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Swiss Forum International Affairs:Speech by Mr. Mnatsakanian

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 PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:31 pm    Post subject: Swiss Forum International Affairs:Speech by Mr. Mnatsakanian Reply with quote Back to top

Geneva, 30 May 2006

Armenia: Working for a Decent Future
Speech by Mr. Zohrab Mnatsakanian, Ambassador of Armenia

Swiss Forum for International Affairs

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed, I am most honoured by this opportunity to appear before you and offer to your judgement Armenia’s case of state building and foreign policy. At the outset, of course, I am most grateful to the Swiss Forum for their initiative and the invitation, as well as, of course, to you for demonstrating interest and impressive participation. As intended, in the next 20 minutes I will outline certain major tendencies in Armenia’s present agenda in relations to its visions, objectives and challenges, both domestic and international, which collectively shape Armenia’s future. I would certainly look forward to a follow up interactive dialogue and to your questions and comments.

In fact, this is a very symbolic time for us, as in September Armenia will celebrate 15 years of its re-established independence, or put it otherwise, 15 years of the Third Republic. Every nation obviously has its National Day and a cause for celebration. The understanding of how this event squares into our collective national psyche helps explain our collective perception of Armenia’s presence in the global world.

Let me put it the other way round. Which bells does it ring when you hear Armenia, which perceptions does it inspire? Is it an old nation with ancient history, is it nation to have accepted the major influences of the Roman and Byzantine Empires but eventually went its own way since the fifth century, is it a strong sense of religion and Christianity, distinct ethnicity, language, culture and art, is it continued subjugation to competing empires and perpetual struggle for survival, is it as a result the developed instincts of mobility, adaptability and pragmatism, is it the suffering, both physical and mental of the tragedy of a genocide, of the perpetual aptitude to survive, while at the same time the Diaspora and identity struggle, or is it finally a modern nation state, one of the 191, a member of the United Nations, a nation in transition? It is all these together. It is obviously a complex cobweb, a multitude of events and circumstances that shape a particularly complex world of Armenians. It certainly bears influence on our present perceptions and the continuation of Armenia as a nation, most importantly for the present time, also as a nation state. The heavy baggage of the past also explains Armenia’s particularly acute security consciousness. The state, this re-established institution in Armenia’s present reality is brought to the function of reinforcing and considerably reformulating the capacity of the nation to promote its security and national development in the modern world. Hence, strong and well organised state structures with functional and effective institutions within it, for Armenia’s case, all things being equal, is also a matter of security.

The shaping of Armenia’s present statehood has began as a result of major transformation of the post WWII status quo, the end of ideology and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. Driven by the common aspirations of the peoples of the communist space for democracy and freedom, Armenia embraced these new values as the foundations of its rediscovered independence. While this value system of individual liberties and genuine popular and civil participation in the exercise of power has been deeply entrenched in the Armenian habit and social behaviour as a result of continued and extensive interactions with both the Roman and Byzantine traditions, and later with western civilisations, the practical implementations of this values in the new state confronted the idiosyncratic challenges of a post-communist society.

Without the intention of shunning our present deficiencies in the process of political reforms and transformations, one also has to admit that among many European nations in the post-communist space we were amongst those outside the EU enlargement processes and imminent accessions. Anyone, familiar with the implications of such status, would understand the consolidating factor of such imminent accession as an accelerator of domestic transformations in Central and Eastern Europe. At the same time, however, our accession to the Council of Europe has been a manifestation of our belonging and reintegration in the community of shared values, as well as an extension of Europe’s political boundaries to our region. In further practical terms the Council of Europe has been continuously providing a positive and consolidating framework for our reforms and institution building.

Institution building and the construction of legal foundations for democracy appear to be one indispensable and determinant factor for our domestic reforms. The other factor happens to be that of genuine commitment to promote such reforms. However, one doesn’t work without the other.

In this context, the adoption through a referendum of a reformed Constitution last November indeed introduces a major overhaul of Armenia’s domestic political environment and substantial redistribution of power amongst its branches. The new Constitution contributes considerably to further diversification of power and stronger protection against its concentration in the hands of a single political group. It implies improved parliamentary multiparty framework, enhanced protection of human rights and genuine independence of the judiciary.

Armenia’s entry into a new phase in its history 15 years ago was also massively challenged by the effective collapse of the Soviet economy, the disruption of its traditional markets and the end of centrally planned economy. Armenia’s predicament was further deteriorated by the consequences of a devastating earthquake in 1988, the escalating conflict in Nagorno Karabagh, the effective blockade of its borders from Turkey and Azerbaijan and continued disruptions of energy supplies through Georgia. As a result, by 1994 Armenia’s GDP constituted only 40% of what we had in 1989. Overwhelming and speedy structural reforms, consistent liberalisation of the economy, the unleashing of the private initiative and the traditional entrepreneurial spirit have under the circumstances been effectively the only viable answer for a country which has not been much blessed with natural resources. However, judging by Armenia’s present economic performance, despite the considerably stretched social cohesion as a result of economic hardship and reduced social protection of the 1990s, our efforts have been gradually paying back.

During the past eight years Armenia has recorded uninterrupted economic growth with sustained financial and monetary stability. In the most recent five years, Armenia’s gross domestic product grew at a double-digit rate. In 2005 alone, GDP growth was 13.9%. Moreover, this buoyant expansion of the economy has occurred against a backdrop of sustained low inflation rates. Privatisation of the economy has been and remains the cornerstone of Armenia’s structural and institutional reforms. At present, approximately 90% of Armenia’s gross domestic product is generated in the private sector, of which the share of small and medium enterprises constitutes about 40%. Armenia’s liberal economic regime paved the way for our accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2002. Last year a joint study by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation placed Armenia 27th in its index of open economies globally. While the positive record and economic improvement is undeniable, our biggest challenge has been and remains improved distribution of national wealth and continued tackling of the poverty levels in accordance with the Poverty reduction strategy, adopted by the Government in 2003. The improved economic performance and the diversified structure of the economy have been gradually expanding employment opportunities, as well as the capacities of the state to cater for social needs and public services.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Armenia’s external security challenges, as ever, have been and continue to be determined by the correlation of the present broader international context with the geopolitical realities of our region coupled with our historical experience and collective memory of the past. To look for a secure future through the Armenian eyes is to mitigate the traditional habits of competitive engagement and mutually excluding ambitions of the outside powers within the region. Furthermore, we recognise the contemporary international setting which provides a qualitatively new degree of collective and comprehensive security through a complex system of international and regional organisations. This factor is probably of particular significance for smaller states, Armenia included, who gain collective power in converging interests through multiple and mutually reinforcing engagements and the promotion of international law. Hence, it explains our aspirations for advanced engagement and integration in European and Europe-centred structures. Such aspirations are in fact beyond the mere recognition of shared historical experience and value base, but also consider the profoundly advanced system of collective and structurally established interactions within Europe.

Over the years Armenia has been consistently promoting and carefully shaping a balanced and multidimensional foreign policy aimed at complementing and convergence of the presence of several powers with distinct and traditional interests in the region. We are certainly cognisant of and much sensitive to the fast changing international environment bearing direct influence on our regional realities. Our adaptability to the flux is a test to our flexibility and pragmatism. To speak about Armenia’s various foreign policy dimensions independent of each other is to fail the recognition of distinctly interwoven developments in each of these dimensions. Presently there are no grounds overwhelmingly sufficient to offer changing tack in Armenia’s foreign policy, however fast appearing new realities are duly factored in.

The presently endemic challenges to energy security, the possible expansion of NATO membership into our region, the Iran issue in the context of nuclear non-proliferation, the ongoing EU enlargement and the open question of Turkey’s accession, regional energy and transport diversification, diverging interests among the countries of the former soviet space and certain new tendencies in Russia’s foreign policy, the ongoing war on terrorism would presently top the otherwise longer list of our priority issues. Pivotal to our foreign and security policy remains the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. To set the record strait, from Armenia’s perspective this is overwhelmingly a question of security, very tangible physical security for the Armenian’s of Nagorno Karabagh, as much as it is a question of self-determination as an established and elsewhere quite acceptably and peacefully exercised collective human right and a norm in international law.

Armenia’s partnership with Russia, in particular the military aspect of our relations has been and remains a key factor in providing Armenia’s security. Such relations have over the years been successfully complemented by a steadily growing security co-operation in other dimensions, first of all within the NATO frameworks and with the United States in particular. Having enacted the Individual Partnership Action Plan, we have presently reached a qualitatively new phase of relations with NATO. The IPAP in its essence upgrades our political and security partnership with the alliance and provides for gradual interoperability of our military. Armenia’s stable security co-operation with Russia and within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, coupled with the expanding relations with NATO aim at consolidating our national security arrangements rather than balancing the presence of the two in Armenia. We are certainly sensitive to the present new tendencies in the region and to their impact on the overall regional security arrangements. With respect to one particular aspect of our regional security, specifically the absence of relations between Armenia and Turkey, we have been undeterred in our position that normalisation of such relations without preconditions and without prejudice to relations with third parties is to the benefit of the entire region.

Our imminent completion of negotiations on the Action Plan for European Neighbourhood Policy represents a fundamentally new opportunity for consolidated and comprehensive political, security and development agenda with the European Union. While I have earlier elaborated on our visions and aspirations with regard to Europe, in this particular context it deserves to be said that the success of the European project since the end of the WWII stands not merely an illustration of reconciliation and interdependence amongst former enemies, but needs to introduce a substantively new context and mentality into our own subregion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been indulging your patience for too long to go on with this introduction, so I better stop here and open the way for a more interactive dialogue,

Thank you

Son Excellence M. Zohrab Mnatsakanian est l'Ambassadeur de la République d’Arménie en Suisse et Représentant permanent auprès de l'ONU à Genève

Organisation: M. Alain Nicollier, Coordinateur du Forum suisse de politique internationale, qui a présenté une brève introduction sur «L’Histoire et la culture de l’Arménie»
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