Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
Interview of Ambassador of Belarus to Armenia, Stepan Sukhorenko, with ArmInfo news agency
by Marianna Mkrtchyan
Mr Ambassador, Armenia and Belarus celebrate an anniversary – 20 years of establishment of diplomatic relations. Did our countries gain much for these 20 years like the independent states?
The positions of Armenia and Belarus on the key international issues coincide. Earlier we used to work through Moscow. The headquarters of foreign policy was in Moscow. But today we have been directly working in all the international platforms like independent entities. But the most important is that we contact and support each other in many issues. Armenia and Belarus are two small countries, and of course they cannot act the way that Russia and China do. For this reason, big states or international structures have got absolutely different pretensions to them. As for us, we are forced to stand shoulder to shoulder and support each other. We have been effectively cooperating in the humanitarian sphere and in the sphere of culture as well, and Days of Belarusian Culture are traditionally held in Armenia, and of the Armenian culture - in Belarus. Today the two countries know about each other much more than earlier, as today they directly communicate without intermediaries. In the sphere of education both countries have agreements almost with all the profile universities, and they exchange students and share their experience. We have been discussing, which is better the Bologna process or an old Soviet school. Armenia is a participant of the Bologna process, but we just coming closer to it. However, we still have the basis - the Soviet school plus the best practice adapted to today's conditions. Today we do not say that the Bologna process is the best and what we had is bad. Belarus does not hurry and is coming closer to this problem very much carefully to find an optimal option. The inter-regional cooperation is one of the most important sides of cooperation. Today the regions of Armenia and Belarus have established friendship and discuss trade and economic as well as humanitarian problems. The dialogue often becomes so much deep and trustful that even the Embassy is not aware of it. For this reason, I should say once again that for the last 20 years we moved forward more than in the Soviet Union. And the most important is that there is no obstacle in our cooperation, though there are wrinkles, as every country has its own national interests, but I cannot remember a case of any serious disagreements or barriers between our countries. If there are disagreements, we try to settle them only stemming from the interests of both states.
You probably mean extension of cooperation within such organizations like the future Eurasian Union or the Customs Union. Are the Armenian and Belarusian parties cooperating on the matter?
One should get used to one another when choosing any unions. For instance, Belarus is a member of the Customs Union and Single Economic Area. By 2015 members of the organization should join the Eurasian Union. A question arises: what are more - pluses or minuses? To us, as a state with an open economy, the Customs Union as well as Single Economic Area are very much important, as our key market is developing sin two directions - Russia and Europe. And today one cannot say that Belarus is making choice only between Russia and Europe.
Belarus is already able to combine, but Armenia always asks: either or. This is a pure political speculation.
The statements by European functionaries about the necessity of making choice between the European Union and Eurasian Union are incorrect. Some high rank European functionaries say these two unions do not hinder each other, but others do not think so. Let's discuss the issue logically. Armenia is a member of the WTO, at present it is preparing to signing of the Association Agreement with the EU and the Agreement with Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Russia is also a member of the WTO, Kazakhstan is going to join the WTO. The point is that everything is being formed at single principles, on which the WTO has been functioning. As for the European Union, here as well, everything is being formed on principles fixed and functioning in the European Union. The activity of the EU is currently analyzed and the minuses of this structure will be taken into consideration when forming the Eurasian Union. For this reason the statements by European functionaries about the necessity of making choice between the European Union and Eurasian Union are incorrect. I think, those who make such statements, watch Armenia like their patrimony. One should be more correct, and if you cooperate, remember that you cooperate with an equal partner, and it does not matter if he is big or small.
Does Belarus watch any projects that will be financed through the so called state and private programme financing?
One of the most
important goals in cooperation between Armenia
is to increase the commodity turnover. This issue was one of the key issues
during the negotiations
between President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko and Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan. Six agreements on cooperation in various fields were
signed during the visit of the Byelorussian President to Armenia. In particular, the agreements
cover the spheres of nuclear security,
agriculture, sport, economy, etc. As our presidents said, the most
important thing for both states is that the commodity turnover between Armenia and Belarus
is insufficient and does not meet the
capacities. On the one hand, 46 mln USD seems to be a big amount, but
on the other hand, it is only 1% of the total foreign commodity
The two countries' presidents have set a goal at least to
double this amount within the next 1.5-2 years. The other
issues concern the both states' further cooperation within international
organizations, such as the CSTO, the CIS, etc. The issue of
formation of the Eurasian Union also plays an important part in the
Several years ago president of Belarus offered many foreign businessmen, including the Armenian ones, to invest in the economy of Belarus. How much Belarus is open today for big and medium-sized investments?
This topic is still relevant today. Moreover, our legislation is improving and becoming more liberal, and one of the key goals is to attract foreign investments. One of such investment projects is the Byelorussian-Chinese hi-tech park, which is being formed near the Minsk International Airport. A very large area is provided for the project. Thousands of specialists are supposed to work in the park. It is a multi-discipline park, and not only Chinese or Byelorussian economic entities will be launched there. We believe that this will be a very promising project. Given that the country is at the junction of main tracks, nowadays we experience creation of many transshipment logistics centers. In addition, accommodation facilities are very actively being built, because Belarus will host the World Hockey Championship 2014. We welcome investments in the production industry and sphere of services, but we are not interested in short-term speculative transactions, our country does not need that. There are already 4 Armenian restaurants in Minsk, and the Byelorussians attend them with pleasure.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you for an interesting interview