate the confidentiality of the negotiations.
I will only repeat that until now nobody has been able to publicly and precisely present the version of the document whose details we have been discussing for years. Before referring to the essence of the peace process of recent years, I would like to express another point of view. One of the individuals, who ascribed to himself the authorship of the Madrid document, in the pre-election period recognized the parentage for only one among 14 paragraphs of the document, leaving the others orphan. Wouldn’t you agree that this an extraordinary manifestation of paternal duty, especially considering the fact that that very paragraph of the Madrid document raises seriuos questions? According to that, the status of Artsakh is to be decided through a plebiscite with the reference to the October 16, 1975 ruling of the International Court of Justice with regard to Western Sahara. The ruling which has not materialized until now, the ruling which has a solely consultative status. We can only guess what would be the impact on the Artsakh problem its correlation with the issues of decolonization in Africa, equating the referendum with the consultative interview, because this harmful insertion was later removed from the subsequent working documents.
Instead, for the first time in the history of the NK peace process there was a provision that the final legal status of Nagorno Karabakh will be decided through a free expression of will of the people of Artsakh and their decision will be legally binding. It will be mandatory also for Azerbaijan and guaranteed by the international community. Unlike previuos times, it was also secured in the working paper that the representatives of Artskah will have a decisive say in the entire resolution process.
Thus, it has been defined clearly and unequivocally what the political solution to the Artsakh problem will be with regard to which at the moment of sincerity the President of Azerbaijan publicly bursted out that the mediators force him to accept the independence of Nagorno Karabakh. This is the essense of the peace process of recent years. Azerbaijani aggression last April proved that today, just as in 1988, the struggle of the people of Artsakh for self-determination is the only true way.
The secured right of the people of Artsakh to exercise their right for self-determination and security guarantees have no alternative. This position is clearly stated in the negotiations. For us, ambiguous interpretations of these pivotal for the resolution of the Artskah problem provisions are unacceptable. Another important point which is unprecedented in the history of the efforts to solve the conflict. For the first time, the right of Artsakh for self-determination, the plebiscite, which will be legally binding, land connection between Artskah and Armenia – these provisions are specified in a number of joint statements made by the leaders of the Co-Chair states. This proves once again that the assertions that Armenia’s negotiation position is weaking from year to year hold no water.
The problem has not been solved until now not because of Armenia or international mediators, but because of Azerbaijan which is derailing the process of negotiations, which is a proponent of the status quo, and doesn’t event conceal it. On many occasion, the Azeri leadership has bragged that the time is on their side and that all Baku has to do is to sit and wait, that its armed forces bourgeoning on the oil money, will grow so strong that will be able to solve the conflict to its benefit. All those who believe that the time is working for only one side are gravely mistaken. We want the conflict to be solved peacefully as soon as possible, but we are also ready and will always be ready to defend at any cost our Fatherland, our dignity, and our freedom.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight two things which signify the message of our days.
This day is an important turning point for our statehood: in statebuilding, we are making a transition from probing to a stable development stage. The international experience has proved that a transition to a parliamentary system, which is based on the rule of law, where the human being and his or her inaliable rights are the center of any relations, allows to reach a wide civic consensus and ensure steadfast development.
It is, however, an opportunity, it’s a real opportunity for us now. The first and decisive step has already been made. With the active support of our international partners, we have been able to make a reality constitutional changes which many countries and experts today consider to be exemplary. Nevertheless, we have to make the subsequent and not less important step – to call to life new constitutional solutions, and to overcome the inconsistency existing between the Constitution, the legal framework, and legal practice. Today, it has become the greatest challenge to the legal security of our country and to withstand it, it will be necessary to demonstrate a new thinking and a new quality of action. It also requires a new culture of the state-individual relations. Anyone, endowed with state authority, is required to take a share of historic burder and carry it with honor and determination.
Second, you will personify the transition to a new quality state system. The people, who are the source and master of power, endowed you with the primary mandate to call to life the entire potential for our country’s democratic development. Together with the mandate of the member of the parliament, you have assumed historic responsibility to withstand the test of time, to turn into a reality people’s trust, to lay the foundation of our modern statehood with the persistence worthy of those you built our churches which stand for centuries.
Initiating a fundamental reformation of our constitutional structure, on December 6, 2015 we received a vote of confidence from our people to form a state structure which will provide for a clear division of power and balance among the branches of power, will ensure freedom protected by the law, restriction of power based on the law, the best guarantees to fight against monopoly, corruption, and other negative occurances. The problem is, how you will be able to harmonize the entire legal structure of the country with the new constitutional requirments. You are responsible for a new constitutional quality in the country. You have an exceptional role to play – to form the most efficient governing system, to call to life new constitutional opportunities to create an independent judicial power, to turn local governance into a real opportunity and right for the people to solve their daily problems efficiently. The people have given you a mandate to make changes to the Main Law of the land, to bring your immediate participation to the formation of state governing bodies, and carry out wide regulatory mission, efficiently combining the role of the authority and opposition. It is also obvious that so far people have not seen the benefits of the constitutional changes. It is not surprising since the Constitution regulations, event comprehensive, will enter into force only in 2018. It is also obvious that for ordinary people, for many people the opportunities provided by the new legal structure will be visible and tangible starting from 2018-2019. However, it will happen only if we, together with you, are able to adopt and implement in the coming days all the laws which will ensure that the Constitution has become applicable indeed. And we are talking not dozens but hundreds of laws. You have to assume the responsibility for this huge task.
One of the advantages of the proportional system is also the fact that individual responsibility goes hand in hand with political responsibility. It means that our political forces will have to take a serious test on statebuilding.
Never forget that the mandate of a member of the parliament is a mandate of trust and responsibility. This mandate links your destiny to the destiny of the country and requires courage and valor of a warrior. These are not courtesy words. I want us all to understand the truth, which withstood the test of time, that a person, who separates his own destiny from that of his country, is more dangerous than the enemy soldier.
Problems, which our country faces, do not allow semi-measures, do not allow lagging behind the times, do not allow excuses for unfulfilled tasks, but rather demand boundless dedication and hard work. The people have given you a mandate to become the leaders in the country’s secure and upward development, to find solutions for building a just Armenia through the changes and creating anew. And this cannot be achieved through wishful thinking. Just as our objectives coincide, so should our daily work and steps made with a boundless dedication, for the glory of our people and our country. I believe, the works of the National Assembly of the 6th convocation should start with this very knowledge, heralding a beginning in our country of the era of parliamentarism and fortified statehood.
This is what I wanted to share with you at this point, to pass on the wide circle of issues and ideas which the parliament, endowed by the changed Constitution with wide authorities, will deal with directly. Today is an important day for our state and our country; a day which signifies a new and great wave of changes. I once again congratulate you all and wish productive work to the 6th National Assembly.