Armenian News Network / Groong

Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan's Speech
at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference, 1999

      [This is a fairly close translation of the Armenian text, as it
      appeared in the press the next day (Hayastani Hanrapetutiun,
      24/9/99, pp.1-2, under the heading "The 21st Century is to be
      Ours"), with some very minor cuts. I have cross checked the
      recorded version of the speech with the printed version and the
      two are 99% the same. PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL
      for my own use, and would like to share it with Groong
      readers. Comments in square brackets are my own additions.
      -- Razmik Panossian.]

    Vazgen Sarkisian's speech at
    The Armenia-Diaspora Conference (23/09/1999)

    [This is a fairly close translation of the Armenian text, as it
    appeared in the press the next day (Hayastani Hanrapetutiun,
    24/9/99, pp.1-2, under the heading "The 21st Century is to be
    Ours"), with some very minor cuts. I have cross checked the
    recorded version of the speech with the printed version and the two
    NOR AM I A PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATOR. I have done this for my own
    use, and would like to share it with Groong readers. Comments in
    square brackets are my own additions -- Razmik Panossian.]

    Listening to your comments yesterday, I admit that I totally changed
    my speech, understanding, with great joy, that there is no need
    to make historic, moral, and patriotic pronouncements. Everything
    is clear. The century began with tragedy for us, we continued with
    achievements and losses, and we have the imperative to end it
    with victory. We want the 21st century to be the era of unity,
    the strengthening of statehood, and prosperity. Based on this,
    I want to assert certain realities, and to give the government's
    answers and suggestions to them.

    Reality number 1: Armenia is no longer an abstract and mysterious
    fatherland which needs to be discovered. Rather, it is a real,
    independent country.  This is Armenia's third republic, with its
    permanent achievements, with its unlimited problems and

    Reality number 2: The Armenian republic has solved two of the three
    arch-problems (gerkhndir) facing it at this historic juncture:
    a) It has won the [Gharabagh] war forced onto it, achieving an earned
    b) With the aid of the people, of the rulers and political forces,
    it has established lasting internal political stability -- which is
    the most serious basis for the success of future essential tasks.

    Only two days ago, we marked the anniversary of Armenia's
    independence. With pride, we greeted the victorious army's military
    parade. And, I am convinced, we realised that only pan-national
    unity of will, and unity of forces, brought independence to Armenia
    and saved Artsakh from destruction.

    Believe me, today the economic development (verelk) of Armenia is
    as important as victory in the war was yesterday. Our battle has
    moved from the field of blood and heroism, to the economic field.
    Hence, our strategy must change too; from assistance -- for which
    we will not thank you in order not to offend your honour -- to
    substantive cooperation. We must give much more productive and
    organisational shape to our emotional and spontaneous relations.

    History demonstrates that the peoples who win are the ones who are
    more organised and rational. And this is our 3rd arch-problem and
    reality simultaneously.

    Let us look at questions emanating from this problem: many
    preconditions are necessary in order to realise a new organisational
    dimension; but the most important one is the moral-psychological
    (baroyahogebanakan). Unfortunately, both in the fatherland and
    in the diaspora, the examples of conflicts leading to disunity
    and separation are many. First and foremost, mutual trust and
    tolerance are essential for us. And the first indications of
    these must come from the fatherland. We will begin improvements
    from the inside of the country, from the government, from the
    Prime Minister.

    As a start, I am declaring in the name of the government of the
    Armenian republic: 1) The government not only can, but is obliged
    and is ready to treat the diaspora as an equal partner.  2) The
    government is ready, where needed, to address issues related to
    legal, financial, and taxation improvements. (To secure solutions
    to legal and administrative disputes related to contracts [text in
    round parentheses was not read during the speech --RP].)  3) The
    government realistically accepts that the invested capital does not
    have a sense of nation belonging, even if it is in the hands of
    investors with Armenian origins. Cooperation with the fatherland
    has to be economically profitable. Investments in Armenia must be
    beneficial. [I assume he meant beneficial to Armenia --RP.]  4) The
    government understands that no financial investments will take
    place if correct and fair rules are not cultivated and realised,
    and made known to the public. All information related to
    investments and loans received must be made public and explained by
    the President of the republic through the state and mass media.

    In order to restore trust, and to develop transparent
    financial-economic means, the Armenian government has already
    adopted certain concrete measures:

    1) A government committee is established, headed by the Prime
    Minister, to monitor loans, grants, and humanitarian assistance
    received. This means that responsibility is also fixed. From now
    on, the government, and the prime minister personally, is responsible
    for funds (i.e. the loans, grants, assistance received) which are
    misused or disappear.

    All Armenian governments [in the past] believed that it was enough
    to give personal guarantees to foreign investors, assuming that
    they will invest in our markets and grow. But we are not naive. We
    understand that investors do not demand, in the first instance,
    personal guarantees, but structural guarantees -- clear and
    unchanging rules of the game. Let us, however, accept that the
    shaping of such structures is a huge task and takes time, and which
    we must realise together. In the meantime, the first step is the
    political will to do this. I am, with all responsibility, declaring
    that the government of the Armenian republic has that will, and is
    ready to assume the responsibility. Try it and you be convinced.

    2) With the National Assembly, we are to create in the upcoming
    days a joint council (handznazhoghov) which will examine a series
    of loan programmes which have created some noise. The guilty ones
    will be known; this will prevent the repetition of similar
    incidents in the future.

    3) With the World Bank and the US Embassy we are developing a
    comprehensive programme to combat corruption, which, without doubt,
    we will implement.

    A bit more in detail about corruption. Corruption in Armenia has,
    unfortunately, reached serious proportions. But not as serious as
    we ourselves are presenting. We are "making a hair into a post."
    Such self-criticism often sounds like "it is impossible to live in
    this country, it is impossible to do business in this country..."
    Why? Who does this country belong to? Who are the residents of this
    country? Lately, an extremely dangerous philosophy has emerged:
    some are even using such excuses to leave the country.

    Dear Armenians, sisters and brothers, believe me, no one is
    criticising Armenians to the extend of such rejection, of such
    self-denial, that we are criticising ourselves. This is making us
    worse in the eyes of foreigners. We are creating such a
    moral-psychological environment within which it is impossible to
    grow the seeds of tomorrow. This county is our difficult but
    priceless fatherland. Is it possible to leave the fatherland? Who
    is upsetting you? On the 15-16th of every month, I am declaring a
    day of reception on economic issues. I am ready to receive all of
    you, from Armenia and from the diaspora. Let us see who is it that
    is disturbing you. This, obviously, is once again a personalised
    and not comprehensive solution.

    I am also suggesting a structural solution. In the next 5-6 months
    we will create for external and internal investors an agency to
    provide them with assistance and services. This will be the
    Armenian Development Agency (Zargatsman haykakan gortzakalutiun).
    This will be a unique window between Armenia and the world. A
    one stop centre, where every potential investor can receive
    solutions to all problems concerning him -- from the moment of
    being greeted at the airport, to legal, administrative,
    technical and other services.  Through this Agency, it will be
    possible, without bureaucratic delays, to register any company
    and to receive for its operation all the permissions and certificates.

    The Agency will be a real bridge between foreign businessmen and
    the Armenia's administration, enabling Armenia's administration to
    know the problems faced by the businessmen.

    (The government guarantees the maximum transparency of this Agency
    [text in parentheses, not read during the speech, but in the
    written text --RP].)

    The Agency will be directly subordinate to the Prime Minister. It
    will have the possibility to work directly with the President, with
    the Chairman of Parliament and other branches of the administration.

    The leadership bodies of the Agency will be comprised of the
    council of trustees (hogabardzuneri khorhurd) wich will include
    internationally recognised businessmen and benefactors, as well as
    leaders of authoritative international organisations. There will
    also be an executive council (tnorenneri khorhurd) which will
    include all the economic ministers within the government, and
    representatives from the diaspora.

    In general, in the 4 executive bodies (varchutiun) of the Agency,
    the diaspora will be represented as equally as Armenians of
    Armenia. (It is desirable that the executive council's president be
    a diasporan Armenian [text in parentheses not read during the
    speech --RP].)

    Finally, the Agency will be run by the best and the most
    knowledgeable people, who will work in the best possible offices,
    receiving high salaries without being dependent on anyone.

    The government is assuming the cost of this and all other related
    expenses.  The creation of branch offices of the Agency abroad is
    being envisioned, notably in London, NY, LA, Beirut and Moscow. Let
    us think from today onwards, I ask you, about the best cadres of
    diaspora Armenian that can be made available [for this project]. It
    is also possible that the best of the young and student diaspora
    Armenians can work here during their vacations.  (As mentioned by
    the President yesterday, to bring diasporan youth to Armenia, the
    Armenian government decided to provide one of its resort buildings
    at Tzaghkadzor to visiting youth [clap, clap... Text in parentheses
    does not appear in the published version, but was added during the
    speech --RP].)

    After independence, Armenia's administration established links
    mostly with known diasporan organisations and prominent individuals.
    This has left out many successful individuals, mainly young,
    who are far from the community's structures and organisations,
    from party activities. In this "silent majority," no doubt,
    there will be people whom we must be able to link with the
    fatherland's economic activities. The experience of the near
    past also reminds us that the new plans of economic cooperation
    must remain far from the political domain.

    What are we proposing? In relation to this and related issues, we
    are proposing to this conference to establish a Council
    (handznazhoghov), half of whose members -- at the very least -- and
    its leader, to be diaspora Armenians [con't on p.2 of newspaper
    text]. The Armenian Development Agency can serve as a working body
    for this Council. It is desirable to hold mini-conferences for the
    Council, including diasporan businessmen, companies, political and
    economic activists. The government will be willing to assume the
    costs of such events. The result will be real and mutually
    beneficial plans.

    Despite the difficult conditions, the economy of Armenia has wide
    potential.  We will try to convince you of this tomorrow at the
    business forum and the trade-fair of Armenian products. I am
    specifically referring to metallurgy, chemical industry, water
    resources, farming (?- kyiughmterk). I am not even mentioning the
    serious intellectual potential.

    These realities are also affirmed by the fact that the president of
    the World Bank, Wolfensohn, proposed to jointly organise with the
    Armenian government in 2000 an international businessmen's forum --
    to which we have of course agreed. I ask you to seriously think
    about this proposal. Many of you will soon receive an invitation
    from Mr. Wolfensohn and I. Believe me, the passivity of diasporan
    Armenians [to invest] in Armenia is leading to serious doubts among
    foreign investors.

    I would like to refer to one other important issue. It is about the
    economic role of Armenian embassies. They can become important hubs
    of regional communications, an appropriate communications means
    between the fatherland and the diaspora.

    Thank you for the financial assistance which the communities have
    given to the embassies, particularly in the first phase of their
    activities. In 2000, the Armenian government will assume the
    responsibility to provide the embassies with all the administrative
    and staff (komunal-kentsaghayin) expenses. We must secure the
    appropriate running/living expenses of the embassies and
    ambassadors, and their independence. Simultaneously, their
    responsibilities will increase, including -- and particularly in --
    the realm of economic cooperation. Your assistance to the
    ambassadors must be focussed on more general, political issues such
    as lobbying, investments, and perhaps in certain places, on
    problems related to [i.e.acquiring/maintenance of] buildings.

    I am also proposing to create through this conference a permanent
    working-coordinating group which will coordinate all proposals, and
    will prepare the documents for discussion/analysis. In the worse
    case, by the next (Armenia-diaspora) conference the doubts between
    the diasporan organisations, and toward us, will be dissipated. In
    the best case, this will assist in the creation of a pan-national
    coordinating body which will be able to distinguish between the
    various problems, and identify the most important, giving
    directions for their solution.

    We have become so cautious, that I am thinking: are we not taking
    the eye out, instead of shaping the eyebrow? In any case, let us
    take my words as that of a previous straight-forward defence
    minister. No! we are not going take the eye out of anyone. As they
    say in diplomatic language, our unity is not directed against
    anyone. It is to work for, not against.

    Look at the world powers, what they have achieved. But us, we are
    still debating to hurry or not to hurry, to say or not to say
    "Armenia-diaspora or diaspora-Armenia."

    What are we waiting for? The last step to Armenia's economic ruin?
    The abandonment of Armenia by Armenians? or, until the followers of
    the sects are more numerous than the apostolics? [This part, his
    tone was particularly forceful --RP.]

    Why not say it? There are issues which Armenia is going to tell the
    diaspora, and there are issues which the diaspora, without feeling
    restrained, must tell Armenia. And so that this "to say/not to say"
    is regulated, any body of pan-national trust must be necessarily
    created. The sooner the better.

    When we are together we must be cautious only of our desires since
    they are becoming realities. Let our examples begin from Sardarapat,
    to the heroic struggle for Artsakh, the Goris-Lachin Highway, the
    success of 907.  Unfortunately, we have more counter-examples.

    I promised not to be emotional, and I did not succeed. I did not
    succeed because your humble servant [!!-RP] is not the Prime
    Minister of a well-to-do country; since the Armenian people is not
    living a life appropriate to its experienced suffering and to its
    talents. I am hopeful that in 2001, when we gather once again for
    the occasion of the 1700th anniversary, conditions will be
    relatively better. This is our chance. We are going to turn the
    20th page of history together and with success. I am optimistic.

    On the hill in front of Khor Virab altar I also see the image of
    Noah facing Mt Ararat. I am seeing the prosperous future and
    honourable living appropriate for this small collective, for the
    residents of these mountains, who have witnessed (handisatsatz) the
    rebirth of humanity and of Christian civilisation. For this to
    materialise, we need only one thing. To use our chance, not to rely
    on the last possible opportunity, but to use it today, from this
    moment, and believe me, the 21st century will be ours.

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