Foreign visits

Nikol Pashinyan’s Working Visit to the Council of Europe

10.04.2019 - 11.04.2019

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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan arrived in Strasbourg late on April 10. On April 11, the Prime Minister’s working visit to the Council of Europe started.

Nikol Pashinyan first met with PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier. Before the meeting, Prime Minister Pashinyan signed the Golden Book of the PACE President.

The PACE President welcomed the Prime Minister’s visit to the Council of Europe, noting that she was glad to meet with Nikol Pashinyan again, this time in Strasbourg. She expressed satisfaction with her visit to Armenia at the end of March, during which she held fruitful meetings and discussions with Armenia’s leadership, made a speech in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia and attended the opening of Europe Square in Yerevan.

Liliane Maury Pasquier noted that the RA Prime Minister’s hectic visit agenda - high-level meetings with CoE officials, the Premier’s speech at the PACE spring plenary session, the official opening of the Armenia’s Velvet Revolution exhibition – testifies to the effectiveness of CoE-Armenia cooperation and the sides’ willingness to deepen it. The PACE President noted that the Council of Europe is set to cooperate with Armenia in strengthening democratic institutions, protecting human rights and enhancing the rule of law.

Thankful for the reception, the Armenian Prime Minister said he had kept warm memories of his late March meeting with the PACE President in Yerevan and was glad to see Liliane Maury Pasquier again, this time in Strasbourg. Emphasizing that Armenia is a full member of the Council of Europe and PACE, the Premier expressed satisfaction with the ongoing cooperation with the Council of Europe, the high level of which was reflected in the outcome of late March visits paid to our country by the PACE Co-Rapporteurs and the PACE President, as well as in the report on Armenia’s democratic situation.

The parties discussed the prospects of cooperation between Armenia and the Council of Europe. They referred to the steps implemented under the 2019-2022 CoE-Armenia Partnership Action Plan and prioritized the full implementation of the commitments assumed by the sides.

Nikol Pashinyan noted that the Armenian government has developed an ambitious reform agenda, and the Council of Europe’s support is crucial in this respect. The PACE President welcomed the democratic changes underway in our country and reaffirmed their readiness to assist Armenia in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

During the meeting, the parties touched upon the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process.

* * *

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan today met with Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland in Strasbourg.

Following the protocol video-photo session held before the meeting, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed the Golden Book of the Council of Europe.

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe welcomed the democratic changes underway in our country. He noted that the early parliamentary elections of December 9 demonstrated the Armenian people’s commitment to democracy and human rights, and the Council of Europe will continue to cooperate with the Armenian government to achieve the above goals.

Thanking Thorbjørn Jagland for supporting Armenia’s democratic processes, Nikol Pashinyan highly appreciated his personal contribution to the effective functioning of the Council of Europe and its enhanced reputation. The head of the Armenian government noted that the Council of Europe is an important partner for Armenia on the way to developing democracy, protecting human rights and promoting the rule of law.

The Prime Minister and the CoE Secretary General discussed the furtherance of CoE-Armenia cooperation. Prime Minister Pashinyan stressed that democracy is an inner belief and a system of values and not an external orientation for Armenia and the Armenian society. He assured that our country will consistently move forward on the way to strengthening democracy, protecting human rights and promoting the rule of law.

In turn, Thorbjørn Jagland highlighted the implementation of reforms aimed at strengthening democracy in Armenia. He noted that the processes taking place in our country testify to Armenia’s strong commitment to European values, and the Council of Europe is ready to continue assisting our country in this process.

The parties took the opportunity to exchange views on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process and regional developments.

After the meeting, Nikol Pashinyan and Thorbjørn Jagland made statements for media representatives and answered journalists’ questions.

* * *

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland made statements for the media and answered journalists’ questions following their private meeting in Strasbourg.

CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland:
I greet you once again, Mr. Prime Minister. Dear participants, during our meeting, the Prime Minister told us what has happened in Armenia and how a peaceful change of power took place in accordance with the Constitution and the applicable law. We are happy that it really worked. The snap parliamentary elections of last December completed the peaceful transition. I would also like to commend the Prime Minister for his efforts as they are a step forward on this way.

We recently approved a new action plan for Armenia. It is a very broad program and we will continue to move ahead at the same pace. It will enable Armenia to move forward and strengthen democracy.

The fight against corruption is particularly commendable, and I congratulate you, Prime Minister, for all you have achieved. It is an absolute truth that Armenia is a full member of the Council of Europe.

RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan:
Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. Yes, we discussed a wide range of issues and confirmed that Armenia remained committed to European values during the revolution. Very important was the statement that we have carried out a democratic revolution. It was an internal process, and no one, no side has put pressure on Armenia. What happened proves once again that democracy is in the minds and hearts of our people. The government of Armenia is committed to democratic values and to a democratic agenda.

Also, I wish to say that the Council of Europe’s action plan promotes democratic changes in Armenia. Now we can say with confidence that Armenia has actually become a democratic state. The great experience of the Council of Europe helped us implement democratic changes, establish the rule of law, create an independent judiciary, and implement other key measures. We are fully cooperating with the Council of Europe.

Question to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Do you not see any contradictions between the recent statements made by Defense Minister of the Republic of Armenia David Tonoyan and your own statements?

RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: I do not think there are any contradictions between what I stated and David Tonoyan’s statements. It is a matter of interpretation. Our proposal is to stop the use of force, the threats and the bellicose rhetoric, which Azerbaijan uses concerning the Karabakh problem.

We want our societies prepared for peace, and I do hope that our partners in Azerbaijan will do the same. If so, we will have quite a different situation.

Question to CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland: Two days ago, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights stated that it is impossible to visit the “grey zones.” In your opinion, what practical steps can be taken to solve this problem?

CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland: We cannot implement monitoring in such areas because they are not European territories. Nagorno-Karabakh is a grey zone, and my proposal is that the Commissioner for Human Rights be given a mandate and the right to visit these areas. I think it is possible. Political statements need to be made by the European governments to that effect. I am convinced that the Commissioner for Human Rights should have the opportunity to work in a non-political dimension for humanitarian purposes.

Question to CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland: Mr. Jagland, do you have any new proposals for Armenia, what do you expect from post-revolutionary Armenia in terms of human rights and democracy?

CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland: We have already seen that the new government has a comprehensive reform agenda, which is very important for us. In particular, we prioritize the judicial reform. The functioning of democratic institutions is also important. It is crucial to see the way the opposition perceives those changes, how the media responds and covers them, including the fight against corruption.

Independent media and an independent judiciary are important in this respect. I think this is the agenda of the new government and we will do our best to support it.

After the joint press conference, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia handed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe the Government’s decision to rename the square located in the middle part of Yerevan’s Northern Avenue into Europe Square.

* * *

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with Gianni Buquicchio, President of the Council of Europe Venice Commission (European Commission for Democracy through Law) in Strasbourg.

Welcoming Nikol Pashinyan, the President of the Venice Commission said he was pleased to meet with the Prime Minister of Armenia in Strasbourg and discuss cooperation issues.

Nikol Pashinyan and Gianni Buquicchio referred to the early parliamentary elections held in Armenia last December. The President of the Venice Commission noted that free and fair early parliamentary elections had been held in accordance with the best international standards.

Appreciating the ongoing cooperation with the Venice Commission, the Prime Minister highlighted the role played by CoE monitoring bodies, including the Venice Commission, in promoting his government’s reform program. The Premier said Armenia is pushing ahead along the path of democracy by improving its judicial system, protecting human rights and developing civil society. Democracy is an inner conviction and fundamental value for our society.

During the meeting, reference was made to the reform of the Electoral Code and the ongoing legislative improvements. The Prime Minister noted that the new government enjoys the full support of the people of Armenia and has been mandated to undertake ambitious and serious reforms in all areas of political and social life.

Nikol Pashinyan reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to European values, stressing that his government will do everything possible to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights, build an independent judiciary, fight against corruption and conduct free, fair and transparent elections in the country. In this regard, Prime Minister Pashinyan stressed the importance of effective cooperation with the Venice Commission and personally with Mr. Buquicchio.

The President of the Venice Commission hailed the Armenian government’s reform program, including the improvement of the electoral legislation. Stressing the need to institutionalize electoral processes, he assured of his readiness to assist Armenia in this process.

* * *

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s working visit to the Council of Europe continues.

On 11 April, the Prime Minister participated in the Spring Plenary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan delivered a speech at the session, in which he stated, on part:

“Distinguished Madam President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
Honorable Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
Dear Parliamentary Assembly Members,

It is an internationally accepted common practice for high-ranking guests to address the audience from this podium with the following words: “It is a great honor for me to speak at the podium of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.” This is a great honor for me, too, but let me say that speaking from this podium has a special meaning and significance for me.

I will try to explain why being the editor-in-chief of the “Oragir” daily in the summer of 1999 I was awaiting the court’s verdict against me. The reason for initiating a criminal case was a publication in my newspaper.

The prosecutor demanded that I be sentenced to three years in prison and sent to prison. At that time it was almost impossible for the court to neglect the prosecutor’s motion. But in those days, something like a miracle happened, and the court sentenced me to only one year’s imprisonment so that it could be postponed for a while. Then it turned out that the reason was one. Armenia was going to become a member of the Council of Europe in those days and PACE President Lord Russell Johnston would visit Armenia to discuss membership issues. The authorities realized that a prison sentence was not a good backdrop for such an official visit. In fact, Russell Johnston referred my issue during his visit, and perhaps the authorities promised that they would not send me to prison.

That is how it happened. After Johnston’s visit my verdict became conditional, and in 1999-2000, I was not sentenced to prison because of Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe. And although there were several criminal proceedings against me, my detention was postponed, and it occurred only after the March 1, 2008 events when 10 Armenian citizens were killed, including eight peaceful demonstrators. At that time, thousands of oppositionists were taken to police stations for attending the demonstrations. And nearly one hundred political leaders and activists went to jail as political prisoners.

The Council of Europe and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly were the only hope for the citizens deprived of their legitimate right of assembly, for imprisoned politicians and their relatives and the relatives of the victims of March 1 events, because after March 1, the Constituency was eventually abolished in the Republic of Armenia and people had no reliable legal guarantee of protection, no hope.

And like fresh air, the five resolutions adopted by the PACE on those events changed the atmosphere of Armenia, raising hopes that everything was not yet lost. Having been imprisoned since 2009 and sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment in 2010, I spent only two years in jail and came out to freedom with the help of Armenian citizens, but also with the assistance of the Council of Europe.
In the winter of 2011, I met with Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, and it was crucial for drawing attention to the problem of political prisoners in Armenia and to my issue as well. Soon, the European Court of Human Rights recognized my case urgently, two months after that time, the authorities released me with an amnesty act, realizing that the Council of Europe would officially announce me a political prisoner.

December, 2018 came as the next stage of my relationship with the Council of Europe and PACE. At that time, I was the Prime Minister of Armenia and reached that status as a result of the non-violent velvet popular revolution in April and May of that year. Early parliamentary elections were held in the country as the next port of call of our revolution.

Our political force received more than 70 percent of the votes in these elections. But what natters most here is the fact that the PACE observation mission qualified the elections as democratic.

I wish to quote the assessment given by the PACE observation mission: “It was possible to hold democratic elections in Armenia due to the so-called Velvet Revolution and the manifestation of political will by the authorities.” Other international observation missions also acknowledged the December elections as free, fair, democratic and competitive. No Armenian election had ever been rated like that before. This was the first parliamentary election in our country, the official results of which were not contested in the Constitutional Court and the first parliamentary elections, the results of which were unanimously adopted by all political forces and the public at large.

And now, as the prime minister elected by the people of the Republic of Armenia, I would like to thank the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for their support of human rights and democracy in Armenia.

Today, the people have triumphed in Armenia, and this has happened due to the non-violent, velvet popular revolution in Armenia. I want to emphasize that the revolution was born in the heart and soul of the Armenian people, and there was not a single foreign power involved in any way in our revolution. Our revolution neither had a geopolitical content, nor a geopolitical context.

But how did this revolution happen? How did it succeed? In 2015, Armenia’s then-actual leader Serzh Sargsyan initiated fundamental changes at the end of his second term, which implied that the semi-presidential form of government in Armenia would have to shift to a parliamentary system in April, 2018.

When this constitutional amendment was initiated, he pledged publicly that he would never be nominated to the office of Head of State - in this case, to the post of Prime Minister. But in 2018, it turned out that he was the candidate for premiership, nominated by the ruling majority.

On May 31, we started a march of protest, walking from Armenia’s second largest city Gyumri to capital Yerevan. We walked 13 days - more than 200 kilometers - covering the whole process live on social networks. And in Yerevan, in the first place, many schoolchildren, boys and girls joined our movement, followed by their elder brothers and sisters, followed by their mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers.

On April 17, 2018, Serzh Sargsyan was elected as Prime Minister by the Parliament, and on April 22, I appeared once again in prison, and the next day Serzh Sargsyan had to release me and my friends under the pressure of the people; he resigned 15 days later, on May 8, 2018, that same parliament elected me Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, because this was demanded the entire Armenian nation.

This is how our revolution happened. Called a revolution of love and solidarity, it was originally based on the logic of non-violent struggle. The top open hands were the symbol of our revolution. And that was the sign of our repeated statement that even if the police and the former government exercised violence against us, we would not respond to violence with violence. And the idea of love, the non-violent struggle really won the oligarchic, corrupt system in Armenia for many years. Won without any violence, won without any victims, won without any weapons. Raised up with open arms.

Dear friends,

Indeed, there are huge political changes going on in Armenia today. We have managed to eradicate corruption in Armenia, eradicate the monopoly system, and create real conditions for all people before the law.

We are reducing the black economy in daily routine. Over the past 10 months, Armenia has seen more than 50,000 jobs created or coming out of the shadow, which is 10 percent of the total labor market.

Our budget revenues have been overwhelming and we are going to exceed the budget revenues of 2019 by about 70 million euros, or at least by 70 million euros, which is 2.6 percent of our budget receipts.

These extra amounts will be used to build roads, educational and health institutions, proportionate territorial development, and jobs. Our government’s activity is transparent and accountable, and our power stems from the free will of the people.

Today, Armenia is a truly democratic country with perfect freedom of speech and assembly. The chapter of electoral frauds and systemic corruption is closed for ever in our country. Our government is taking measures to continuously raise the status of human rights protection. But our democracy needs strengthening, as well as economic and institutional guarantees.

The development of democratic institutions, the establishment of an independent judiciary, the establishment and strengthening of anticorruption institutions are the key areas where we need the support of the Council of Europe. All this is important not only to put on record the results of the political revolution, but also to bring about a new economic revival.

The key goal and significance of our economic revolution is to encourage and help our citizens in their economic activities, create real opportunities for them, make Armenia more attractive to investment and tourism, and transform our country into a technological hub. And we are convinced that we will succeed in this difficult mission, because our people now have confidence in their own strengths and their own future.

Dear participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues to be a major challenge for the Republic of Armenia and for our region, in general.

Like any democratic government, the Armenian government is dedicated to the principle of exclusively peaceful settlement. But democratic changes in our country have brought new shades in our understanding of the issue.

Of course, it is extremely important that we have been able to start a constructive and positive dialogue with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, but I am convinced that the dialogue between the two leaders is not enough to resolve the issue. It is extremely important that a dialogue be initiated between the communities so that we could prepare our populations for peace, not for war.

At the end of a press conference in Yerevan, I announced that social networks can be the most important platform for dialogue, where unfortunately the Armenians and Azeris are still communicating in the language of blasphemy and hate.

The thirty years of the conflict seemed to be enough for us to have exhausted the language of hatred and blasphemy. We should help each other in order to understand our respective positions in a bid to find out the reasons behind the conflict.

I personally started to voice this vision of mine several times from the podium of the Armenian Parliament, saying that any version of the settlement of the Karabakh issue should be acceptable for the people of Armenia, for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, and for the people of Azerbaijan.

This is an unprecedented statement, as a matter of fact, and it is just the formula that may help us achieve a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Unfortunately, we still cannot hear similar statements from Azerbaijan, but I do hope that the message sent from this podium of peace will receive an adequate reaction in the Azerbaijani society.

Dear friends,

It is no coincidence that I called this podium of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe a seat of peace. I believe that this is the place where curses should be substituted with dialogue; where provocation must be replaced by constructive work. But, unfortunately, the chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is sometimes used to provoke wars.

In this regard, I cannot rule out that the discussions on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue that took place here in January 2016 became the prelude of the Four-Day War that broke out in April of the same year, creating a propitious ground for Azerbaijan’s armed forces to launch offensive operations.

I do not want to assert that the authors of those debates consciously triggered the war, which cost a few hundred human lives for Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, today as well we can see attempts to turn the podiums of PACE and other international organizations into platforms of geopolitical games and conflicts, which is absolutely opposite to the essence and mission of these organizations.

It should also be remembered that any conflict should be viewed in its essence and content, while making judgments about a conflict without understanding its origins, causes, essence and peculiarities simply means to play with human lives and human destinies.

This is the reason why we consider and believe that jointly with the three parties to the conflict, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs are the only ones to deal with the Karabakh conflict because this format has been aware of the current state of affairs, the conflict’s background history and the nuances of negotiations ever since their inception.
The OSCE Minsk Group format was set up as a platform for dialogue between all parties to the conflict - Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia - and we are taking steps today to restore the dialogue between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This does not mean that the Council of Europe has nothing to do in the Karabakh conflict zone. This organization, which is at the forefront of human rights and democratic institutions in Europe, pays zero attention to the support of non-governmental organizations operating in Nagorno-Karabakh. PACE has so far failed to take any steps to strengthen democratic institutions and to build civil society in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The only explanation is that there are contradictions and misinterpretations regarding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which imply that Nagorno-Karabakh is not internationally recognized as a state.

But as far as the Council of Europe and PACE are concerned, the point is not the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. I wonder if there is an international debate about whether the people living in Nagorno-Karabakh are humans or not. I wonder whether the Council of Europe, which is one of the world leaders in human rights protection, prefers the documents to real people.

From this high podium, I would like to appeal to the Council of Europe and to all those organizations in Europe dealing with the protection of human rights, freedom of expression and democratic institutions: Please support the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to improve their laws and institutions, strengthen human rights, the rule of law and build an independent judiciary. The citizens, the people will benefit from it.

We should remember that humans are worth more than any document, any political or group interest, and I do believe that the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will be guided by these very values.

Distinguished Madam President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
Honorable Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
Dear Parliamentary Assembly Members,

I am really pleased and honored to deliver a speech from this podium on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Armenian Revolution of Love and Solidarity.

Recognizing Armenia as the country of the year in 2018, the Economist asked whether Armenia could build on its achievements.

I have the honor to declare from this high podium that democracy is irreversible in Armenia. It is irreversible for a simple reason: the aforementioned victories in our country were not brought about by political leaders or forces, but by our people, citizens, the youth who know very well that they are the driving force behind progress and they will definitely not miss the chance to make of Armenia a beacon of democracy, law, liberty and tolerance.

Armenia can stand for and will come as a piece of good news for all those who believe in democracy!

Thank you.”

* * *

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is in Strasbourg on a working visit. On April 11, Nikol Pashinyan attended the inauguration of “The Velvet Revolution of Armenia” photographic exhibition at the Palais de l'Europe.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland and PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier.

Prime Minister Pashinyan delivered a speech in which he noted:
“Mr. Secretary-General,
Madam President of the Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,

I thank you for your numerous presence and for your interest in “The Velvet Revolution of Armenia” photographic exhibition, which we have the honor to inaugurate today in a more than adequate setting which is the House of the Democracy and Human Rights.

Just a year ago, as an opposition parliamentarian, I initiated this grassroots movement to make the voice of the people heard, who stood up to say NO to authoritarianism and injustice.

I drew my strength from the solidarity and unbeatable spirit of my compatriots. Accompanied only by some sympathizers, I started the march that I named “My Step” from Gyumri, the second largest city located in the north part of Armenia, toward the capital city.

By passing from one city to another we quickly became a hundred, then a few hundred thousand. Our march has continued to grow. She immediately mobilized the whole country.

Men, women, young people especially - high school students and students who walked with us, became the driving force of this peaceful civic revolt. In particular, I wish to praise the courage of the young women who joined us with strollers and children in their arms. Their enthusiasm, their absolute rejection of injustice confirmed that my approach was right. This national mobilization became a true source of inspiration to go to the end with the certainty that Victory would be ours.

Finally, the people’s will was reinstated; democracy won! Called a revolution of love and solidarity, the Armenian Velvet Revolution was born,

I am sure that many of you have followed closely the various stages of our Revolution thanks to its wider international media coverage. I am still convinced that the clichés here exposed best convey the spirit and the strong emotion of this event of exceptional importance for us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I have just noted in my address to the Assembly, we are particularly proud and honored to have the opportunity to celebrate the First Anniversary of the Armenian Velvet Revolution at the Council of Europe, and to reaffirm our commitment to these principles and fundamental values.
This exhibition is a tribute to human courage, it brings hope to activists for universal rights and freedoms. It is an ode to democracy and to the Council of Europe which has made an important contribution to strengthening the democratic institutions in Armenia. Thank you for being here, and I invite you to discover the exhibition.”

Liliane Maury Pasquier, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe also delivered speeches.

Ambassadors and diplomats accredited to the Council of Europe, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, officials of the Secretariat of the Council of Europe, including representatives of the Armenian community were present at the exhibition.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan briefed PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland on the developments that took place from April to May, 2018, reflected in photographs.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia also took part in the dinner given on behalf of the PACE President during the second part of the 2019 regular session of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Accompanied by Thorbjørn Jagland, Nikol Pashinyan visited the courtyard of the Council of Europe, after which they were photographed near the khachkar placed at the entrance.

The Prime Minister of Armenia next visited the Notre-Dame de Strasbourg Cathedral. Accompanied by Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg Nawel Rafik-Elmrini and Father Bernard Xibaut, the Premier toured the Cathedral to get acquainted with the architecture and history of one of the largest sandstone-built structures.

* * *

The photographic exhibition Velvet Revolution of Armenia, organized in the Palace of Europe, aims to celebrate the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution of Armenia. The exhibition presents various stages of the popular and non-violent movement from April to May 2018, which led to radical political changes and democratic developments in Armenia.

The exhibition includes 40 photos presented in chronological order that show the events that took place during the Velvet Revolution.

The authors of the photos are: the personal photographer of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Tigran Mehrabian, the photographers of the Armenpress news agency Gevorg Perkouperkian, Mkhitar Khachaturian, Tatev Dourian, the photographers of Photolur Haik Baghdassarian and Vahram Baghdassarian, photographers Ani Guevorguian and Hrant Khachaturian.

The Velvet Revolution of Armenia exhibition is open at the Palais de l’Europe from 8 to 12 April 2019. The organizers are the Armenian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Permanent Representation of Armenia to the Council of Europe.

As part of the exhibition, the English version of the first part of the comic entitled Velvet Revolution is also presented. The creation of the comic book was initiated by the team Mario who creates Armenian comics by his own means. The book consists of 5 parts, presenting the events from April to May 2018 in chronological order.

According to the authors, the idea of creating a cartoon The Velvet Revolution was born after the victory of the revolution and tells how to achieve a peaceful change without violence.

The descriptions in the book represent events without authoritarian interventions. The episodes were based on shows and interviews of characters. It is the first commercial and independent Armenian comic strip. The presentation of the first part of the book in Armenian, Russian and English will take place on April 12 in Yerevan.

* * *

Question - Mr. Prime Minister, you touched upon Armenia-Azerbaijan relations in a few sentences. Azerbaijan is not the only country in the region; there are other countries, and I think you have some problems in your relations with those neighbors as well. Are you satisfied with the current level of relations with them, and if not, what are you going to undertake in this direction?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Of course, not only do we have neighbors with which our relations are not that good, but there are also neighbors with which we have good and even very good relations. I mean, in particular, Georgia and Iran, with which we entertain high-level relations, and we are engaged in a high-level dialogue with these countries.

We are trying to develop our bilateral relations. You may know indeed that we have no interstate relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. In fact, we do not have diplomatic relations, and that says it all. Everything is clear about Azerbaijan, while the situation with Turkey is somewhat different, because Turkey ties its relations with Armenia to our relationship with Azerbaijan. Armenia, in turn, has not changed its position. We have repeatedly declared that we are prepared to establish relations with Turkey without any preconditions.

As regards our relations with Azerbaijan, I have already outlined our vision, and I wish to emphasize that we see our relations with Azerbaijan and other neighbors on the peace agenda. I am glad that in the course of its activities, our government has actually been able to put the peaceful agenda at the heart of our international relations. Thank you.

Question - Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for presenting the path you have covered and your country’s achievements. My congratulations! I would like to ask you about the ongoing legal proceedings against some former political figures, and also, how guaranteed is the judiciary’s independence in those cases?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you for the question, the problem with the judicial system is the most pressing for us, for the country, for our government, because there was a revolution in the political system of Armenia, but no revolution has occurred in the judicial system.

I can assure you that having a 100% independent judicial system, the rulings of which could be trusted not only by the Armenian society, but also by the international community is a key issue for us.

Recently, when an EU delegation arrived in Armenia, they took note of our position regarding the judicial system’s independence and asked me a direct question how far we were going to push with the establishment of an independent judiciary. And I answered them in a straightforward manner that we are ready to go all the way since we understand that we cannot guarantee the final and irreversible institutional and permanent strengthening of our democracy without a truly independent judicial system.

Do we have such a judicial system today? Unfortunately, I cannot give you a 100% guarantee. What I can state confidently is that our government has eliminated the presumably existing practice when the judicial system used to be directed by the government. We have completely abandoned that practice. It may sound a little strange, but I am not 100% sure that the other tools of influence on the judicial system have not been preserved. And I am not sure that there is no corruption in our judicial system, because for example, just 10 days ago, a judge in Armenia was arrested upon receipt of a bribe. However, please do not doubt that we are fully committed to the agenda of building an independent judiciary. Thank you.

Question - Mr. Prime Minister, I want to ask you a question about the relations with Iran. Iran has checkered relationships with Europe. How do you imagine the development of relations between Armenia and Iran, especially in the context of cooperation with the European Union?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I can say that in all my contacts with high-ranking European officials I saw that our European partners understand the importance of Armenian-Iranian relations and agree with our desire to maintain normal relations with Iran and develop them.

As for the international situation around Iran, you know, we feel highly embarrassed in such a difficult situation as we see our friends on opposite sides of political contradictions. I mean that our friends are on both sides.

And of course, we hope, we urge and wish that political contradictions could be solved in the logic of dialogue, because dialogue is the only way to handle problems in the 21st century.

And frankly speaking, I saw the same perception and understanding during my contacts with all our European partners. Of course, I was not able to communicate with everyone in person, but our views were tied in over the same understanding with our EU partners. Thank you.

Question - In April 2018, this Assembly approved my report on the set of measures aimed facilitating the fight against organized crime and the process of confiscating legal assets. I know that fighting crime is one of your government’s priorities. Can you tell us which way you see your cooperation with international partners in this area in terms of applying the internationally recognized best practices?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you for the good question, because it was very important that such a question be voiced in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

We are now discussing whether the introduction of the institution of confiscation of assets without a bill of indictment could be acceptable for our country. And in this regard, there are quite serious concerns in Armenia, including among the former government’s representatives.

I consider it important to emphasize that this is not only an internationally recognized practice, but, in fact, since 2015 it has been included in the framework of international commitments made by Armenia, including to the Council of Europe.

I would like to mention that this mechanism is stipulated in the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and the Financing of Terrorism, the UN Convention against Corruption. Armenia assumed specific commitments in connection with this mechanism in 2015 in the framework of the MONEYVAL monitoring group of the Council of Europe.

To be honest, from my point of view, this is a mechanism that can and should be implemented in Armenia, but, as I said, Armenia is a democratic country, and decisions are not made solely, and we should have broad discussions about this institution. We have to make a decision following discussions, and of course, our cooperation with the Council of Europe will be very useful in this regard so that no one may try to interpret or use this as a tool of persecution, because this page in our country is closed forever. Thank you.

- Question on external interference in the political processes underway in Armenia

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you. If you noticed, in my speech I specifically stressed that there was no interference of any foreign power in Armenia’s revolution, but sometimes the public at large can witness rather a strange debate on the matter at hand. When, for example, during my visits or press conferences, people try to tell me that a color revolution has taken place in Armenia, each time I emphasize that we have not carried out a color revolution, but a revolution of love and solidarity. And by these words, naturally, should be understood in their political implication. The point is that no external political force was involved in our revolution. I rule out that anyone could indicate the involvement of any external force whatsoever in our internal processes.

I have always said that for us it is a matter of national dignity; for me personally it is a matter of personal dignity, and it is important to stress that democracy really stems from our people’s mindset. I think that it is for this reason that today we have the situation you are talking about. There are still publications in international media outlets stating that there was some kind of geopolitical or foreign policy context, but everyone should be convinced that everything happened exactly the way I said, and this is very important.

The Armenian revolution is not directed against any country, it is not against any organization. The Armenian people made a revolution for the sake of their free and happy future, and we intend to develop our relations with all our international partners.

Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, we are now chairing this organization and will do our best to make it even more effective.

Our relations with Russia are of strategic nature, and we will do our utmost to develop these relations. In terms of security, we are a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and we will do our utmost to make this organization more effective.

We have excellent relations with the European Union, which is due to a very specific reason. The fact is that the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union, its content thoroughly ties in with our government’s agenda, with the agenda that we initially planned to implement, with the reform agenda that we are gong to implement in our country. Thank you.

Question - How well do you think the Council of Europe promotes the development of democratic institutions, human rights and freedom of speech in Armenia?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I have always considered it necessary to underscore in answering a similar question that when it comes to democracy, human rights and freedom of speech, they are often deemed to be purely European values. I agree with this of course, but let me say that they are also Armenian values. I mean that we do not perceive democracy as something imported from outside or something exported to other countries.

This is a system of values that stems from our people’s mentality and aspirations. If we state this fact, then we can say that we share absolutely the same ideas with the Council of Europe about what democracy is and in what logic democracy should develop.

I said in my speech that while there were no foreign forces involved in our revolution, and this is true, but Armenia’s 18-year-old membership in the Council of Europe and the joint work done during this time have largely contributed to the development and establishment of democratic institutions in Armenia.

In this regard, I consider the efforts made by the Council of Europe in the Republic of Armenia effective. At the same time, I noted that there is a personal note: I once failed to be imprisoned owing to the Council of Europe, and another time I was released from prison thanks to the Council of Europe. So, I think this collaboration is very effective and successful. Thank you.

Question - There is an opinion in the international community that the leaders of the former USSR nations and their family members have built up enormous wealth over the years. Your government has developed an ambitious anticorruption program. We know that the second president of your country is currently in prison. Can you tell us what measures you are going to take in practice and what are the results achieved already?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you for the question. When I think about what I should do in fighting corruption, I say to myself that I should not be personally involved in corruption, because for me there is not a more reliable tool for curbing corruption.

And it is crucial that people could see this and believe in it, because I do not think there is any prime minister in the world, or any government standing on the podium and stating that they are going to gradually get involved in corruption.

Everyone says that they are not going to be caught in corruption as they are fighting corruption. And from this point of view, the credibility of the government becomes very important. And therefore, I keep emphasizing that I consider my stay as prime minister and leader of my country to be meaningful as long as there is the people’s trust. And this means that this trust is the most important precondition that we can fight corruption, because I think we all realize what kind of influential leverages and financial resources corruption has built up in the Republic of Armenia over the past few years, and how much powerful it may be in an environment where there is no trust between the government and the public.

Of course, you are right, and therefore, first of all, my family, my relatives should be in the center of special attention. I think it is very important that transparency becomes one of the most important institutions in Armenia, which I would not say, is 100% complete, and it is moving ahead with great strides. I want to advise you that just 10 days ago, legal proceedings were instituted against one of my close relatives.

I do not want to violate the presumption of innocence, but this fact and the fact that the case will be considered under conditions of complete legality and objectivity is another proof that we are confidently following this path.

Question - After joining the Council of Europe in 2001, Armenia declared its commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Please tell us when you are going to fulfill in practice your commitments, which arise from resolutions and documents adopted by international structures.

Question - Mr. Prime Minister, a gathering of religious minorities and the LGBT community was scheduled in Yerevan for last November. However, the event did not take place due to public opinion, including pressure from political figures who expressed concerns about the safety of participants. This testifies to serious violations of the rights of members of the LGBT community, who are deprived in Armenia of the opportunity to exercise their basic rights. What steps is your government taking in this direction?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – As far as the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict concerns, I once again reaffirmed from this rostrum our commitment to solving this problem. I think that the recent proposals and calls to our Azerbaijani colleagues and society to abide by a peace agenda and a peaceful settlement are what we should continue doing, and I would like to emphasize that I am glad that we were able to conduct a fairly straightforward, sincere and outspoken dialogue with President Ilham Aliyev.

Unfortunately, we have not yet forged common ideas about the nuances and mechanisms for resolving the Karabakh problem, though the fact that we have created an atmosphere of constructive and open discussion is already fairly good.
In our opinion, today there are several crucial questions that we must answer in the framework of institutional strengthening of the peace agenda, and one of these questions is the full enforcement of the OSCE Minsk Group format, which implies participation of Nagorno-Karabakh’s elected representatives in the peace process as it seems difficult to understand how we can solve the problem without listening to the main and key stakeholder of the conflict. As I noted in my speech, our steps are aimed at restoring the dialogue between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship.

Many do not know, but there has been a direct meeting between the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The elected representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh used to be engaged in the negotiation process not only before 1998, but I can say that the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh attended the talks until 2018.

Let us not forget that before Robert Kocharyan became the President of Armenia, he was the elected President of Nagorno-Karabakh, after which Serzh Sargsyan represented Armenia, but he was also one of the leaders of Karabakh. And in fact, we have a situation where Nagorno-Karabakh was represented at the negotiation table all the way through the negotiation process.

Today, our task is to provide conditions for continued dialogue between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. And this is a very important commitment.

As for the LGBT community, I said that the rule of law has been established in the Republic of Armenia, and all Armenian citizens have the same rights and obligations. I have heard about the incident you mentioned but, frankly, I cannot give the reasons why this event was canceled, why it was planned, when it was planned, and what kind of event it was.

I learned of this problem only through a couple of posts on social networks, and I do not have enough information to give you a more detailed answer. Thank you.

Question - Mr. Prime Minister, after your election, there were favorable expectations in terms of achieving a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Do you not think that the proposed change in the format of negotiations is a step backward?

Can your popularity in Armenia inspire hopes that you will lead your country along the path of peace, despite the pressure coming from the Armenian Diaspora and from the oligarchs inside the country?

Question - Can you explain why Armenia keeps voting against UN resolutions concerning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea? Are you going to change the situation in this respect, and a specific question: who the Crimea belongs to?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you for the questions, the first question was about what you called the change in the format of negotiations. I have already said that we do not expect and are not seeking a change in the format of the negotiations, since this does not reflect our logic and our aspirations.

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship format is the one in which the discussions of a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are being held, and if we look back at history, we can see that the OSCE Minsk Group format originally implied participation of Karabakh representatives in the negotiation process. It was not only supposed, but it used to be the case for a long time.

I have already said - unfortunately, I cannot recall a specific date – that approximately in 1994-95-96, President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev met with Nagorno-Karabakh’s President Robert Kocharyan. The meeting took place in Moscow.
We have the documents on these contacts held in a trilateral format within the OSCE Minsk Group framework, which evidence that not only the three co-chairs were present there, but also representatives from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus, we are in no way talking about a change in the format of negotiations. We only raise the question of continuing the negotiations in the same format, because, look, the question is simple, and it is not a whim or a precondition.

Some even tried to call it a destructive position, which is not true, because we say: We want to resolve the problem, don’t we? Is it possible to imagine a solution to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh without Nagorno-Karabakh’s participation? The word “occupation” is often used by our opponents, but I would like to ask you whether it is reasonable to state that Karabakh is occupied by those people who live in Karabakh now, who were born in Karabakh, whose fathers, grandfathers and ancestors lived in Karabakh, and so on. How can one occupy the territory where he or she was born, where their children were born and where their ancestors were born, lived and were buried?

That is why I also said in my speech that every conflict, every situation should be studied, because it is clear that there are several nuances, and we urge all parties to the conflict to sit at the table, discuss all the nuances on the understanding that we are not talking about the non-settlement of the problem, but instead we are talking about its settlement, and agree that our agenda is not an agenda of annihilating each other, but the agenda of resolving problems in the way that befits the peoples of the 21st century, as it befits two CoE-member countries, states and nations.

And we are guided by this very logic. I recently launched initiatives that in a sense may seem strange. During a recent press conference, I asked the audience a rhetorical question, for example, about whether the President or the leadership of Azerbaijan has something to tell the peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. For example, I would like to have an opportunity to address the people of Azerbaijan and talk with them. Of course, I can do so now, but I do not want to do it in a unilateral manner lest it should be perceived as a provocation.

I want a dialogue between governments, peoples, societies and youths, because our agenda is a peace agenda, and we do not raise the issue of changing the format.

In the same logic, I would like to answer the question about the Crimea and the international resolutions. You may know that I have assumed the duties of Armenia’s leader recently. Before that I used to be an MP, and often wondered why some people are using the highest podiums to monger wars, exacerbate conflicts or make them seem more acute and violent.

I think that in any case we must remain in the logic of dialogue. There is not such a conflict in the world nowadays that I would think it appropriate to resort to violence. In addition, cross-country platforms and international podiums should be used in the logic of peace, and we are trying to do everything possible to that effect. I am not sure that this is always the case, since we often face a situation where our friends appear to be on either side of the divide: I assure you that it is too difficult to choose between a friend and another friend.

Sometimes we have to make such a choice, but our choice - the global choice - is peace, dialogue, stability and development. Concerning the question of being pro-Western or pro-Russian, I would like to remind that as an oppositionist, I used to state that I did not think that there should be pro-Russian, pro-European, pro-American political forces and activists in Armenia or in any other country, because, for instance, I consider myself a pro-Armenian activist. And I do believe that any French politician should be pro-French, the Ukrainians should be pro-Ukrainian, the Russians - pro-Russian and so on. According to the logic of international relations, being pro-Armenian means that we should build constructive, positive relations with all our international partners, and we should try to handle and improve our relations with all our neighbors. Thank you.

* * *

On 11 April, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with representatives of the Armenian community in Strasbourg and neighboring towns as part of his working visit to Strasbourg. The meeting took place at the European Parliamentary Association Center.

Thanking those present for the warm welcome, Prime Minister Pashinyan said: “Dear Compatriots, I am very happy with our meeting. It is an imperative for me to meet our compatriots during my visits and it is very important for us today and for Armenia, because the new situation in Armenia and around Armenia creates for us a new opportunity exclusive to truly consolidate our national potential, to be able to register a new state of national unity and to join forces for the realization of our national dreams.

I would like to thank you for having responded to the invitation of today's meeting, I would also like to thank you for the fact that you, being physically far from Armenia, nevertheless, during this time you do not have not left Armenia for a moment. This is very important because if you are in Armenia with your heart, it means that being physically in Armenia is only a matter of time and technique. It is very important for us that Armenia becomes a national gathering center for Armenians and the best place to live for every citizen, every Armenian.

We imagine this as: Making the Republic of Armenia a country of opportunities for everyone to realize their abilities, their talents, their skills, so that everyone can work, earn money and do their job with pleasure. Let me say that this process has already started in the Republic of Armenia because what is important for a citizen?

In my opinion, the most important feeling for the citizen is the self-esteem in his country. And the fact that today the citizen of the Republic of Armenia is the supreme authority of the Republic of Armenia, I think that no one doubts, not only the Armenians, the citizens of the Republic of Armenia and also the entire international community.

I know, I see that most of those present are citizens of the Republic of Armenia and I would like to address to you the phrase that I always use traditionally in my meetings:

My dear people,
Proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia,
I love you all, I am proud of you all and I bow to you all.”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered questions from representatives of the Armenian community. Asked whether the government had a program to promote the immigration of our compatriots living abroad, the Prime Minister noted: “From the beginning, this issue has been and remains on our agenda. There were different ideas and now there are some. For example, there was such a question about the opportunities we created and create for potential immigrants. For example, there was an idea of granting preferential loans, opportunities, etc., but a very simple question arose during these discussions.

Many Armenian citizens who are in Armenia and who need the same opportunities can ask a very logical question and say the following: we stayed here and to use these programs, what do you suggest, to go live abroad? for five years, then come back and enjoy it?

And we formulated the goal: we must simply create equal opportunities for all, because there must be a really legal state, the law should work. The people’s access to economic activity must be equal, and in general, the country should be attractive to live, it should be attractive in terms of opportunities.”
The Head of Government presented his vision of the solution of social problems, noting that the possibilities of implementing an immigration promotion program are being discussed.

“It is important for us to record that ideologically, the solution of social problems and problems in general is impossible without work. Is there a goal that can be achieved without effort? There is no such a goal, so we think we need to create opportunities for our citizens. When I speak of citizens, I speak of all Armenians because I believe that all Armenians are citizens of the Republic of Armenia.

By the way, there is a legal justification. if we open the preamble of our Constitution, where nothing has changed so far, we can see that the Armenian nation is the one to adopt the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia as the founders of the Republic of Armenia: not the citizens of the Republic of Armenia, not the people who participated in the elections, but the Armenian nation. Therefore, when I say citizen, I mean the Armenians, in general.

Recently, at the meeting held with Armenians in Vienna, an idea emerged: since we have mortgage projects - apartments for young families, apartments for young professionals – a similar program should be launched for immigrants, which means giving mortgages under specific conditions at more affordable rates. Now we, the Government and the Central Bank, are working together to implement this program.”

One of the participants in the meeting asked the Prime Minister to compare his ideas, as an opposition politician and then as Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, to whom the Prime Minister replied: “In fact, my ideas about the state of the country and the situation in a number of areas were much better than I currently see in the real world. But in general, there is a lot of discussion about how the process should go, if everything goes as planned in Armenia, as I imagined. Yes, let me tell you that everything is happening as I imagined. Our economic ideology is very clear: we say - the same formula, which we put at the heart of our political revolution, should be used as the basis of the economic revolution.

What is the formula? Encourage individual efforts, help a person to believe in his own strength so that he can engage in an economic activity, encourage the talent of our people. For example, we completed 11 agricultural projects, most of which were unprecedented.

Today, what are we saying to people? We say, dear citizen, if, for example, you are going to set up a shed in a border region, we will refund 70% of the amount you have spent, that is, any investor can get back 70% of his investment.

Many can make such an investment, but what should do those who do not have the necessary resources? We are offering them unprecedented low-cost loans of 2, 3, 5%, and we are offering this opportunity today. Today, no one in Armenia can say, “I want to get engaged in business, but I am not allowed.” I cannot rule out that there may be such cases, but they are hidden from us. If we find those who do so, we know what will happen to them.”

Speaking about the economic situation and the success of the government in the economy, Nikol Pashinyan said: “You cannot find a second case in history when a revolution has taken place in the country and that it There was no economic collapse, the recession did not follow this revolution.

We now have an index of economic growth. The number of jobs in the Republic of Armenia has increased by 51,000 in the last 10 months. That's a total of 10% of the labor market. Of course, today we can not say with certainty what part of these jobs was created from scratch and what part of the underground economy, but in any case, it is an unprecedented success.
For 25-30 years, we said we should fight the underground economy. Now, according to the first quarter data, Armenia's budget revenues were made up to 11 billion more drams. This year, the revenues of the Armenian state budget will be made up to 40 billion more drams, at least. This means that we will build roads and increase salaries for military personnel by 10% in July, and teachers' salaries from 1 September.

We have already increased the salary of 15,000 health workers since 1 January, we have provided and complied with allowances and pensions of 82,000 beneficiaries and retirees to the minimum subsistence level.

With the change of the pension system, we have increased the salary of 200,000 people as of July 1st. At present, we had an economic activity of 5.6% in January after the economic difficulties. In February, we had an economic activity index of 7%.

When they say that the government does not have an economic strategy, economic policy is not good, do you know what is the reason? Because all people who protest have an understanding of economic policy; according to them, the government is not a shareholder of different businesses, does not intervene in different business affairs, it feels bad and is uncomfortable.

Let us say that traditional businesses in Armenia today are not used to this logic because we tell them we do not want anything from them: we only want them to work and pay taxes.

Yes, the economic elite of Armenia is shocked, they do not understand what is going on, they say okay, if they really want nothing, they only want legal taxes, then where are they cheating us? They are shocked; they do not understand what is happening around. Today, real economic processes are taking place in Armenia and if the economic process stops, then where should we collect these taxes? At the same time, I want to emphasize that when we talk that much about taxes; we have no visible alarms coming from economic entities indicating that the tax authorities keep terrorizing them. Nobody terrorizes anyone.”

Speaking of democratic changes in Armenia, Prime Minister Pashinyan said: “Ever since becoming a member of the Council of Europe, we used to come here as a semi-authoritarian state. What we had and did was halfway. We are acting as a fully democratic state in the Council of Europe, and no one doubts this fact. How is it that we used to go forward for the past 20, 25 or 30 years, but as a matter of fact, we went nowhere and could not reach the proposed destination even in 50 years. So, how come Armenia became a truly democratic country within a few months? How did it happen? I mean that as Prime Minister, day after day I grow more confident that we are fulfilling our mission.”

Then the Prime Minister suggested continuing the meeting in the courtyard of the Association of European Parliamentarians, which also included many representatives of the Armenian community.

Speaking to them, the Head of the Armenian Government said: “This meeting is as important to me as the speech and the meeting in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe because it is very important to note that the change the more important in Armenia is the following: Today the Armenian authorities have the legitimacy to represent all Armenians, because the revolution took place not only by the efforts of those present in Armenia.

This revolution would have been impossible without the participation of our compatriots in the diaspora and I know that there are people here who have come from Strasbourg, from different parts of France, even from Germany.
I would like to thank you all for your active participation in the revolution and I want to say that the reason for the national gathering is that the revolution was the victory of each of you.

It is not necessary at all that everyone was physically present in the square. With your moral support in social networks, we have given you a lot of strength, and then as a participant in the revolution, the organizer, you give us great strength with your energy. And now, your support is important for us as a government and for me as Prime Minister.

When I was elected Prime Minister, I arrived in Republic Square and I addressed the people and said: My dear people, you won today, and the reason for this victory is is not that I was elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, but the fact that you have decided who will be the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.

Today, my main message to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was that now, in the Republic of Armenia, it is the people who decide who will be the power, who will be the opposition, and it will is the greatest achievement we have achieved. Before the revolution, Armenian youth chanted for years: we are the owners of our country

Today it is a reality because the citizen of the Republic of Armenia is the owner of the Republic of Armenia and I believe that you are all here today as proud and dignified citizens.

And, therefore,
Long live freedom!
Long live the Republic of Armenia!
Long live our children and we as we are living and will live in a free and happy Armenia.”

The Prime Minister answered several questions of interest to our compatriots about Armenia’s domestic and foreign policy, the reform program, economic and social development, and so on.

The Prime Minister-headed Armenian delegation returned to Yerevan late on April 11.

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