Dear Mr. President,
Dear Mr. Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to welcome the participants of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Standing Committee meeting in Yerevan. I hope that having PACE meetings in our capital, as part of Armenia’s chairmanship in the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers will open a unique page in the history of relations between Armenia and the Council of Europe.
The European direction of Armenia’s foreign policy and the Euro-integration processes are a result of a conscious choice anchored on our common system of values, rich cultural and Christian heritage - a choice, that stems from our domestic agenda. Indeed, Armenia is a part of the European civilization, with its past as well as its present, and committed to strengthening of democracy, ensuring the rule of law and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights. It is with this intention and understanding that Armenia joined the Council of Europe twelve years ago in 2001, thus reconfirming its historical and cultural belonging to the European system of values.
Today, the Republic of Armenia, represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has assumed the chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, for the first time since becoming a Council of Europe member. This is a significant event and a great responsibility for us.
The Republic of Armenia assumes its chairmanship with an ambitious agenda, the key elements of which include addressing challenges facing the Council of Europe, such as intolerance, xenophobia and racism. We will take all possible measures, including inter-cultural dialogue, to overcome these challenges effectively during our chairmanship.
The commitment to strengthening democracy and persistent protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms comes with a deep conviction and conscientious attitude of the Armenian authorities. This commitment is also the reason why the Republic of Armenia is ready to support the ambitious programme initiated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe aimed at increasing the role and effectiveness of the Council of Europe.
The mankind has been fighting against intolerance, racism and xenophobia for centuries. However, as you can see, these problems still remain on the agenda. In this age of globalization with large-scale and sometimes even non-regulated movement of people, the cultural environment is becoming increasingly diverse, which brings forth new social and political challenges. In this regard, intolerance is one of the most serious challenges for Europe today. It is appropriate to remember the following words by Mahatma Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Intolerance breeds racism, xenophobia, discrimination and violence that end up with conflicts. In this context, the Council of Europe should play a more practical and targeted role by applying the whole range of the legal tools in its rich arsenal.
I would like to put a special emphasis on the importance of the announcement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia declaring the intercultural dialogue as a priority. Historically being at the crossroads of different cultures and civilizations and having a rich cultural heritage, Armenia has been in the center of mutual cultural influences for centuries long. All European countries have also been subjected to such influence. This has provided a unique opportunity to enrich each other’s cultures, respect each other’s traditions and, therefore, co-exist in peace, because respect for other cultures, religions and traditions lies in the basis of tolerance. Our primary and common goal is to strengthen the unity between different peoples and promote better understanding of their spiritual values.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate Armenia’s commitment to its policy of integration with the European institutions. We have sufficient political will to move the process of reforms forward, to build a secure and democratic state. This is the choice of our people and our citizens. To achieve this goal, we reiterate our readiness to cooperate actively and effectively with the European institutions.
Once again, I welcome you in Yerevan and wish you success in your endeavors.