To mark her first year as Ambassador of Armenia to the Court of St James’s and the 20th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Armenia and the UK, Karine Kazinian calls for cultural and economic cooperation with Britain
Independent Armenia is only 21-years-old. For a nation whose history goes back over three millennia, that’s a drop in the ocean. Armenia lost her statehood in the Middle Ages, and the first independent republic was short-lived – only two and a half years between 1918-20. Soviet Armenia – a period of formation and systematisation of the institutional memory of the people – was certainly an important chapter in the history of the country. However, the long-cherished dream of the Armenian people came true when they voted for independence in a referendum on 21 September 1991.
For two decades now, we have been building our corner of the great world; our state, the Republic of Armenia. We have been building Armenia throughout disaster, war, blockade and crisis, overcoming difficult and tough challenges with contributions from all Armenians, young and old.
In this short period of time we have managed to lay the foundations of statehood, consolidate democracy, develop civil society and a liberal economy, and become integrated in the international community. We did our best to adopt all that is modern and good whilst preserving our Armenian traditions. We have managed not only to learn from the world, but also to share with the world our thoughts and the warmth of our soul.
Our nation has waited a long time for its independence. Independence brought opportunities, rights and responsibilities. Independence gave us the ability to defend our national dignity, even through fight and struggle. It gave us the right to assemble new and great national achievements and take pride in them. But first and foremost, independence gave us the responsibility to shape our centuries-old dream which now can become a reality. The past two decades – a mere blink of history’s eye – have been a long, difficult and exciting time for us. These have been years of loss, success and achievement. As a result today, we have a solid system of government, a civil society that is gaining momentum, and all the institutions of a modern state. However, we cannot stop here; we continue to strengthen our nation every day, every step of the way.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Armenia and the UK. In a wider context, this anniversary reflects the aspirations of the Armenian and British people to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation, to celebrate our common values, working together to promote peace and security in the world.
We hope to develop cooperation with the UK through intensive political dialogue and economic and trade exchanges. There is a notable British presence in Armenia which I trust can be expanded to reflect our ambition to achieve increased bilateral engagement.
As Ambassador, I wish to express my Government’s appreciation for the British Government’s assistance, (through development projects, among other things), to support the reform process in Armenia over the past two decades. We have made significant progress in building a modern, democratic, market-orientated society where the rule of law prevails, and gratefully acknowledge the continuing British contribution to our efforts.
Futhermore, there is great potential for cooperation between our two countries in as yet unexplored fields. Armenia has great potential for the production and exportation of electric power which widens the prospect of cooperation with many companies. Our businesses are vigorously researching and engaging in existing opportunities
in all areas of renewable energy. We are making large investments in the solar, wind and hydro energy areas, and have serious plans regarding the use of geothermal energy. In addition, we have set a strategic goal to bring the consumption of renewable energy up to 35 per cent. I believe the British can be our partners in encouraging foreign investment in Armenia’s burgeoning energy sector.
Armenia is currently in the process of implementing large infrastructure programmes, such as the North-South highway, which will connect the Black Sea ports to the sea ports on the Persian Gulf, and the North-South railroad. Some of our European friends have already expressed a desire to participate in these programmes. I urge British businessmen to establish active cooperation with their Armenian partners, thus making an essential contribution to the development of our region.
There are also some excellent opportunities for cooperation in the tourism sector. Armenia has a rich historical and cultural heritage, and maintains an enthusiastic appreciation of foreign cultures. International relations can be built on cultural foundations, and our two countries have the opportunity to cooperate through tourism and the implementation of joint programmes. The British Council is certainly an effective tool for expanding friendship between our peoples.
Tourism in Armenia truly has great prospects for development. We would like to see a tangible presence of British capital in this area, particularly with regard to the creation of related infrastructure.
The free trade zones established in Armenia also provide wide opportunities for cooperation. One such zone has been established on the territories of the Mars plant and the Yerevan Scientific and Research Institute of Mathematical Machines, which will be used for the production and exportation of high and innovative technology – electronics, precise engineering, pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies, information technologies, alternative energy, industrial design and telecommunications. British businessmen may also be interested in the production, processing and packaging of agricultural goods, chemical industry, mining metallurgy, banking, healthcare and other areas. I would warmly consider the participation of British corporations working in these sectors.
For almost two years, Armenia has been in negotiations with the European Union on an Association Agreement. I would particularly like to note the launch of the Armenia-EU negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement early this year, which will also open new prospects for Armenian-British cooperation. These processes will result in Armenia having a highly integrated and liberalised system of economic relations with the EU. Armenia has already been using the EU Generalised System of Preferences, (allowing exporters from developing countries to pay lower duties on what they sell to the EU), and we will soon sign an agreement on the entry visa regime which will enhance contacts, especially between medium businesses. As a result of such efforts, the macroeconomic situation in Armenia has been assessed as stable, while the large-scale reforms conducted in different areas make our country’s investment climate more attractive and protected for foreign investors.
This is my first official year here as Ambassador of Armenia to St James’s Court and it is a great honour and challenge to work towards realising the ambitious agenda of Armenia-UK cooperation.