Signing of EU-Armenia agreement will give Armenia double advantage for investor – French Ambassador’s interview
YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 16, ARMENPRESS. Jonathan Lacôte has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Armenia in September. Previously he has been Advisor to the French Ambassador in the Great Britain, worked at the French foreign ministry, as well as in the French diplomatic representations in Germany and Montenegro.
The newly-appointed Ambassador gave an interview to ARMENPRESS talking about the Armenian-French relations, the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership agreement to be signed soon, the negotiation process over the Karabakh conflict and other issues.
-Mr. Ambassador, first of all I would like to know your opinion on the current level of the Armenian-French relations. How do you assess them and what important emphasis will you identify?
-The Armenian-French relations are unique based on centuries-old friendship. The richness of these relations is linked with the quality of ties between our countries. The political dialogue of the two countries is reflected by the ongoing bilateral visits between the high-ranking leadership, as well as the parliamentarians, local self-government leaders and civil societies. France and Armenia carry out a very close educational-cultural cooperation the vivid proofs of which are the French University and the French school in Armenia.
-You talked about the Armenia-France cooperation in the political field. What can you say about the economic field? What are the figures and is the potential of the two sides sufficiently utilized?
-Strengthening our trade-economic ties is one of my activity priorities. Being a leading investor, France still remains Armenia’s modest trade partner. There are promising fields such as agriculture, energy, tourism, digital or healthcare spheres where our countries could effectively cooperate. In this sense the important development that could be of interest of the French investors, exporters to be more represented in Armenia, is the signing of the EU-Armenia agreement which will enable Armenia to offer double advantage to any potential investor: access to the Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAEU) market and facilitated exchanges with the European Union.
-What priorities do you see for further boosting the economic cooperation? In your opinion, what problems do the businessmen face in connection with investments?
-The Armenian market presents a special interest to most of the businessmen and investors if it is a bridge to the EAEU and Iran at the same time using the privileged trade regime with the EU. In order to trade in Armenia or to be established here they need concrete tax, customs and legal rules equal for everyone. I appreciate the Armenian government’s reforms aimed at boosting the economy and investments. In this sense my activity is going to concentrate on strengthening the Armenian-French institutional cooperation. This cooperation is already reflected in the joint work of the Business France and the Armenian Development Fund for already a year to help the latter to develop the attractiveness of foreign investments in Armenia. This also helped to establish a base for concrete commercial cooperation between the local self-governance authorities of Armenia and France since about 15 businessmen of the SME general council of Rhône-Alpes region were in Armenia at the invitation of the Fund on October 2-6, 2017. It is welcomed that this cooperation is focused on the SMEs which in particular need assistance and consulting in order to understand the features of the Armenian market.
-There is also an active cooperation in the field of culture. With what main emphasis do you imagine the upcoming works in this sphere?
-Armenia and France really carry out an active cultural cooperation including numerous spheres, for instance, cinema. In this regard the Embassy will continue assisting the international festivals in Armenia ensuring the recognition of the French cinematography. The Francophonie Film Festival, in partnership with the embassies of member states of the organization, was successfully held in 2017, and it will also be held in 2018. The next one is the promotion of the French music and familiarization with the French musicians. We also want to promote the classical and modern music with the Armenian leading institutions (Opera, Khachatryan Philharmonic Large Concert Hall, Komitas festival), as well as to organize concerts in March or June. Promoting the Francophonie cultures and the French is also among priorities, especially in the context of the upcoming 2018 Francophonie summit in Yerevan. In this framework the Embassy will organize a number of cultural programs aimed at valuing the French language.
-As you said, in 2018 Armenia will host the Francophonie summit. What is the significance of holding such large-scale event in Armenia? What are your expectations from this summit?
-Yes, hosting this summit next year will be a great occasion for Armenia. Since Armenia’s independence it will be the greatest event since it is expected to be attended by more than 80 delegations or more than 5000 participants. President Emmanuel Macron will also attend the event, and taking into account our historical ties, it is known that the visit of the French President is always an event in Armenia. It is a unique chance for the relations of the two countries.
-Let’s talk about the current stage of the negotiation process over the Karabakh conflict. France is an OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair country. In the recent period the Co-Chairs try to activate the Armenia-Azerbaijan meetings, in particular, recently the meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents, as well as the meeting between the Co-Chairs and the Armenian foreign minister were held.
What do you think, how these meetings are effective for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in case when Azerbaijan openly hinders the process of implementing a number of agreements reached previously?
-France, together with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – the United States and Russia, makes efforts for the negotiated settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict which caused many pains to numerous families of both sides. The Karabakh conflict has no military solution, and the peaceful settlement should be on the negotiation table. France welcomed these meetings. I note with sadness that in my tenure in Armenia many Armenian soldiers were killed in the Line of Contact within a month. This shows that the NK conflict is not a “frozen” conflict, rather it is an open conflict bringing tragic consequences to the two peoples. France calls on to intensify the talks to find a solution to this two-decades-long conflict.
-Mr. Ambassador, what can you say about the Armenia-EU relations? You talked about the agreement which will be signed soon. In your opinion, what will it give to the bilateral relations? How do you assess the possibility of signing the agreement?
-The European Union is the largest lender in Armenia in assisting governance, private sector and public administration reforms. Together with other international actors the EU can assist Armenia to strengthen the unity of civil society serving a base for any democratic development and improvement of the human rights. The agreement will make Armenia close to the European Union by facilitating the commercial ties. It also aims at strengthening the cooperation in numerous spheres, such as human rights, strengthening of legal state, fight against corruption, development of cultural ties and deepening of political dialogue. After signing of the agreement Armenia will be the first one among the Eastern Partnership countries which will have such an agreement with the EU at the same time being a member of the Eurasian Economic Union.
-Mr. Ambassador, it’s a short time you are in Armenia, what did you manage to see or taste here? Will you tell about your first impressions?
-After being in Armenia for five weeks, I can state that Armenia is already an absorbing, attractive country for me: it seems that the days are 50 hours and the weeks are 10 days. Armenia is a country always keeping all senses alive: this relates to the culture, the cuisine and the lifestyle. Yerevan is a small “city-world” (I say this as a Parisian from London). You will meet here people knowing several languages, open to the world. It is noticeable in all spheres that you are approaching a very ancient civilization the roots of which are submerged into a long and often a tragic history. For the newcomer this is quite promoting and even for the Ambassador, it raises respect and modesty.
Interview by Syuzi Muradyan