Raffi Hovhannisyan

“The siege of Artsakh should have the same effect as the siege and fall of Constantinople for Europe.” what happened at the session of the EPP political assembly? The interlocutor of “Aravot” is Raffi Hovhannisian, the leader of the “Heritage” party and the first foreign minister of RA.


– Recently, the session of the EPP political assembly took place in Helsinki. On the first day of work, in the open part of the session, you also gave a speech and raised the issue of imposing sanctions against Azerbaijan. The audience responded warmly to your address; however, the speakers, the EPP President, and the European Parliament President have yet to respond to your questions. How would you interpret that?

– First, we should act more and talk less. When we return home from international courts, it is not essential what an individual or a party has done; what matters is that we act. And when we have documents corresponding to the interests of Armenia or pro-Armenian developments, they should not be attributed to our work or grace. If something, a step, was done by my colleague, by another party, or by me, we should be quietly satisfied that we participated. Still, that work was mainly done by Europe, the USA, the Russian Federation, and Iran if that work has been done in the given case.

I have been doing this for 30 years, and I rarely address it, neither with a press conference nor with a message; this is ongoing work; once in a while, it has an impact, but once in a while, the effect is not immediately visible, once in a while different people’s speeches, closed meetings with the heads of European structures, or leaders of influential parties, something else. All those drops become something: one sentence in the resolution, one deputy’s speech in the Council of Ministers, or one article.

Its invisible connections, one door opens another, and you can’t say I did it. In this case, there were two possibilities in Helsinki: the panel discussion on the first day featured three high-ranking European officials who spoke about Europe as a driver of security values and defense. It was a very general conversation that had nothing to do with Armenia: Ukraine, military, civilian cooperation, Southern politics, and others; there was almost nothing about the Caucasus. There was time and opportunity for three questions. As a representative of the observer-member organization, I already had a speech the next day of work, so I had to think whether it was worth asking for a vote. But since there were high-ranking people, I thought it was worth it. First, the Ukrainian made a speech. Applause, etc., as it is perceptible to them, the consciousness and thought of all Europe is there. Then, the former Prime Minister of France spoke, then I. It was the end, time was running out, and people were restless. I told them there is another place, a little East, then the focus of your interest. However, you have to decide whether this should be a question of European values, security, and defense. Because Armenia and Artsakh is a place that is now under siege by a war criminal, his elder brother, NATO member Turkey, wants to destroy that part of European civilization. Turkey, a NATO ally, wants to keep Finland and Sweden out of NATO.

I said that the siege of Artsakh, which was then entering its 90th day, should have the same effect as the siege and fall of Constantinople for Europe, which they may not feel today, but will feel later. And I made it so that you are already doing your job; you should have reports dedicated to Azerbaijan and Armenia soon, but not only kind words and wording should solve this issue, but you should also go a step further to sanctions.

Because if there is no sanction against the perpetrator of genocide, the war criminal, there is no EPP as a driving force in European security, values, and protection. I said that I did not leave Armenia to beg them for anything; they should decide, this is your business, and while you are talking about a dictatorship from your point of view, as a fetish, you should think if there are other dictatorships, Azerbaijan, Turkey.

The same Azerbaijan that takes repackaged gas from Russia and gives it to you, and some of your leaders, EPP members, and the same President of the European Commission said, “Azerbaijan is our reliable partner.” Well, then, you decide for yourself: what is the European value of remote security? Since the discussion was not dedicated to the problems of the Caucasus, to Armenia, this, in the end, was a bit like a cold shower, which did not imply any enthusiasm, just a little confrontation for Europe.

And on the second day, I already developed that approach in my speech, emphasizing democracy and our internal problems; four years ago, a national upsurge, a hope for democracy, also landed. Returning to Artsakh and international relations, I insisted that Europe should never put a sign of equality between the perpetrator of genocide and the one who resisted it.


– What impression did you get from your contacts towards the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh, and, generally, the region? What is the attitude of the European political forces?

– In general, from the environment, emotional background, and speeches of political assemblies and congresses in the recent period, I can say that there was almost a single-target situation, and Europe, on the international stage, was targeting Ukraine, also organizationally, on elections in EPP member states. But, recently, partly due to geopolitical competition with Russia, but rather due to the quality of our participation, both in bilateral meetings and in public speeches, our positions have become more purposeful, accessible, and also interconnected through various documents and steps. That is positive and encouraging, but we should not be under any illusions because we have not seen a significant change in the general policy. We hope to see more far-reaching changes with comprehensive, systematic work. The latest adopted reports significantly differ from their predecessors, opening a window of opportunity.


Interview: Nelly GRIGORYAN

“Aravot” newspaper