Germany was one of the EU members that has traditionally supported Eastern Partnership program and deepening of the EU relations with the neighboring countries. Armenian News-NEWS.am interviewed Ambassador of Germany to Armenia H.E. Mr. Bernhard Matthias Kiesler to ask him about the EU-Armenia deal signed in Brussels on November 24 and development of Armenia-Germany relations.
How do you think the signing of EU-Armenia agreement will affect development of relations between Germany and Armenia? What are your expectations?
November 24 was indeed a very important day in the history of Armenia-EU relations, relations with not only Brussels, but also separate relations between Armenia and all EU member countries. Both the EU and the Federal Republic of Germany have actively participated and assisted Armenia in the course of transitional reforms over the last 25 years, and with the launch of this new comprehensive and enhanced partnership, we open up a new chapter that will enable to support Armenia's further and stronger modernization.
I am convinced that reforms and comprehensive modernization only can lead to a steady development of Armenia, and in this regard, I believe that both Germany, EU member states and the European Union as a whole offers Armenia the best proposals. We are showing interest, and this concerns not Armenia only, but also other Eastern Partnership countries so that people in these countries could live more prosperously. I think that although this agreement is only a framework agreement, but if breath is given to this agreement, we can expect mutually beneficial cooperation. As regards the German-Armenian bilateral relations, I think the signing of this agreement is a signal that Armenia is at the stage of modernization, and this can be an important signal for investors. Now it is important for the Armenian National Assembly and the parliaments of the EU member states to ratify the deal. As far as I know, an agency or a so-called working group will be formed to coordinate and sum up all the proposals and approaches of all the ministries to establish a joint action plan to implement this agreement as soon as possible.
How do you see the future of Eastern Partnership summit amid the challenges that Europe is faced with, given Brexit, migrant crisis and growing Euroscepticism?
A declaration on further steps for the Eastern Partnership has been recently adopted in Brussels. The Brussels Eastern Partnership Summit was a very important event during which 20 deliverables were created to further deepen the Eastern Partnership. But, as we can see, there are six different partnerships, that is, six different states, and the Eastern Partnership should take into account and use the six models, given the peculiarities of any of these countries. You mentioned the challenges: Brexit, the migration crisis and Euroscepticism, but it should be underlined that on November 24, a signal was given in Brussels that the EU remains committed to the deepening and strengthening of the Eastern Partnership program and the EU is pursuing a united policy within the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
How do you see Armenia’s potential to intensify its presence in the European market? What are the obstacles to develop this potential?
In fact, Armenia's trade balance is negative because the country is importing more than exporting which can be linked to system matters. There may be two approaches: firstly, if you increase your export volumes, and secondly, if you cut your import volumes. As regards the increase in exports, there are new opportunities in the newly signed agreement, which facilitates the export of goods from Armenia to European countries. As regards the reduction of import volumes, I see great potential in this area for Armenia to organize its economy so that to reach growth of its own products or processed products. Armenia has great potential from this perspective. Here again, the circle is closing. Modernization processes have to proceed in a way that entrepreneurs get interested in investing, so that the population could also feel the benefit. I see great progress in service sector, where Armenia has made considerable progress, especially in the field of tourism over the last year. We witness a huge flow of tourists not only from traditionally interested countries, such as Russia or Iran, but from EU countries, which speaks of the great potential of tourism in Armenia.
What is the volume bilateral trade turnover between Armenia and Germany?
Trade turnover for the past year amounted to about $ 300 million, which includes exports and imports. At first glance, it seems that we deal with quite good performance, but in fact, this figure is much lower in terms of Germany’s economic standards, which again speaks about the need to develop trade turnover between our countries. Since April last year, the German Business Association (DWV) has been operating in Armenia, with the goal of supporting Armenian and German business circles, establishing business ties. Representatives of agricultural sector paid a very important visit to Armenia in June this year.
Which are the fields where German investors are working in Armenia? Are there any new companies that have recently entered the Armenian market?
The only major German investor is working in the mining field. Investments in other spheres have been made in recent years, mainly in IT. Several German companies have established their affiliates in Armenia and they operate quite efficiently. There are German companies interested in investing in solar energy in Armenia, and currently they deal with obtaining a license for that activity. Large German companies are showing interest in the energy sector.
What progress has been achieved in terms of humanitarian contacts between Germany and Armenia? How will the newly opened Goethe Institute contribute to the development of these contacts?
Germany is well represented in the cultural field in Armenia. DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service has been functioning for many years. Germany is sending German teachers to deepen the teaching of German language in Armenian schools. You are well aware that the Goethe Center was opened in Yerevan last week. The Minister of Education and Science, Foreign Minister of Armenia were present at the opening ceremony. President of the Munich headquarters of the Goethe Institute also visited Armenia. This is a message once again confirming high level of cultural and educational relationships, and it was a long expected event for all of us. Before opening the Goethe Center in Armenia, we have already organizedmany cultural and educational events this year, including hosting musicians from Germany and film screenings. The Goethe Institute participated and supported, among others the Golden Apricot International Film Festival and the High Fest Festival, but we must say that with the opening of the Goethe Center we will have a new format of cultural relations.