The Armenian President, Robert Kotcharian, has been in Brussels for talks on advancing relations between the European Union and his country. The EU is currently involved in a process to increase cooperation with three states in the south Caucasus region, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
For Armenia establishing better links with the EU is important because of its geo-political situation. The borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed. Access to Georgia is limited because of the conflict in Abkhazia. EuroNews spoke to President Kotcharian in Brussels.
EN – President Kotcharian, thanks for talking to EuroNews. Your neighbour Georgia has clearly signalled its European ambitions. Can you see Armenia on the road to EU membership one day?
PK – I think that to participate fully in the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy programme would be a more pragmatic ambition. Moreover, the European Union itself has to decide to what point it is going to enlarge, how far east it’s going to push its borders. I prefer to remain realistic and talk about concrete things which can be realised today. It’s for the next generation of Armenian politicians to decide where Armenia will go in the future.
EN – The former soviet states that are now independent countries all have different priorities in their relations with Russia or among themselves. What are the priorities for Armenia?
PK – In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union a new geo-political situation was established. The process of adapting to this new situation has not yet been completed. In economic and military terms Russia remains the must powerful state in the region. For us Russia is a key partner, a strategic partner. But that in no way prevents us from building and developing relations with other states, including the EU, the US or Iran. It’s a normal process, a process of researching and laying down markers in a new situation while, at the same time, keeping those established by previous generations. There’s also the question of our spiritual link to Russia which remains strong. I think it would be a shame to lose that.
EN – You know the problem of Nagorno Karabach from the inside – you were its commander-in-chief, its prime minister and its president. In your view how can the conflict there be resolved?
PK – Negotiations are underway – I would qualify that as a positive development. But the character of these negotiations is very confidential and I can’t give you details here. However I would like to express the Armenian point of view on the problem. During the collapse of the Soviet Union the people of Nagorno Karabach excercised their right to self-determination in a referendum, respecting the judicial and democratic norms. The existence of the republic is undeniable. We should think rather about the means by which we can integrate its people into the international community.
EN – In entering the Council of Europe Armena and Azerbaijan undertook to search for a solution to the Nagorno Karabach problem through negotiation. However the two states have considerably increased their military spending. Don’t you find that contradictory?
PK – There is without doubt a certain contradiction, even if I was to suggest you regard the increase not in real figures but in proportion to the national budget. But more dangerous still is the rhetoric coming from Azerbaijan. We have oil revenue – we have the capacity to increase our military budget to tilt the balance heavily in our favour and we could resolve the problem with arms. It’s this kind of rhetoric which is dangerous, not military spending.
EN – On the 3rd of October the European Union opened membership talks with Ankara. What is Armenia’s position on the question of Turkey entering the EU?
PK – Our feelings are mixed. On the one hand the process of adhesion requires Turkey to implement far-reaching reforms of its society. That is very positive, I think. But there’s also something negative I’d like to talk about. It’s the first time the EU has opened negotiations with a country which is closed to its neighbour, which refuses to recognise the black pages of its history. That’s what people need to ask about, Europeans first of all. You see, without the capacity to ask for forgiveness the creation of the Europe of today would have been very difficult.
EN – What do you say about the recent resolution by the European Parliament demanding Turkey recognise the Armenian genocide. How did that go down in Armenia?
PK – Very positively. And not only in Armenia. The Armenian diaspora has also reacted. We can only regret that the European Parliament resolution is not obligatory on the European Commission.