Q: What would you like the Armenia country brand to symbolise? 

A: It’s very difficult. I think it takes time to answer such a question because it involves several concepts. Armenia is a high-tech country, so we will work around that concept. Tourism, of course, will be one of the key factors. Our labour availability has high potential...

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We have also just become a chess superpower. Despite the fact that we are a small country, with only 3 million people, we are winning world championships, Olympiads and European championships in chess. We have the same competitive advantages in areas such as physics. We are building a new accelerator at our Physics Institute, providing a link between studying, production and science. We have a nuclear power plant with a sophisticated school of nuclear scientists. We are starting to build up a new nuclear block.

Q: This region of the world seems to be not particularly well connected and integrated as it could be, largely because of politics. How important is regional integration to you?

A: We can split the question into several portions. The first is the types of infrastructure... for example, the high-voltage ropes and wires for electrical transmission. We are increasing the passage capacities of our stations to Georgia and Iran.

On transportation, we have a railroad with Turkey which is not operational because, since 1993, Turkey has been blockading Armenia. We have a similar situation with Azerbaijan. We do have a railroad connected to Georgia, connecting us to two ports, Batumi and Poti. We intend to build a new railroad to Iran to provide us with another alternative. We did the same a few years ago when we opened a new gas pipeline to Iran, diversifying our gas supplies. 

Concerning motorway roads, we play a transit role in-between Iran and Georgia. On our border with Iran, the roads are difficult to cross and shut to heavy vehicles in the winter. However, we recently launched a north-south highway which will solve this problem.

The next portion of integration is internet connectivity, in which we have two connections: one in Georgia and one in Iran. 

Q: What about the political side of the equation?

A: You might remember that Armenia came with an initiative to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey without any pre-conditions, which was later called 'soccer diplomacy'. Our president invited his Turkish counterpart attend a football match in Armenia between the two national sides and the Turkish president did the same. During these meetings, the issue of Turkish-Armenian protocol was discussed. These were signed in Switzerland and then had to be ratified by both national parliaments. Unfortunately Turkey resisted. 

This process is frozen now despite Armenia declaring that it is ready to ratify the protocol at any time. Turkey and Azerbaijan conduct a coordinated policy or mutually agreed policy. Their main slogan is being one nation, one ethnic group, in two countries. 

Q: How optimistic are you that these issues can be resolved?

A: Today Europeans are more knowledgeable and have a better understanding of what is going on in Turkey, and your question is similar to that of how optimistic can Turkey be over its prospects of joining the EU. We see that European politicians give different evaluations on this issue. And what is no less important is that the position of Turkey itself changes. 

The Iraq prime minister recently declared that Turkey lacks a capacity to build relations with its neighbours without any problems. Turkey simply cannot build relations with its neighbours without there being problems. At the same time, Turkey has ambitions to become global power, which has the potential to be dangerous for its neighbours. 

Q: Armenia has quite a successful and well-spread-out diaspora. Do you think this gives Armenia any advantages in terms of raising the profile of the country and facilitating investment and business opportunities?

A: We have a new idea for Armenia’s development that is called the conception of the Armenian world. We have more than twice as many Armenians living abroad than there are living in Armenia. It is the realities of the world today that drives this new concept. From day to day, the world becomes smaller and smaller. Twenty years ago, the concept of an Armenian diaspora in Brazil was an unreachable concept for us. Today, many Armenians living in Brazil visit Armenia, and people living in Armenia visit Brazil quite often. 

The concept of the Armenian world is objective and realistic, because the Armenian nation is a living organism and modern means of communication make that organism more strong and vibrant. 

Our projects in Armenia work on the basis that they are dealing with not with 3 million consumers living in Armenia, but with 9 million. When we are bidding for tenders, for example in the mining industry, or we are talking about our national economy, we understand that it includes the businesses which are located in the US but have in their economic epicentre in Armenia.

When our pop stars issue their CDs, they know how many of them they can sell in Los Angeles, Sydney, Beirut, Moscow and elsewhere. When we print books in Armenian, we take into account all of these people. When we are publishing text books for schools, we know we have 500 Armenian schools outside of Armenia. We are organising special courses to retrain teachers, with hundreds of them coming from the diaspora to be retrained in Armenian language, culture and literature. We have Armenian television stations broadcasting for Armenian communities all over the world. 

The financial sector is also of key importance. We started to formulate that concept taking into consideration that a large sum of money is coming from the diaspora to Armenia. When Russia went into default in 1998, we discovered the Armenian world to be a living, vibrant organism. In that year, money from Armenia went to Russia to support relatives living there and immediately remittances to Armenia from the US began to increase, so the balance came back. Then the problems faced by Russia improved and the situation returned to normal.

So we have a certain diversification of risk thanks to the Armenian world. In this regard, we look like Israel, we are similar to Israel, and we learn much from them. 

Q: What do you anticipate with regards to further wobbles in the global economy and continued problems in the eurozone?

A: First, I have to say that the financial economic crisis which happened in Armenia in 2009, when we had a retraction of the economy, showed the weaknesses and strengths of our economy. The new model of economic development which the Armenian government implemented is already yielding positive results. The World Bank review of the Armenian economy proves that. 

We have a stronger economy after the crisis than we had before, and it is more diversified. It is designed around the development of the areas in which we have expertise and potential. We had 2% economic growth in 2010, and in 2011 we had 4.6%. We will have more than 4% this year. 

What is more important are the dynamic telecommunications and IT sectors. We are also strong in pharmaceuticals and precise engineering. Our new strategy aims at developing 11 areas of industry that have high export potential. This concept is developed in conjunction with the private sector. We implement new industrial policies based on the concept of private-public partnerships, and already we are seeing the results. We have a stronger economy, which is less vulnerable than what we had four years ago.