Someone well versed in Armenian politics has published a stark warning against holding a major conference of the European Movement in Yerevan in October 2011, attended by Catherine Ashton (the European Union’s foreign-policy high representative), Armenia’s president and other dignitaries. The author’s name is Armen Haykyan, which is a nickname sounding like “Armenian Armenian”. But the identity of the author is not really relevant. The warning is and I urge you to read it.
While the European Union plans the next steps with its eastern neighbours, the post-Soviet states are comfortably adjusting their own rhetoric and facade to cope with the new doctrines emanating from Brussels. The story of one leading business-political figure illustrates the mismatch between foreign ambitions and domestic realities.
A few years ago a well-known oligarch, one of the five richest people in Armenia, the beer-vodka-liqueur “tsar” Gagik Tsarukyan was chosen – along with France’s then ambassador – the country’s “best European of the year”. The winners appeared together at the award ceremony, smiling and shaking hands. It as a piquant combination, for Mr Tsarukyan – as well as being Armenia’s best European – is an oligarch, a good friend of Belarus, Russia, and Iran, and the leader of a major political party which is a constituent of Armenia’s ruling coalition.
Mr Tsarukyan is a major benefactor. His summer camps for kids from poor families are shown on his TV channel for hours during the entire season. His new project is a Russian-Armenian NGO Union, to whose inaugural event he brought forty Russian NGOs and 200 Armenian ones; naturally, he became its chair. Still, this activism is not enough, for there are political and electoral ambitions to be met.
This is where Europe plays an important part in keeping Mr Tsarukyan’s ego afloat. He is promising to convene a major conference of the European Movement in Yerevan in October 2011, attended by Catherine Ashton (the European Union’s foreign-policy high representative), Armenia’s president and other dignitaries.
Europe should beware. By endorsing this proposal, the European Movement will undermine all the anti-corruption work that the EU has tried to accomplish, and tarnish even further its already battered image in Armenia.
Please read the full article here.
PS: I remember, when I first heard of Tsarukian being declared Armenia’s “Best European,” it blew my mind…