Jean-Francois Charpentier: New Armenia-EU agreement will create a solid foundation

MediaMax, Armenia

July 14 2017

The exclusive interview of Ambassador of France to Armenia Jean-Francois Charpentier for Mediamax

– Mr Ambassador, first let me congratulate you with the French National Day. You mentioned at one of your recent press conferences that Armenian-French relations are in need of a new dynamics. How should that new dynamics appear and which sectors need it more than others ?

– I would like the relations to see a “different charge” rather than a “new one”. The quality and saturation of political, personal ties between our two countries condition our bilateral relations, although my impression is that they are limited to stereotypes sometimes. I noticed that some Armenian media outlets share my opinion. Much like them, I believe we should upgrade the relations between our countries and add a more material component to them.

I’ve been working on strengthening our economic relations for three years. Despite being one of the main investors in Armenia, France has a modest role as a trade partner. I can state that today both countries have the desire to develop a more ambitious cooperation in sectors that are promising for Armenia, such as agriculture, energy, tourism, digital technologies, healthcare.

The French Healthcare Days, held in Armenia on July 6-7, are the evidence of that.

– Perhaps, Armenia and France could think of formats to connect young people in the two countries.

– The French University in Armenia sends students to France each year to continue their education or for internship. Other ways of stable cooperation are implemented on the level of local self-governed bodies. For instance, France-Ashtarak-Armenie Cultural Union organized a summer academy in the French city of Romans this July.

Despite that progress, many existing initiatives ceased operating. The Embassy of France encourages Armenian schools to renew cooperation programs. Especially with modern communication means in mind, it would be hurtful to lose the contact between the Armenian and French youth.

Finally, in the perspective of the 2018 Francophonie Summit in Armenia, I am happy that the  International Organization of La Francophonie and Armenian Government agreed to jointly organize international events that will gather young people.

– France elected a new President, whose political force defeated traditional parties and won the majority in the Parliament. Do you think that could give a sense of renewal to Armenian-French ties as well ?

– By electing Macron President and giving him the majority of Parliament seats, French people showed their preference for the modern, mobile, and open attitude towards Europe. As for the Armenian-French relations, you saw for yourselves that Emmanuel Macron paid the symbolic tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide at the Monument of Komitas in Paris on April 24. That step was a statement to the continuous policy of his predecessors, starting from President Chirac.

Nevertheless, the fight for recognition of the Genocide isn’t the only issue on France’s agenda with Armenia. Armenia and France will continue expanding the political, economic, and cultural ties. Apart from traditional political dialogue, we want to build partnership in all possible fields of cooperation.

Jean-Francois Charpentier

Photo: PAN Photo

– You noted recently that the level of French in Armenia should be raised, as it showed poor index lately. What mechanisms do you believe can solve the issue ? Do you expect Armenia to take action or France is ready to come forward with initiatives ?

– First I should say that France doesn’t hold the monopoly for French. It’s an official language in more than forty countries, and as a former Prime Minister of Haiti said once, France is only a co-owner of French. So, I’m sincerely sorry that the number of people learning French in Armenia has decreased. It hurts not only us, the French people, but also (and probably more) the Armenians, because it means they deprive themselves from additional opportunities to open to the world.

The number of francophones reduced by two thirds since Armenia gained independence. It’s a problem not only of teaching quality, but also of the state policy on foreign language education.

Francophonie Summit in 2018 will give us the opportunity to boost use of French language in all spheres.

France puts all efforts possible to bring this goal into reality. Let us remind about successes of French University in Armenia, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. I would also like to note French International School in Armenia, which has already celebrated its 10th anniversary, and Alliance Française in Armenia that is to mark its 15th anniversary soon. Of course, these three establishments highly contribute to promoting French language in Armenia, yet more needs to be done.

In fact, this issue should be considered on the institutional level. I am very happy about the commitment of Armenian Ministry of Education and Science to developing teaching of foreign languages in the country. It is great to witness the re-launch of the program on enhanced study of French language and the Ministry’s intention to apply this approach in other public schools as well.

– Armenia and the European Union initialed the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement to be signed at Eastern Partnership Summit in autumn. Do you see any possible factor, which could hinder the process?

– I do not see any factor that could possibly hinder signing of this mutually beneficial agreement between Armenia and EU in autumn of 2017. This agreement is based on joint commitments reached between the sides in course of intensive negotiations. The signing of the agreement would prove that Eastern Partnership member-state can combine various regional integration frameworks. I would like to remind that France was the first to speak in favor of restarting Armenia-EU negotiations after Armenia’s decision to join Eurasian Economic Union. We were able to overcome skepticism of many of our partners.

Jean-Francois Charpentier

Photo: Photolure

– Many people wonder, what exactly would this agreement change in their lives? Could you bring some examples of benefits that this agreement could provide to ordinary people?

– The agreement will give us the opportunity to deepen EU-Armenia political dialogue and build a solid foundation for social-economic reforms, which will strengthen our dedication to democracy, human rights and rule of law. The agreement will also facilitate cooperation in sectors of energy, transport, agriculture and environmental protection. It will help us cooperate more closely on improving business environment and eliminating challenges of EU-Armenia service trade, creating favorable conditions for bringing in investments and creating new jobs.  

– The Armenian side has offered for several years now to start negotiations on visa liberalization process, while Europe seems to show restrained position. How would you explain it? Would you also speak about France’s stance on the issue?

– The negotiation on visa liberalization process with the EU will start at the right moment. Currently I can tell you no more about the position of France’s new government on this matter. We should do everything possible to properly implement EU-Armenia agreements on visa facilitation and readmission, which came into force in 2014. Multiple entry visas make 25% of the total number issued by the French Embassy. Most of them are issued within 48 hours. Armenia has the lowest number of refused applications among other partners in Schengen area. Agreement on the partnership on migration, signed between Armenia and France in autumn, will facilitate the residence of certain students and qualified young people in France, once it comes into force.

Ara Tadevosyan talked to Jean-Francois Charpentier