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Authors: Grigor Hayrapetyan and Viktoriya Hayrapetyan
Abstract: Unfavorable geopolitical situation and small scale of economy, trade balance deficit and raw-materials export enforce Armenia to look for new geographical and product perspectives in its foreign trade. Our paper aims to estimate trade potential for Armenia by product groups in regional and international directions using gravity approach. Applied gravity model estimates trade flows, which are disaggregated into 7 groups according to BEC’s 1-digit classification, between 139 countries during 2003-2007. Our key findings imply that trade relations of Armenia with most of main trade partners have no potential to develop. Armenia has exceeded its export potential almost with all the CIS countries. Trade relations with the EU countries should be re-considered on both product and geographical directions. Re-opening of Armenian-Turkish border could provide significant economic benefit for Armenian exporters. The most perspective product groups of Armenian export seem to be “Industrial supplies”, “Food and beverages”, and “Consumer goods”.
A few weeks ago there was a “occupation” of sorts of liberty square by a main opposition group here in Armenia. I realized that I did not know very much about what these opposition leaders wanted to so I have dug around and here is what I have found so far:
Formed in 2008, the Armenian National Congress, (Հայ Ազգային Կոնգրես) or HAK, is the main opposition coalition of 13 political parties. They are led by the first president of Armenian, Leon Ter-Pertrossyan. The group lists several demands on its website, which include the following:
The immediate release of all political prisoners.
- Attaining complete freedom of speech, access to media, and assembly.
- Truly independent investigation of the crimes of March 1 with the significant participation of International experts.
- Initiation of a dialogue with the authorities about democratic reforms after the fulfillment of at least the first condition..
- Holding of pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections.
We call on all parties, organizations and citizens who are concerned about the fate of the homeland to apply for membership of Armenian National Congress in large numbers.
While at first glance these may seem like demands that could at the very least not hurt the citizens of Armenia and most likely increase their rights we also must look at why this group was formed and where its issues with the current government come from.
One of the main issues that must be recognized is the leader of this party. As stated above, Ter-Pertrossyan was the first president (of 3 total) of Armenian but he was also the candidate who narrowly lost the disputed elections in 2008. Ter-Pertrossyan started his political resurgence in 2007 by criticizing Robert Kocharyan and his prime minister and current president, Serzh Sargayan. Specifically, he accused them of abuse of power and stealing billions of dollars from the Armenian people. While I have no idea if these claims are true or not, I wonder if having one of the three men who have governed the country and narrowly lost a bid reclaim the presidency lead a movement for greater transparency and freedom is either; one, insincere or two, not the best way to inspire a grass roots movement.
These criticisms aside, it does seem that the HAK is as strong of an opposition as Armenia has had in a long time, if not ever. And while the leader can hardly be called an outsider or a real change in the power structure of the country, from what I have read in the past, Ter-Pertrossyan has shown signs of having more democractic leanings and less ideological driven in foreign policy than his two successors.
As for their most recent protests, the HAK set up tents and camped out in Freedom Square. The purpose of these protests was to force the government into a dialog focused on the demands that I have listed above as well as the release of a political activist named Tigran Arakelyan. While it is somewhat unclear if there was an agreement reached, Ter-Pertrossyan did call off the rally. He also stated that from here on the sole mission of the opposition would be to seek the resignation of President Sargayan. Unfortunately, this again starts to sound a little bit more like a personal feud than a legitimate opposition pushing main for freedoms of the people.
I should also note that there is a second, if less vocal opposition group called the Heritage Party. I was unable to find much about them though it seems that they are a more true pro-democracy left party.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy came to Yerevan and called on Turkey to recognize “genocide”. Was this a show to true ideological solidarity or a bit of political pandering to the nearly half million French-Armenians in an election year?
|—||Polish Ambassador to Armenia Zdislav Rachinsky|