YEREVAN. – The UK is among countries who warmly welcome the signature of a new deal between the European Union and Armenia. In an interview with Armenian News-NEWS.am UK Ambassador to Armenia Mrs. Judith Farnworth spoke about the advantages of the deal as well as prospects for development of Armenia-UK relations after Brexit.
The EU-Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. The UK expressed its full support to the Eastern Partnership. How will the signing of this agreement affect the development of relations between the UK and Armenia? How do you see the development of relations between our countries after Brexit?
The UK warmly welcomes the signature of CEPA between the EU and Armenia, which will open up opportunities for cooperation across a wide range of areas. Most importantly, it will provide support to Armenia’s democratic and economic reform programme, which the National Assembly endorsed last summer. We see CEPA as having the potential to bring significant benefits to Armenian citizens. Whilst the UK is leaving the European Union, we will retain the same shared values and a strong interest in supporting Armenia’s development as a prosperous, democratic and resilient country.
I am confident that bilateral relations between Armenia and the UK will go from strength to strength after Brexit. There is already some concrete evidence of this. Firstly, in the recent decision to include Armenia as a beneficiary of in the UK Government’s Good Governance Fund from April 2018, unlocking significantly more money to support governance and economic reforms in Armenia. And the Prime Minister’s appointment of Mark Pritchard, MP, as her Trade and Investment Envoy to Armenia last autumn is a clear indication of our intention to thicken and diversify trade relations between our two countries. So I am very optimistic about the future of bilateral relations.
UK is one of the parties to fund “Support to the implementation of the judicial reform in Armenia” project which supposes providing support to post-constitution reform process in Armenia. How will the UK monitor the implementation of the project? Is there any mechanism to monitor the implementation of the reforms?
Following on from your previous question, this is a great example of UK-EU cooperation in support of Armenian democratic reforms as we are jointly funding this Council of Europe-led project. A functioning justice system and effective rule of law are essential to the democracy, resilience and prosperity of any country. UK support is focused on development of mediation and arbitration, two important alternative dispute resolution mechanisms which are already well-established and widely-used in the UK to resolve matters ranging from commercial to family disputes. They are usually cheaper, quicker and less adversarial than pursuing a matter through the courts. This project will support the establishment of nationwide mediation and arbitration bodies with clear remits and ethical guidelines, which we hope will become better understood and more widely used in Armenia – not least because this would reduce the burden on the court system. We are also supporting enhancement of the institutional capacities of the Chamber of Advocates to enable them better to explain and uphold the rights of their clients thus reducing scope for intimidation, interference and harassment – and ultimately, miscarriages of justice. All of these measures can contribute to greater access to justice and public confidence in the justice system of Armenia.
As regards the monitoring of the project, all projects which we support must have clear indicators of success – specific outputs and outcomes, which can be used to measure their effectiveness and impact. These are monitored continuously throughout the project to ensure it is on track and delivering agreed results. Once the project is over, its impact will be measured through external assessments carried out, for example, by Council of Europe peer review and EU monitoring. The Government of Armenia, which commissioned the project in the first place, will also be making its own assessment. And last but not least, Armenian citizens should be able to judge whether the project has delivered tangible benefits for them in accessing justice.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed MP Mark Pritchard, as a British Trade Envoy to Georgia and Armenia. During his visit to Yerevan Mr. Pritchard said there is huge potential for the development of economic ties with Armenia. What are the main areas UK wants to develop except for mining industry?
First of all, I’d point out that British companies are already active in the Armenian market not just in mining and exploration but also in sectors such as banking and finance, pharmaceutical, chemical and construction materials, automotive industry, design and construction, retail and education. The Embassy continues to build on the success of last year’s trade mission of local ICT companies to the UK, which has already produced concrete results. For example, the British cyber security firm VST Enterprises is about to launch its operations in Armenia.
The UK has considerable expertise in consultancy on infrastructure, transport and tourism development and I am pleased that UK companies are already engaging with or planning to engage in the Armenian market in these sectors.
But as Mr Pritchard has said, there is significant untapped potential. Of course it is up to individual businesses to decide for themselves, but we see significant untapped opportunities for cooperation in the areas of ICT, education, green energy, service provision, finance and banking. We are working closely with the Development Foundation of Armenia and Mark Pritchard to ensure that British businesses are aware of the opportunities in Armenia and can navigate the market successfully.
Direct flights between the countries are essential for the development of economic ties. Is launch of Yerevan London direct flight on the agenda?
Direct flights aren’t necessarily essential, but they certainly facilitate commercial and people-to-people contacts. I’d be delighted to see direct flights between Armenia and the UK and it is something that Armenian ministers have often raised in my discussions with them. As I have explained to them, unfortunately this isn’t something that the UK Government can deliver – we can’t tell private airlines what to do. All airlines make decisions based on their own business interests and consumer demand. If they see that it is lucrative to fly to Yerevan or Gyumri – which means that the costs of landing and refueling are attractive; there are no bureaucratic, technical or policy barriers; and there is strong passenger demand - they will come. The signing of EU-Armenia Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and Armenia’s liberalization of its civil aviation under the “open skies” policy, may create new opportunities and incentives for European carriers, including those from the UK. If Armenia successfully develops a high-profile tourism strategy as it is planning, this is bound to increase demand for flights into Armenia. We can – and do - flag up those opportunities, but ultimately, British air carriers will always make decisions based on their commercial interests.