BRUSSELS, Belgium—Armenians from all over Europe gathered in Brussels on Oct. 14-15 for the 3rd European Armenian Convention, organized by the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD).
On Oct. 14, the convention took place at the Armenian Cultural Center, where EAFJD President Kaspar Karampetian delivered the opening remarks. Addressing the convention were Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR) President Bako Sahakyan; Armenian Parliamentary Speaker Hovik Abrahamyan; Hagop Der Khachadourian, an ARF-D Bureau member and Armenian National Committees coordinator; Archbishop Norvan Zakarian, the representative for Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church in France; and Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia Aram I.
An award-presenting ceremony took place following the speeches. EAFJD staff members and partners awarded Raffi Arslanian, Kapriel Chemberji, the Punik Foundation, Nerses Ohanian, Souren Ohanian, Braian Fera, Andre Gumushjian, and Alecco Bezikian for their vital financial contributions to the EAFJD.
During the first day, the topics of the agenda were discussed in three panels. The first concerned the “Centennial of the Armenian Genocide” with the director of the Institute for Diaspora and Genocide Studies of Bochum’s Ruhr University, Prof. Dr. Mihran Dabag, and the director of the ARF-D International Secretariat, Giro Manoyan. The panel was moderated by ANC Cyprus member, Arto Tavitian. The second discussion touched on the Turkish-Azeri anti-Armenian lobbying and the Armenian response to it. The keynote speakers were the director of the ANC Office in France, Hratch Varjabedian, and the secretary general of the European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA), Michael Kambeck. In the third panel, the chairman of the Executive Committee of Greece, Ara Mangoyan, and the chief editor of “Orer” magazine (Czech Republic), Hakob Asatryan, presented the Western and the Eastern European Armenian communities. Both panels were moderated by EAFJD’s communication officer, Bedo Kurkjian-Demirjian.
Artak Gabrielyan, the coordinator of Armenian NGOs in Samtskhe-Javakheti (Georgia), spoke about the problems that Armenians of the region face. The discussion concluded that it would be appropriate to hold a special conference in the near future, dedicated to this issue.
The president of the Forum of Armenian Associations of Europe (Slovakia), Ashot Grigoryan, presented the forum’s work within the UN on Armenian monuments. Van civic organization (Russia) president Gagik Melikyan, in turn, presented his book, Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey, 1915. Testimony of Survivors, collection of documents.
At the end of the first day, Karampetian read a letter from the Emergency Relief and Recovery Body of Syrian Armenians addressed to the convention. The letter recounted the difficulties that the Syrian-Armenian community continues to face, and called on the European-Armenian communities to assist financially. Karampetian gave a summary of the EAFJD work that aimed both at collecting funds and providing safety to the Syrian Armenians.
The second day, the sessions convened in the European Parliament. After a welcome speech by Karampetian, the floor was given to Joseph Daul, the president of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group in the European Parliament, which hosted the convention; Dr. Eleni Theocharous, president of the EU-Armenia Friendship Group in the European Parliament; Bako Sahakyan, NKR president, who for the first time spoke from the European Parliament’s floor about his country, in what was considered an historic moment; Hovik Abrahamyan, speaker of the Armenian Parliament; Hagop Der Khachadourian, ARF-D Bureau member and Armenian National Committees’ coordinator; and Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, who elaborated on the return of Armenian church properties by Turkey.
The first panel covered the subject of the Armenian Genocide and international law. Professors Yair Auron (Israel), Theofanis Malkidis (Greece), Vladimir Vardanyan (Armenia), and Henry Theriault (U.S.), as well as legal expert Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens (Netherlands), expressed their views on the genocide and the issue of reparations. Moderating this panel were Frank Engel (Luxembourg), MEP and vice-president of the EU-Armenia Friendship Group in the European Parliament, and Hagop Der Khachadourian.
The next discussion focused on “New Perspectives in the South Caucasus,” with guest speakers Andrey Kovatchev (MEP, Bulgaria), the vice chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Knut Fleckenstein (MEP, Germany), vice co-chair of the Committee on Political Affairs, Human Rights, and Democracy of the Euronest PA; Dr. Ioannis Charalambidis (Cyprus), president of Ledra College; Geoffrey Robertson QC (UK), a member of the United Nations’ internal Justice Council; Bernard Fassier (France), former co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, and Vahan Hovhannesyan, vice chair and Bureau member of Euronest PA. Giro Manoyan was the moderator of this panel.
On the same day, at the initiative of the EAFJD, the president of the EU-Armenia Friendship Group in the European Parliament, Dr. Eleni Theocharous, scheduled a meeting between the Karabagh delegation, headed by President Sahakyan and comprised of Vice Prime Minister Artur Aghabegyan, Foreign Affairs Minister Karen Mirzoyan, press secretary Davit Babayan, and MEPs from various political factions and member-countries.
During these two days MEPs, politicians, and experts, along with representatives of European-Armenian communities and organizations, discussed the various aspects of Armenia’s integration in Europe, the progress of Karabagh, the problems and the capacities of the European-Armenian communities, Armenian Genocide reparations, and the drawing of a new policy to pursue the rights of the Armenians.
“We consider the 3rd European Armenian Convention to be of historical significance in the sense that for the first time religious and civic-political representatives from Armenia, Artsakh [Karabagh], and the diaspora gathered in Brussels, and particularly in the European Parliament, to unanimously voice their determination to work for the benefit of the development of Armenia, the recognition of Artsakh and the survival of the diaspora,” said Karampetian.