Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Armenia-Netherlands Diplomatic Dialogue

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Diplomat Magazine
Diplomat Magazinehttp://www.diplomatmagazine.eu
DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands. Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. "Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions." Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Publisher

Diplomat Magazine recently had the privilege of meeting with H.E. Ambassador Viktor Biyagov for a productive and enlightening conversation about Armenia and the Netherlands.

How would you describe the current state of diplomatic relations between Armenia and the Netherlands? Any recent developments highlighting collaboration?

On January 30, 1992, Armenia and the Netherlands formalised their long-standing connections by establishing diplomatic relations. However, defining the Armenian-Dutch relations solely from the establishment of diplomatic ties would be a major understatement. As early as in the 4th century, an Armenian, Saint Servatius of Maastricht, became the first bishop of the Netherlands, bridging the historical, spiritual and cultural traditions between the two nations. 

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the vibrant port of Amsterdam played a crucial role as a significant hub for Armenian merchants engaging in the trade of textiles, gems, and diamonds. This activity transformed the city into a major centre of Armenian commercial and cultural life.

The same period of history also witnessed one of the most memorable milestones of Armenian typography. In 1660 a printing house was established in Amsterdam, where in 1664 the first Armenian publication of the Holy Bible was carried out.  

The 32 years of diplomatic ties between the Netherlands and Armenia have witnessed notable achievements. Among them the establishment of the embassies in both countries, which has significantly contributed to expanding cooperation in various spheres such as education, agriculture, water management, technology etc. 

Armenia and the Netherlands share multifaceted relations encompassing trade, investment, and cultural exchange that has evolved into a strong political dialogue based on universal values of democracy, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

It is with deep appreciation that Armenia acknowledges the invaluable support of the Netherlands during these historically challenging times for Armenia. The recent contribution of the Netherlands to the Global Concessional Funding Facility for Armenia was welcomed with much gratitude. 

H.E. Viktor Biyagov, Ambassador of Armenia.

What opportunities and challenges exist in enhancing commercial ties between Armenia and the Netherlands? Any specific sectors for collaboration?

The main perspectives of economic development between Armenia and the Netherlands are seen in the fields of agriculture, water management, IT sector and tourism.

Armenia stands out for its agrobiodiversity, with a conducive climate for robust agriculture, particularly in areas like modern greenhouses, wine production, and organic agriculture. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, being the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, focuses on importing a limited amount of processed goods from Armenia. The growth potential for Armenia lies in exporting, where Dutch technology and companies aim to play a role in supporting Armenian businesses to become global net-exporters.

Armenia is emerging as a regional hub for technology and innovation, propelled by its competitive workforce, the sector’s contribution to GDP, and a growing number of companies with increasing turnovers. Notably, Armenia has firmly established its position on the global IT map, emphasising its dedication to the continued development of this highly promising economic sector.

Tourism stands as a key driver of the Armenian economy, marked as a priority by the Armenian government. The sector’s continuous growth aligns with ongoing government support and increasing interest in Armenia. 

Speaking of tourism, I cannot help but state that Armenia is an impressive combination of old and new, of peaceful countryside and vibrant city life, of historical monuments and modern attractions. 

Armenia boasts more than 700 tourist attractions, among them UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, The Cathedral of Ejmiatsin, the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots as well as the Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley. 

Our country has gained a new wave of attraction over the past couple of years also due to the series of festivals that take place in different cities of Armenia. Annual festival “Yerevan Wine Days” has already become the favourite event not only for locals, but for thousands of tourists as well. This is definitely a must try experience in Armenia, which is a unique way to get to know the Armenian culture, rich history and everyday life, all through wine.

Speaking of wine, not everyone probably knows that the history of winemaking in Armenia dates back to more than 6100 years ago, when the first production of wine began in a cave near Areni village, in Vayots Dzor province of Armenia, which after thousands of years remains the main wine producing region in Armenia. Recent excavations and scientific research uncovered that the cave of Areni was an ancient ritual site where wine production played an integral part. Laboratory research conducted by scientists of Oxford and California universities verify that in the face of Areni cave complex we deal with the world’s oldest and most complete wine production facility, with its wine press, large karases for fermentation and storage, as well as jars of around 6000 years.

And today, millennia later from the very first try, wine production is amongst the biggest booming industries in Armenia. 

As it has been announced, the Armenian government has embarked on an ambitious agenda of diversification of the country’s economy, by identifying and actively engaging in new export opportunities with different countries including from the European Union.

How does the embassy promote Armenian culture in the Netherlands and foster cultural exchange?

First of all, I would like to note that as different as our cultures seem from the first sight, the Armenian and Dutch people are united by the universal human values they share. This brings the societies closer and the cultural bonds develop around the keenness of learning more about each other’s culture.

The cultural bonds between Armenia and the Netherlands have deepened, as both countries actively encourage cultural exchanges, cultivating a more profound understanding and admiration for each other’s heritage. This commitment is evident in a variety of events, exhibitions, and academic programs, fostering enduring connections between the people of Armenia and the Netherlands.

Our embassy is involved in various activities, including cultural events, exhibitions, educational programs, all aimed at enriching understanding and promoting tolerance.

The embassy is also actively using its social media platforms to promote Armenian culture, make it more visible and attractive for our Dutch friends. 

I am also very happy to share with our readers that by a decision adopted during the 42nd session of the UNESCO General Conference, the 100th anniversaries of Charles Aznavour and Sergei Parajanov were included in the UNESCO Calendar of anniversaries of eminent personalities and important events for the 2024-2025 cycle.

I am confident that our Dutch friends will have opportunities to enjoy the legacy of these renowned Armenian artists in the Netherlands as well. 

Can you share insights into current trade dynamics between Armenia and the Netherlands? Efforts to encourage investment?

It is of utmost importance to note that the Armenian government is unwavering in its commitment to create an investment-friendly atmosphere, increasing the transparency of the regulatory framework and ensuring that business owners feel secure and protected in our country.

The efforts of the Armenian government are further enhanced by the expertise and knowledge of our international partners, which bring forth new ideas and opportunities.

Armenia follows an “open door” investment policy, which successfully ranks the country as one of the most open investment regimes among emerging market countries.

The extensive opportunities offered to investors include: 100% property ownership, the ability for Armenian-registered companies to acquire land, unrestricted currency exchange at market rates, duty-free import of personal items for foreign employees, and more.

A milestone was reached recently in Brussels, on 5 April, 2024, where the EU and USA jointly committed to a new package of grants aimed at strengthening the resilience of the Armenian economy and society. It will be targeted to supporting local businesses, talents, small and medium enterprises, making them more accessible to new markets. 

The plan envisages new investment opportunities in key infrastructure projects, including the Black Sea electricity cable, cross-border transport and much more. 

It is noteworthy that the “Crossroads of Peace”, an ambitious project introduced by the Government of Armenia, was also welcomed during the aforementioned meeting. With this project the Government of the Republic of Armenia reaffirms its commitment to contribute to regional peace and stability. The key essence of the project is the development of communications between the countries of the region, enabling connectivity between the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulfs, playing an instrumental role in connecting North to South and West to East. 

It is our strong belief that only a secure and stable environment can pave the way for foreign investments and ensure a robust economy. 

Coming to the commercial links between Armenia and the Netherlands, it should be noted that the Netherlands is one of the leading trade partners of Armenia among the countries of the European Union. Over the years, various Dutch entities, notably the senior advisors’ organisation PUM, have played a significant role, resulting in the growing interest of numerous Dutch companies in the Armenian economy. Thanks to PUM, hundreds of professionals, small and medium-sized enterprises in Armenia were offered high-quality consulting, advanced technologies and best practices. 

Trade links between Armenia and the Netherlands involve a diverse array of goods and services. The Netherlands, as a key hub for international trade, has played a vital role in facilitating Armenia’s entry into European markets. The exchange includes machinery, chemicals, agricultural products, and high-tech goods. 

The technology sector has been a key focus of collaboration. Dutch businesses seeking technological solutions have found reliable partners in Armenian IT companies, known for innovation and a skilled workforce. 

Given the championing role that the Netherlands plays in the field of water management, this sector also bears a huge potential of future cooperation between our countries.  

The trade and investment relations between Armenia and the Netherlands exemplifies the potential for collaboration between nations with distinct histories and economic structures. This partnership has not only driven economic growth but also facilitated the exchange of knowledge, technology, and cultural experiences. As both countries navigate through global challenges, continued cooperation in trade and investment will play a crucial role in fostering mutual prosperity and sustainable development.

What areas of collaboration are being explored to strengthen the relationship? Any upcoming events or initiatives for both countries?

There are several initiatives on the way to be shared with the interested public. But I would like to draw the attention of Dutch art lovers on the 100th anniversaries of Charles Aznavour and Sergei Parajanov. We are hopeful that through upcoming initiatives the legacy of these artists will resonate in the Netherlands again.

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