ArmInfo’s Interview with Sorin Vasile, Romania’s Ambassador to Armenia
by Marianna Mkrtchyan
As you know, Romania was the first state to host Armenian merchants as early as 850 years ago. The oldest Armenian community is in Romania. In 1915 Romania became the first state to open its borders to Armenians and in 1991 it was the first to recognize the independence of the Republic of Armenia. I have recently met with the first President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan and he recalled that fact with great pleasure. Our relations are still developing to that effect. Today the Armenian-Romanian relations are at a high level; they are based on mutual understanding and Christian values. Armenia was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity and Romania has been practicing Christianity since ancient times. Our states have much in common in the field of culture. Moreover, the Armenian community of Romania is actively engaged in culture. Numerous representatives of the Armenian community make an invaluable contribution to development of Romania’s science and other fields due to their high mental capacities. For instance, Doctor of Medicine Anna Aslan developed an age-defying device – Gerovital. The fact that one of Catholicoses of Armenians, Vazgen I, was a representative of the Armenian community of Romania speaks volumes. I am also glad to tell you that last year, during a meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, I asked for his permit to erect a monument to Vazgen I, which will be brought from Romania. Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II also approved that proposal.
Where is the monument to Vazgen I supposed to be?
It will most likely be erected in Etchmiadzin, in the Alley of Patriarchs. You already have 2 such monuments in Sevanavan and Etchmiadzin. This will be the third one. As regards the current Armenian-Romanian relations, I’d like to mention that Armenia’s Embassy in Bucharest is very active. We are actively working to strengthen our bilateral relations. Nevertheless, I suppose that we have a serious potential to boost our cooperation and we are taking the relevant measures for that. In this light, on May 22 ALDIS, the largest Romanian company, which is a leading company in our country’s food industry and produces meat products, presented its products (over 200 items) in Yerevan. Another important event is the May 23 grand concert dedicated to the Armenian-Romanian relations and Europe Day in Armenia. Alexandru Tomescu, the best Romanian violinist, Valentina Babor, a pianist from Germany, and certainly the State Philharmonic Orchestra of Armenia headed by Eduard Topchyan will perform at the concert.
What are the priority directions in the Armenian-Romanian cooperation today?
As a diplomat, I certainly think that the diplomatic and political relations are of great importance in the two states’ relations, but the trade and economic, as well as cultural ties are also priorities, because everything is based on economy. If you have strong economy, you have a strong social sector, high-quality healthcare sector and education. You develop when you have money. In this context, I’d like to say that the presentation of the Romanian meat products of ALDIS aims to strengthen the economic and commercial ties.
In 2013 the imports from Romania to Armenia rose by 34.4 % to $118.1 mln. Will the commodity turnover between the two countries grow? Will it be possible to export the Armenian products to the Romanian market in the future, especially given that in 2013the exports dropped by 85.1% to $85.3 thsd?
It is a matter of demand and supply. I am very glad to see that our export is growing and there is a possibility to continue developing this direction. Armenia’s Ambassador to Romania is a very good diplomat, but I would reiterate that it is a matter of demand and supply. Armenia will join the Customs Union soon. It is very good that you can develop trade and economic ties with your neighbors. Export of Armenian products, for example, Armenian vegetables will be good for the Romanian market. Armenian vegetables have amazing gustatory qualities. European vegetables lack such gustatory qualities. There is also a huge potential for export of fruit and stewed fruit. The potential should be used and I am ready to render my support. Armenia also produces very good brandy. I personally know and I respect remarkable businessman Gagik Tsarukyan, who is one of the largest brandy producers in Armenia. He is the official brandy supplier to the Kremlin. I am sure this product will also be in demand in the Romanian market.
Can we say that Armenian products are insufficiently represented on the Romanian market?
I wouldn’t say so. Perhaps, you should simply apply an aggressive policy, because your products are very good and have a big potential.
Could you specify the Romanian goods imported into Armenia?
- We supply different products. Now we are considering organizing the export of Romanian cars. We have two producers -Renault Duster and Ford. We also produce very good medicines. As far as I know, in Armenia there are medicines of different quality. We also have a good potential of cooperation in pharmaceutics and some other fields.
At what a level is the cultural dialogue between our countries?
- At quite a good level. Just a few days ago, we held an interesting cultural event in the Yerevan State Linguistic University in the framework of the days of la Francophonie in Armenia: with the kind support of Director General of ArmInfo News Agency Emmanuil Mkrtchyan, we presented a book by Romanian writer from Corsica Daniela Radut - "L'autre visage de la Roumanie, l'autre visage de la Course.” The event was attended by MPs, ministers, including your Education and Science Minister Armen Ashotyan. We have also presented a number of Romanian films. As I have already said, on May 23 the Romanian Embassy will organize a concert to mark the Europe Day. As an ambassador, I believe that Armenia is moving in the right direction. Your President Serzh Sargsyan and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan also said this. By the way, I think that Nalbandyan is one of the best ministers I have seen during the 24 years of my work. He is a very experienced minister. They said that our relations can be actively developed.
As you may know, the European Union’s strength is its capital, human resources, labor force and production. The fifth advantage of Europe is culture, and here we can actively cooperate. The concert we are organizing together is the best proof of this. Armenia’s wish to integrate into the Customs Union does not mean that it is turning its back towards Europe. You can continue contacting with both Europe and the Customs Union – you can have it both ways. You can take the best things from both structures and move on. This is what your geographical and geopolitical situation prompts you to do. You will not be able to develop without your strategic partner, Russia, but as President Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan said, Armenia is not quitting Europe. Your wonderful diplomat, former Deputy Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan pointed out that the Association Agreement with the EU has a number of points that can be developed despite the Customs Union. By organizing this concert, we would like to make it clear that Armenia does have European future and will develop its ties with Europe.
What a role does the Armenian community play in the social-political life of your country? How many Armenians are there in Romania?
- As I have already said, the Armenian community of Romania is the oldest Armenian community in the world. It is hard to say exactly how many Armenians live in Romania. According to President of the Union of Armenians of Romania, Varoujan Voskanian, there are almost 30,000 Armenians living and working in the country. We have an old community, a new community, which emerged after 1915 and the newest one, which comprises Armenians who came to Romania after 1991. According to official statistics, there are 8,000 Armenians in Romania. The Armenian community is very strong. For example, Varoujan Voskanian has held a number of ministerial offices: he has been economic minister and finance minister. I am glad to say that he is coming to Armenia today to attend tomorrow’s concert. We have MP Varoujan Pampukchian, who represents ethnic minorities in our parliament. There are lots of such people in politics, business, science and education.
Can you say that it’s easy for Armenians to integrate into Romanian society?
- Yes, I can. In Bucharest there are an Armenian museum – one of the richest Armenian museums in the world, along with the museums in Venice, Vienna and Paris.
At what a level is the cooperation in the field of tourism? Are there any signs of development?
- Here we are not very active. I think we might have done much more. But what is important here is that we have a wish to do it. I would like Armenian tourists to better know Romania and vice versa. Armenia has lots of sights and museums. We have sea, the Danube Delta and magnificent mountains. Bucharest is a very beautiful city. So, you can see that we have a potential. All we need to do is just to use it.
Thank you for the interview