Nikol Pashinyan attends plenary session at St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who is paying a working visit to St. Petersburg met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Konstantinovsky Palace.
“Mr. Prime Minister, colleagues, friends, I am glad to welcome you again – this time in St Petersburg.
I have no doubt that you will find it interesting and, hopefully, useful to take part in discussions at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
It offers you a good format in which to meet your colleagues, talk with them and discuss current issues on the economic agenda, as well as to talk about political issues, so I would call it a useful and important event.
There is no need to characterize our bilateral relations as we do this regularly: we met quite recently and discussed many issues and had the opportunity to talk about everything on the sidelines of the EAEU summit in Kazakhstan.
Let me remind you that Russia is Armenia’s leading trade and economic partner, which accounts for 26 percent of Armenia’s foreign trade, plus direct investment worth two billion U.S. dollars and many other things that show that we maintain special relations of two allies. I am glad to have the opportunity to meet with you today and discuss the entire range of issues,” Vladimir Putin said.
In turn, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan noted: “Thank you very much, Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am happy to meet you again in St. Petersburg. We recently met in Nur-Sultan. We first met a year ago. We have met several times this year. In fact, we have eventually talked about every single issue on our common agenda. And I think that our relations are developing harmoniously.
As you mentioned, our counties are bound by strategic relations of allied partnership. And this concerns not only bilateral relations: we are actively cooperating in the frame of the Eurasian Economic Union, the CIS, and the CSTO. And I believe that all these areas are of strategic importance to our countries.
I am very glad that we have the opportunity to systematically develop our relations in these areas. I mean that we have quite optimistic economic indicators this year: we had 7.1% economic growth in the first quarter. The economic activity index was 9.2 percent in April.
Why am I talking about this? Because it seems to be obvious that these are good indicators not only for Armenia, but also for the Eurasian Economic Union, since Armenia’s economic performance is by far dependant on our relations with EAEU-member countries and our business entities’ access to the Russian market. It is very important.
I hope we can come up with such solutions as not to impair this positive trend of economic growth. I want to note that this year we have witnessed a pretty good growth in terms of the number of tourists coming from Russia to Armenia. Russian can be heard everywhere in Armenia: in the capital and in tourist centers. Very nice. Every time I meet with Russian tourists, I ask them how they feel in Armenia.
I can state with confidence that Russian tourists feel quite comfortable in Armenia. And it is obvious that more and more Russian tourists will come to our country. I am pleased at it, of course, as I think that this is not only an economic issue, but also a matter of cultural and humanitarian linkages. I feel that these contacts are promoting our political and economic relations.”
During the meeting, the interlocutors discussed a broad range of issues on the Armenian-Russian cooperation agenda. In particular, they touched upon the activities of the intergovernmental commission.
The parties stressed the importance of continued high-level contacts and expressed readiness to discuss ways of ensuring progress in this area. The need for continued discussions in the framework of working groups was noted on both sides.
* * *
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attended an official reception in St. Petersburg, hosted on behalf of the Armenian Embassy in the Russian Federation, which brought together numerous well-known representatives of the Armenian community - cultural and public figures, business people.
Greeting those present, the Prime Minister noted that has been a tradition for him to meet with our compatriots during his overseas visits.
“Meetings like this are important because we hope that the New Armenia can become a center of gravitation for the entire Armenian nation. The changes taking place in the Republic of Armenia should make every Armenian living in the world proud of Armenia, proud of its content, economic and political status. Naturally, that feeling of pride should encourage them to contribute to the country’s development. Investing is usually perceived as financial investment, but I do believe that moral support is as much important. I am pleased to note that this positive contribution has been formed among the Armenians,” Nikol Pashinyan said. The Prime Minister said Armenia witnessed a series of fundamental transformations last year.
“Our confidence has been growing ever since. We have finally reached the point where we can solve the problems we face, and most importantly, make Armenia a competitive state in economic, political and security terms. Our goal is to make Armenia an influential, authoritative country on both regional and international levels, and we will go the same way,” the Prime Minister said.
Nikol Pashinyan emphasized that tangible progress has been recorded in our country in the first quarter of this year. “The Republic of Armenia was the fastest growing economy in the EAEU according to last year’s data. We continued to maintain our leading positions as of the first quarter of this year. Armenia boasts the highest economic growth rate in the EAEU, which is 7.1%. In April, economic activity was 9.2%. This does not mean at all that everything is excellent, but it means that development groundwork has started working,” the Premier said, noting that a free economic field should be formed in Armenia.
“Any Armenian willing to invest in Homeland’s development should be given the opportunity to do so, and that opportunity is already available,” Nikol Pashinyan said, adding that the Armenian government is no longer interested in easy-to-solve problems, simple economic schemes. According to him, we have to set fat more serious problems, including the making of Armenia an innovative and technological country. The Prime Minister noted that in March last year 95 percent of the citizens considered that political changes were impossible in Armenia, but the change came as early as in April.
“It was not easy to solve political issues, the process lasted a long time. I hope and I am convinced that economic development will not take so long. Why am I confident: just because I believe in our people’s talent. Many keep asking how come Armenians go to Russia, to the United States and achieve great success, but in the meantime, they cannot succeed in their home country. The time has come for Armenians to achieve much greater success in the Republic of Armenia, because the skills they have acquired in different countries of the world should be invested in Armenia where they are offered unlimited opportunities. I am convinced that this will happen. I want to say that I love you all, I am proud of the success that you have in the Russian Federation.
I am convinced that your talent will contribute to the further strengthening of your homeland, you can do that, there will be no artificial barriers before you because Armenia is your homeland, the country where I hope you and your children will live. You are allowed to get richer and enrich the country,” the Head of Government said.
Taking the opportunity, Nikol Pashinyan talked to those Armenians in attendance of the reception. They showed great interest in the positive changes taking place in Armenia and shared with the Prime Minister their ideas and initiatives to implement different projects in the homeland.
* * *
Within the framework of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with Aharon Aharon, Director General of the Innovation Agency of the Israeli Ministry of Economy.
Highlighting the need for developing cooperation between Armenia and Israel in the field of high technologies, the Prime Minister noted that this area is one of the priorities of the Government of Armenia. Nikol Pashinyan stressed that the goal of his government is to make the high-tech industry a driving force behind the economy and, to this end, the Executive will use its whole toolkit to stimulate the development of the sphere.
The Premier advised that the World IT Congress will be held in Yerevan this fall, and invited Israeli companies to take part in that major event.
Aharon Aharon thanked Nikol Pashinyan for the meeting and for inviting Israeli companies to attend the Yerevan Congress. He stressed the great potential of cooperation between the two countries in the field of information technology and noted the importance of expanding interaction between the respective private sectors. He pointed out that Armenian-Israeli cooperation in the field of high technologies can have great prospects and went on to assure that the Israeli government is also interested in developing and strengthening ties with Armenia.
Aharon Aharon expressed confidence that numerous Israeli companies will take part in the Yerevan Congress. Noting that the Government of Israel has been paying great attention to the technological sector since 1971, Aharon Aharon presented the steps that have contributed to the development of the industry. He proposed to consider the possibility of creating an Israeli IT sector representation in Armenia and signing an interstate agreement.
Welcoming the proposal of the Director of the Innovation Agency of the Ministry of Economy of Israel, Prime Minister Pashinyan noted the importance of practical steps in this direction.
* * *
On the margins of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. The parties discussed the furtherance of Armenian-Bulgarian relations.
Nikol Pashinyan stressed the importance of high-level meetings in terms of promoting bilateral cooperation. Noting that Armenia and Bulgaria boast deeply-rooted friendly relations, the Premier said the two governments should take practical steps to give new impetus to interstate relations.
Highlighting Bulgaria’s role in the South Caucasus, the head of the Armenian government assured of our country’s willingness to implement joint projects. Nikol Pashinyan welcomed Bulgarian Parliament’s ratification of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), and went on to stress that the full implementation of the agreement might contribute to the development and strengthening of democratic institutions in Armenia, as well as to the effective implementation of the ongoing reforms. The Premier added that our country attaches great importance to relations based on common values with the European Union and EU-member states.
Rumen Radev said Bulgaria is closely following the developments and democratic changes in Armenia. He noted that the two countries have great potential for cooperation. He stressed that the existing potential can be promoted by the Armenian community of Bulgaria that has been successfully integrated into and is making a great contribution to his country’s public life.
Rumen Radev stressed the importance of cooperation in economy, information technologies and education. He reminded that during his visit to Armenia, he visited the TUMO center and was impressed by its activities. He assured of his country’s keen interest to set up a TUMO center in Sofia and, in general, take steps to boost interaction in the field of high technologies.
Nikol Pashinyan and Rumen Radev stressed the need for developing bilateral cooperation, expanding trade and economic ties, strengthening business ties between the private sectors of the two countries, discussing and implementing joint investment projects, expanding cooperation in tourism and infrastructures. The parties noted the importance of holding joint forums that may contribute to the development of business relations.
In conclusion, the two leaders referred to issues of cooperation in multilateral formats.
* * *
On the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with Yandex General Director Elena Bunina and Executive Director Tigran Khudaverdyan.
The Yandex executives presented their ongoing programs and plans for implementing new projects in Armenia. They imparted their interest in expanding the Company’s activities in our country and assured of their readiness for close cooperation with the Armenian government. The Yandex representatives noted that the Company is going to offer new services to the Armenian market in the field of tourism and small business development.
Welcoming the initiative, Prime Minister Pashinyan noted that his government appreciates the development and expansion of IT companies in our country. In his words, the Government is ready to discuss with Yandex possibilities of implementing a broad range of different programs and supporting their implementation as much as possible.
* * *
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is paying a working visit to the Russian Federation, attended the 23rd plenary meeting of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, referred to as “Forming an agenda for sustainable development.”
President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, PRC President Xi Jinping, President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev, Prime Minister of Slovakia Peter Pellegrini, UN Secretary General António Guterres were in attendance.
Addressing the forum, Prime Minister Pashinyan stated:
“Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,
President Xi Jinping,
Prime Minister Pellegrini,
Secretary General Guterres,
I will start my speech with the traditional remarks of appreciation for organizing this meeting and for the opportunity to share thoughts about our country’s development paths and the steps taken by our government on the way to achieving the proposed goals.
Today, Armenia is experiencing an important period in its modern history. Against the background of political stability and an unprecedentedly high degree of legitimacy of the authorities, fundamental changes are taking place in the country.
Their ultimate goal is to create a competitive and technologically advanced economy and modern society based on the universal principles of equality, justice and the rule of law.
What is the essence of these transformations? We can state in short that they are aimed at improving the efficiency of our political and economic institutions.
Armenia is a country that has no direct access to the sea, with limited economic and natural resources and a difficult geographical position in terms of logistics corridors and the geopolitical features of the region. These challenges are prompting us to be in permanent search of ways of increasing competitiveness and efficiency. What does this mean for us?
First of all, this means increasing efficiency in the state governance system. I can say with full confidence that we have already managed to achieve tangible results in this regard.
Systemic corruption has been eradicated in the country. The activity of artificial monopolies and oligopolies is minimized. However, we faced a fundamental problem while trying to improve the economic and political environment of our country.
The judicial power, unlike the executive and legislative branches where we made tangible progress in terms of optimizing institutions, has not been subject to any tangible transformation. As a result, there was a huge breach in public confidence in the judiciary. And this, in turn, creates serious obstacles to the development of the country as a whole.
All our efforts to protect capital, create equal conditions for economic activity and a favorable environment for attracting foreign investment cannot lead to the desired result if the judiciary is not qualitatively transformed.
Therefore, the creation of a truly independent judiciary, free from corruption and political influence, is today a pressing problem for our society and a priority in the reform strategy of the Armenian government.
The second priority is the full use of the potential inherent in foreign economic relations and participation in international integration structures. Institutionalizing access to global economic centers and activity is extremely important for countries like Armenia. This primarily relates to our cooperation with the Russian Federation and participation in the Eurasian Economic Union.
We are committed to the further improvement of our strategic partnership with Russia and the most productive participation in the Union. To this end, we will make every effort to improve cooperation mechanisms and maximize integration between the members of our association. This is also true for our CSTO membership.
I would like to emphasize our interest in expanding the geographic coverage of EAEU’s foreign economic relations. China is of particular importance in this respect. I am pleased to note that for a month now, we have achieved a high dynamics in the development of bilateral relations with China, which plays a key role in the global economy.
As an EAEU-member country, we see the importance of creating institutional cooperation between various integration associations and projects. I am prioritizing the idea of pairing the EAEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt. It seems to be both logical and reasonable. I also consider as quite promising the policy of seeking closer cooperation between the EAEU and the European Union. I feel that such cooperation is feasible and even inevitable if not in the near future, but at least in the medium term.
Armenia has signed an enhanced partnership agreement with the EU, which we intend to use with maximum efficiency for the design and implementation of reforms in our country. Partnership with the EU in no way contradicts our membership of the EAEU. They are complementing each other and enriching our capabilities with new comparative advantages.
The third priority is the most effective use of human resources. Human capital is our core asset. Our government seeks to create favorable conditions for full development of our citizens’ creative, intellectual and business potential. We intend to make Armenia heaven on earth for talented people.
We see the future of Armenia in the development of an innovative economy. It has no alternative for a country like Armenia. The technological sector is a top priority for us. Education in this regard is of particular importance. Armenia inherited a strong school of physics and mathematics from Soviet times, and today we are doing everything possible to consolidate and use this potential.
Over the past seven years, the IT and high-tech sectors have grown fivefold in Armenia. They have become the drivers of Armenia’s economic growth and most promising industries.
Education and innovation, cooperation and integration, the rule of law and good governance are what we believe to be our competitive edge, which will help us tap our resources and provide conditions for sustainable economic development.
We think that we have already embarked on this path, because in the first quarter of this year, Armenia recorded a GDP growth of 7.1%, while the economic activity index rose to 9.2% in April.
International business is invited to invest in Armenia. We have even formulated a motto for potential investors: we invite them to get richer and enrich our country.
Prior to the plenary session, Nikol Pashinyan toured the stands of an exhibition organized as part of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The Premier got acquainted with the achievements of participating companies.
During the tour, the Prime Minister was interviewed by Euronews, RIA Novosti and CGTV.
* * *
On the margins of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with VTB Bank President and Board Chairman Andrei Kostin.
The Premier stressed the importance of VTB Bank’s involvement in Armenia’s financial market and its active investment activities in various sectors of the economy.
The meeting focused on issues related to the expansion of VTB Bank’s activities in Armenia. Andrei Kostin gave details of the process of commissioning the Teghut mine and outlined their future plans.