Accomplishments and Missed Opportunities: Panel Assesses Independence in Armenia

YEREVAN (A.W.)—The Civilitas Foundation hosted a public forum called “Assessing Independence in Armenia and the Region” at Ani Hotel in Yerevan on Sept. 27 to explore Armenia’s accomplishments, missed opportunities, and regional and international relations.

(L to R) Ghazarian, Schmidt, and Evans.

Part of a series of forums to promote dialogue about democracy and development in Armenia, the panelists  were John Marshall Evans, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, and Hans-Jochen Schmidt, current Ambassador from Germany to Armenia. The conversation was moderated by Salpi Ghazarian, Director of Civilitas, and former Special Assistant to Vartan Oskanian inArmenia’s Foreign Ministry.

Ghazarian began the Forum by asking panelists whetherArmeniahas met the high expectations of the world during the past 20 years. “People ask me whyArmeniaisn’t doing as well asEstonia,” remarked German Ambassador Schmidt. “Armeniafaced lots of challenges at the beginning. There was the conflict withAzerbaijan, economic issues, and the first wave of migration.” He urged people to not underestimate the successes and said the country has excellent experts in government, though he stated that the Central Bank is the only institution inArmeniathat pays adequate salaries.

Evans, who left his post as ambassador five years ago this month, noted the importance of looking at the past 20 years against trends in the world, including the end of the Soviet Union, the rise of internet and globalization, and advancements in democracy and for women. “Armenians are already globalized,” Evans said, “a good foundation was laid during this time, but it’s not perfect.”

When asked by Ghazarian whether other decisions could have been made during that time, Ambassador Schmidt noted that former president Levon Ter-Petrossian should recognize that he is responsible for how it is today. With regard to European relations, Schmidt said that, “You have to live up to challenges if you want to be part of European Union. That means creating a competitive environment and good investment climate, improving customs, and addressing corruption. We’ll be watching the next elections closely.”

Evans stated that still arguing about its constitution 230 years after its creation. He continued to say that, “What’s great about elections when they’re perceived as fair is that they confer legitimacy. Democracy is a work in progress. No democracy emerges as a fully formed democracy. In the five years I’ve been away, I see great improvements, mainly in the capital, because I haven’t visited the countryside. But there are clearly shortcomings.”

The U.S.has invested inArmenia’s development since its independence from theSoviet Union. When asked what efforts have worked, Evans noted the U.S.-funded vouchers for those dislocated in the earthquake zone proved to be a good model for generating the local housing industry. Additionally, he stated the United States Department of Agriculture’s work in the countryside with goat husbandry, slaughterhouses, and developing wine production consistency was particularly successful.

Unfortunately, Evans said, “The Millennium Challenge ended [this month] becauseArmeniais falling behind on ruling justly. TheU.S.has showed much, maybe too much, tolerance, hoping [the situation] would improve.”  According to the Millennium Challenge Account – Armenia website, the program was intended to refurbish major sections of the country’s main canal systems, modernize pumping stations, introduce new gravity irrigation schemes, re-build tertiary canals and restore sections of the Ararat Valley Drainage system. Evans acknowledged that the project’s cancellation has been widely criticized.

As relates to the region, Ghazarian asked whether theSouth Caucasusis considered a region or three separate countries. “Everyone sees it as a potential region. It’s a troubled region, but if the problems can be overcome, there’s tremendous potential,” Evans said, adding thatArmeniashould not lose sight of relevant changes in theMiddle EastandTurkey.

Ghazarian notedGermany’s close relationship with neighboringGeorgiaand asked whether that is a topic discussed. The Ambassador responded that they have made efforts to promote regional cooperation, but have not been able to promote economic cooperation. Additionally, “Armeniais excluded from energy cooperation. I am concerned thatArmeniawill fall more and more behind. It will be detrimental toArmenia. Opening the border withTurkeywould help economy.”

In response, Ghazarian stated, “We’ve given all we have to give. We want the border open.” Asked whether theU.S.can encourageTurkeyto open the border and place the blame onArmeniato appeaseBaku, Evans stated, “This is a problem of post-Soviet era. They’d just send the problem toMoscowbefore. There weren’t institutions of problem solving here. The Minsk Group will not impose a solution andAmericacan’t tellTurkeywhat to do.” He went on to argue that the first step should be diplomatic relations withTurkey. “No one is doing anyone a favor by having diplomatic relations – it doesn’t mean friendly. TheU.S.had diplomatic relations with Stalinist Russia with the goal of defeating Hitler.GreeceandTurkeyhave full diplomatic relations despite ongoing border issues.”

In response to patriotic comments from an audience member, who was three years of age whenArmeniacelebrated its independence from theSoviet Union, Evans noted that this may be the age of the small state, calling outSingaporeas an example of a special environment. He continued to say, “You’re the independence generation. You’ve grown up with the internet. You are creating new ways of doing things.”

Weekly correspondent


  1. I wish to be educated  on Ms. Ghazarian´s and I quote¨we want the border open¨.What  merits  does  that bode.
    If  I may clarify a few  facts:- Even with border closed BIZness  has been going on between -especially-eager Armenians and Turkish small BIZnessmen.
    Other  than  that I wish to state the blockade imposed  by both Azerbaijan and Turkey on Armenia was  an act  of war as per  many experts. They closed   them and they should be prompted  to open up by EU. The U.S. and RF.It  is not  of our incumbency.
    They should reprimand  and place sanctions  on those who excercise  such bellicose
    acts.  And  finally…
    It is apparent  from what  the good  ex-Ambassador  then added and I quote¨America can´t tell Turkey what to do¨, our two neighbour states(one  nation, according to them)is not at all well disposesd towards  Republic  of Armenia and Armenians.
    Reason  of course  is obvious  and crystal clear. Armenia and Armenians world wide  should give up their demands  for Genocide Recognition ,any claims thereto attached.
    Thence,  said ¨public  forum¨ other  than some other  discussing current international issues , progress  in newly re independent Armenia, could not  and cannot intervene  in the soften  up so to say, the very petrified  relations  between Armenians  and Turks.
    Untill such time  that latter will follow  its antagonistic  stance and not accept  culpability ,no real solutions  can be expected.
    I believe  Armenia and Armenians   had  much better search for normal relations with normal  states,with no blood issues on their hands and establish  many  more diplomatic relations  with others.
    As to economic  and commercial relations,Armenia  is  on the right track,developing  as  much as it can with all well disposed  countries  with  her and will thus by and by forge  ahead. Especially  if  the Govt. in Yerevan takes  up the Armenia-Diaspora relation enhancement  SERIOUSLY.
    This   can  easily surpass the supposed  advantages  of Bizness with great Turkey,once  well developed  and Diaspora(s),at  least  the 5  main ones permanent Delegates in RA  Ministry  of Diaspora.N.& S.Amdericas,EU.RF and Middle East. On spot cooperation. 

  2. “Other  than  that I wish to state the blockade imposed  by both Azerbaijan and Turkey on Armenia was  an act  of war as per  many experts. They closed   them and they should be prompted  to open up by EU. The U.S. and RF.It  is not  of our incumbency.
    They should reprimand  and place sanctions  on those who excercise  such bellicose

    I agree with you, Baron Palandjian.

  3. David Boyajian,is it ,
    Please don´t Baron me -that in Europe would imply I ´m a nobleman…by the by,am in a better mood and am half kidding. Anyhow, something happened today near the Armenian town Vanadzor-route that winds up to either Georgian or Turkish border ,there was a Landslide and it was on Armenian H1 T.V. channel. One truck went down and was updowned,wheels showing up above water,for it was a river down there below. Luckily a few other much larger trucks and cars etc., diverted their way and were saved. However 5 persons mising so far.
    Now I´m not trying to describe this in vivid colours,that is not my business, the news people do that quite efficiently. What I noted, I´m very inquisitive and meticulous that wise. Well..I saw two very long Toikish(turkish) Transport tucks, with their transport company NAMES well distinguishable on them. Like NAKLIAT, means Transport etc.,,
    Thus, my previous above post as to BIZness being conducted b etgween Armenian and Turkish Biznessmen is a much bigger scale that I was imagining. I tell you huge 18 or 24 wheel LONG TRUCKS….
    Therefore the border opening NOISE is to mislead people.IT IS IN FACT OPEN!!!

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