‘We should stand by the people of Artsakh’ - MEP Lars Patrick Berg
YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 27, ARMENPRESS. Member of European Parliament (MEP) Lars Patrick Berg says he is not concerned about the warnings of Azerbaijan on including him in its “black list” for visiting Artsakh. The MEP says he will visit Artsakh again and is already confident that Artsakh is amazing. Lars Patrick Berg sees a great development potential in Artsakh, is going to raise the Artsakh issue in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee which he is a member of. The MEP is confident that he and the Alternative For Germany (AFD) party’s other members should stand together by the people of Artsakh.
MEP Lars Patrick Berg, member of the Alternative For Germany (AFD) party, gave an interview to ARMENPRESS, talking about a number of topics. He recently visited Armenia.
-I know that you visited Artsakh two years ago, had many meetings there. What cooperation prospects do you see between Artsakh and Germany?
-I think Artsakh has a great potential in regards to tourism and agriculture, especially organic agriculture (wine, fruit, vegetables). Last time I was in Artsakh two years ago. I met quite a few entrepreneurs growing wine and organic vegetables, and I think this is a great market, it needs to be supported because people in US, Europe and other countries like to spend more money on organic food. Artsakh is a beautiful country with its mountains, old monasteries, history and nice people. So I think this will also be a topic for the discussion in the European Parliament to push towards better cooperation in regards to tourism. And I think Artsakh is also like a fortress in regards to safeguarding the Christian belief without being negative to people of other beliefs. I think Artsakh is like a fortress, and we need to support Artsakh’s reforms. As for Germany, although I am not a member of the Bundestag, but I think that all together, Armenia is important to Germany in general because from the geopolitical standpoint it’s located in a very important region. As a member of the European Parliament I think it’s important for the Western Europe to support peaceful negotiations and activities to end the conflict, especially in Artsakh, and rising tensions in Turkey and coming from Turkey. I think it’s important to support peaceful activities in the region, to have peace that is very important and create new opportunities for young people.
-As you talked about the conflict, I would like to hear your opinion on the statements of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who repeatedly stated that the solution of the NK conflict should be acceptable both for the people of Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan, but, unfortunately there are no appropriate reactions from the Azerbaijani side yet. What do you think about this?
-In my personal view it probably takes some time to de-escalate and find a long-lasting solution, it takes a lot of talks and negotiations, and you have to gain trust. If there is no trust, it’s difficult. It takes a long time to solve such a conflict. And I think that the Prime Minister is right, the solution should be acceptable to all of the parties, otherwise there won’t be peace.
-Azerbaijan sometimes includes foreign officials in its so-called “black list” for visiting Artsakh. Did you have any fears while visiting Artsakh?
-Coming back from Artsakh two years ago I received a letter from the Azerbaijani Ambassador in Germany, he complained to the President of the Parliament in Baden-Württemberg, saying that my visit to Artsakh was illegal and that I would be included in the “black list” and can’t enter Azerbaijan anymore. I didn’t reply to that letter, didn’t want to escalate it. But I didn’t fear of visiting Artsakh, I wasn’t afraid, it was a very safe journey and I met lots of nice people, officials, politicians, I met the President, a very skilled and talented man, I met with the foreign minister and lots of students. It’s more important to find a peaceful, lasting solution to this very complex conflict, a peaceful solution that would be beneficial for all the parties. And therefore we need to support Artsakh and Armenia. I was in Stepanakert, that was a very peaceful and a very nice city. I also went to Martakert, met people and also have been not far from the frontline. I felt very very sorry for the people what they have to experience, the children and the women. It’s very important to find a peaceful solution, nobody benefits from the war. I would like to say support with the means I have. I am not a prime minister, I am not a president, I am just an ordinary member of the European Parliament, but I would like to raise the Artsakh issue in the Parliament, being a member of the foreign committee and then will see what will come out of it. I am very positive.
-You have seen all these in Artsakh. What issue do you want to raise in the European Parliament?
-I am the member of the Committees of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs. I would say it’s very important to listen to both sides, and it’s very important to find a solution to strengthen the economic situation in Artsakh. If we don’t, there might be more young people leaving the country. But this is a pity because young talented people need to be in their home country, and I would raise this issue in the Parliament. There are some politicians who are not interested in such topics, but myself and others would be very happy to raise this issue.
-I know that in 2020 an observation group from Germany will be in Artsakh to follow the process of general elections. Who will be in this group? Is the elections of Artsakh are so important for Germany?
-As far as I know the election observation group will put together AFD members, members of the German Bundestag and some state parliaments in Germany. I think it’s very good that there are close ties between Artsakh and the AFD in Germany and in the parliaments. I think it’s very important to show solidarity to Artsakh in regards of self-determination of the people living in Artsakh. I think this is a very good idea because there will be close links between the parliament of Artsakh, some politicians in Artsakh and AFD. Several colleagues of mine and myself have been in Artsakh, colleagues from Artsakh have been in Germany. This is very good as it strengthens the links between the countries and the people. Two years ago I visited the University of Artsakh in Stepanakert. It will be fantastic if there will be a kind of exchange program between the Artsakh University and the university in Germany. It’s still an idea that I have. There are so many talented people, and they need to have an opportunity to come to Europe, spend a few months in our universities and come back with that knowledge.
-As I understood, you have plans with Artsakh. What connects you with Artsakh?
-I am fully convinced that we can’t leave the people for themselves, we need to support Artsakh, we need to support Armenia in every means. There should be a peaceful solution. There must be opportunities for young people. Myself and other members of our party are very interested and are fully convinced that we need to stand by the people of Artsakh because Artsakh is the cradle of Christianity, so we have lots in common in culture, religion. It is something we have in common, and we mustn’t forget that.
-Currently Armenia is seeking to launch a visa liberalization dialogue with the European Union. It’s interesting to know your opinion on what the European Parliament could do to contribute to this process? What are the moods in the EP in this regard?
-As a member of the European Parliament I think before we have a visa liberalization it is very important to support the government and the people in Armenia, first of all give young people opportunities so that they will not have to leave their own country, to migrate to other countries. And then I think the next step would be the visa liberalization because lots of people in Armenia are very very qualified. Two years ago I visited an ArmTab company in Armenia, lots of young and talented people work there. So we need more companies like this both in Armenia and Artsakh. I think there is still no final solution yet in the European Parliament regarding the visa liberalization, still talks are going on. But as I said I think it’s very important from the perspective of the European Parliament to support Armenia in terms of loans, trade cooperation, to offer young people better opportunities. The moods in the EP are positive, but due to the fact the Europe has been facing and still is facing an inflow of irregular migration from Africa, Asia and many other countries, there is a kind of mood in the EP, especially from conservative groups and politicians that we need to find a solution on who can come to Europe and who can’t. Because thousands of people come in from the whole world, and there is no process in place to coordinate it. Illegal migration is a big issue, so I think we need to solve this first.
Interview by Anna Grigoryan
Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan