Saturday, 7 April 2012
Republic of Armenia Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan’s Interview to Gazeta.ru Website
Armenia wishes to push ahead with integration in the Eurasian customs union by getting a special status within the union. The country can be encouraged to adhere to this geographically remote entity by allowing for subsidies and other privileges. This and other issues were taken up by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan in an interview accorded to gazeta.ru website.
- Russia is talking about reorganizing EurAsEC into a Eurasian Union by making it a closer union like the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. This was discussed in one of Vladimir Putin’s campaign articles. This was likewise stated by Dmitry Medvedev at the latest summit of the EurAsEC who also warned against difficulties that might arise in the relations with such States as are not members of the customs union. Armenia has an observer status within the EurAsEC. Does your country consider the possibility of closer integration?
- We have clearly defined our position: we are interested in the integration processes within the EurAsEC. The problem is as follows: which way will the integration go and in what format? This is not a trivial question. For instance, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are keen on becoming a member of the Customs Union as soon as possible, but Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan say not to be ready yet.
These countries have to pass a certain way, create the needed infrastructures that would ensure the unity of the customs zone. As regards Armenia, our problem is quite different: no country has ever acceded to an alliance without a common border with other member-States.
In this case, the advantages of such an alliance, there are few manufacturers that export goods or import clearance pass to a third country.
As a result, the benefits are becoming a problem. You can not use the free movement of goods, customs fees, but you must agree with the other members of the Alliance: This is why we have offered Russia and other partners to develop a basis for the relations between Armenia and the European customs union, in reserving a special status.
- What do you mean? How is it done?
- We have the experience of remote areas. They get specific subsidies and privileges, if integrated with a remote economic zone. This means that they should negotiate with all member-countries to create an effective integration of economic conditions.
- Did your partners show understanding in your approaches?
- Yes, we have a direct dialogue with our Russian partners. The working groups are discussing these issues. We are studying the global experience, our proposed approach.
Our ideas are very clear since the experience of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in creating the Customs Union shows the advantages of this process, and everything can be calculated in detail. Based on a huge list of commodities, our partners have analyzed in detail the benefits, advantages and disadvantages that may arise while shaping a common economic zone.
- You are simultaneously talking about the integration with the European Union. Do these two processes not contradict each other?
- Not of course. In parallel to the Customs Union, Russia continued to work with the World Trade Organization as the two processes were not seen as mutually exclusive, but complementary to each other. Our approach is just the same: Armenia is interested in expanding its markets.
- But the fact is that at the time of entering into a customs union, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus were not CSO members. Russia has just completed the membership process. As for Belarus and Kazakhstan, they will have to harmonize the existing conditions with Russia. In the meantime, Armenia is already a CSO-member State and cannot change the conditions.
- Although Armenia is a CSO-member State, we are not prevented from ratifying free trade arrangements within the CIS. Far from being mutually exclusive, these agreements complement each other.
Our desire to join the European Union’s free economic zone can be viewed from the same perspective. Of course, it will become a serious impetus to economic development. The same path is already taken by Ukraine, Moldova as they are eager to have a free trade zone with the EU.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov completed his trip to Armenia on April 3. He then traveled to Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh was the main topic of talks. Are there any new proposals that may smooth the gap between the conflicting positions?
- I think Russia’s initiatives have laid a basis for talks, and all conceptual issues have already been discussed. At this point, an agreement has to be reached on the details of enforcement, which calls for a political will.
- Do you think the positions can come closer in the end?
- We do have such a desire.
- Parliamentary elections will be held this May in Armenia. Do you think the preparations for and the outcome of the elections may affect the country’s foreign political course, in particular, in terms of problem solving approaches?
- Of course. The question is what the outcome of the elections will be: we hope the RPA will strengthen its positions allowing us to continue with the recent years’ achievements both in terms of international cooperation and the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.
- Azerbaijan is often said to have toughened its stance on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and that the military phase of the conflict may resume this fall, what can you say thereabout?
- Many such predictions have been made since 1994, the date of the cease-fire. If you wish to live in peace, get ready for a war. That is why we take into account the risks and threats while working toward the strengthening our country’s defensive capacity. That is the main pledge against the war.
- Escalation around Iran is raising many questions in South Caucasus. What are the measures envisaged by the Armenian authorities to protect the national interests if the situation goes on deteriorating up to an armed conflict?
- Any attempt to solve the problem with military means is undesirable for us. Our relations with the outer world are being built through Iran and Georgia, since Turkey continues with the blockade of our country, and we do not have economic ties with Azerbaijan.
Iran’s stability is vital to our country: the conflict will be a powerful blow to Armenia’s economy, political and social situation. Of course, we follow the situation closely and will take into account the risks.
- What are the prospects for the implementation of Armenia-Iran railroad and Iran-Armenia pipeline prospects which have long been talked about? May the current tension put them off?
- No delay is scheduled concerning these two projects. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran. The Iranian side has undertaken to perform construction on its territory Talks are underway with investors. We are closely cooperating with the Russian Railways.
In particular, Russian experts have helped us complete a feasibility study, for which we are very grateful to the Russian side.
In the same way, the pipeline project is moving forward. We have developed a power transmission line project with Iran, which will help increase the export of electricity from Armenia to Iran, Underway is the design of a power plant project: All these projects are currently being implemented.
- What dates are you talking about?
- The power plant construction has already started, and the high-voltage line will be launched this year. As to the pipeline project, all necessary technical characteristics will have been completed by yearned and, hopefully, corresponding agreements will be signed with the investors.
- Armenian authorities have approved a new industrial policy, with the export-oriented industries proclaimed as priorities. What are the primary sales outlets and for what kind of commodities?
- We have singled out 12 branches, which are the advantages of our products, or capacity, in terms of the existing investors and management personnel have the potential estimated in the whole intellectual, industrial and financial potential of this project were developed with World Bank assistance.
The priorities are as follows: precision engineering, brandy and wine production, pharmaceutical industry - where we have four major projects – as well as precious stones, jewelry, watch-making.
The output is meant to go Europe and the CIS countries. We are also trying to set up a brandy distribution network in China which is a very promising market for us. An agreement is up with the private sector to create the appropriate distribution infrastructure through joint efforts.
A promotion campaign is needed to reach out to this market.