Monthly Archives: May 2010

OSCE Minsk Group Undermines Karabakh’s Resolve

Karabakh Holds Parliamentary Elections

Artur at The Armenian Observer Blog wrote a post yesterday about the OSCE Minsk Group’s reaction to the Nagorno-Karabakh parliamentary elections that were held on Sunday. He comments that:

More than 70 percent of some 95,000 eligible voters turned out to vote in the poll, where 33 parliamentary mandates were contested on split proportional and majority lists. The elections were peaceful, well organized, and quite democratic, even if no party formed any real political opposition to the incumbent president, and prime minister’s party won the majority.

He was justifiably irate that the Minsk Group, which is supposed to be officiating the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, released the following statement:

MOSCOW/PARIS/WASHINGTON, 24 May 2010 – The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ambassador Igor Popov of Russia, Bernard Fassier of France, and Robert Bradtke of the United States, released the following statement today:

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (Ambassador Bernard Fassier of France; Ambassador Robert Bradtke of the United States; Ambassador Igor Popov of the Russian Federation) took note that so-called parliamentary elections took place in Nagorno-Karabakh on May 23, 2010. Although the Co-Chairs understand the need for the de facto authorities in NK to try to organize democratically the public life of their population with such a procedure, they underscore again that Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized as an independent and sovereign state by any of their three countries, nor by any other country, including Armenia. The Co-Chairs consider that this procedure should not preempt the determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the broader framework of the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The OSCE Minsk Group has been operating since the mid-1990s, they’ve been there every step of the way since the cease-fire in 1994. The group knows exactly what the people of Nagorno-Karabakh obviously wanted and what they were fighting for–self-governance and self-determination. So how can they say the “so-called parliamentary elections,” also referred to as a “procedure,” “…should not preempt the determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh.” Of course it does. It has been since 1991, when Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself independent. Why would Russia of all countries put its name on this tersely worded statement? Russia started this mess to begin with during Stalin’s reign. Has the OSCE forgotten?

Does Armenia and even Azerbaijan actually trust the Minsk Group and its efforts in helping to establish peace? What has the group actually accomplished in all these years, save for making vague statements about mutually acceptable conditions for peace and undefined security guarantees? It’s very proud of the so-called “Madrid Principles” that you often read about in the news without having a clear understanding of what they actually are, since they are supposedly kept secret (although rumor has it that all territories are expected to be returned to Azerbaijani control, with Karabakh given some kind of neutral interim status until the “final status” is determined in some sort of “referendum”).  But who is really taking the group seriously anymore?

Why does this process continue if there doesn’t seem to be any trust? With this statement, the Minsk Group is not showing any support or respect whatsoever for what the people of Nagorno-Karabakh want and died for. Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence is not recognized by any of the three Minsk Group member states, that’s certainly true. Yet its resolve must be recognized. The Karabakh people clearly know what they want. Problem is, the Minsk Group after all these years still undermines that. That’s precisely why a solution hasn’t been reached until now.

Photo credit: Photolur

10 Percent Growth in Armenia’s GDP?

dollarsYesterday I read an article that explained the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is forecasting a whopping 10 percent growth in Armenia’s GDP for 2010. That’s right, 10 percent. And that’s up from a previous estimate of 2 percent.

Why? According to the EBRD press release, the high amount of cash expected to flow into the country from loans and remittances this year is to account for the growth. This means Armenia’s economy is still internationally acknowledged to be chiefly dependent on foreign aid, nothing more. Armenia’s financial situation is clearly not rock solid if it needs to rely primarily on a constant cash influx in order to survive.

Here’s what the report stated:

Armenia has seen an exceptionally sharp output contraction as remittances fell, and the remittances-fuelled construction boom came to an abrupt halt. Preliminary data suggest that vigorous growth has returned in recent months following growth in remittances, an agreement on an IMF programme and substantial financing from other IFIs and bilateral donors.

Contrary to what I used to speculate, there doesn’t seem to be any near-term or long-term concern for Armenia’s economy to flounder, so long as the cash continues to pour in. Naturally, this isn’t necessarily good. Armenia needs to ultimately figure out how it can become self-sustainable without the reliance of foreign assistance that can’t possibly last forever. The country’s economy needs to stand solid on its own two feet and not depend on crutches indefinitely, and that’s a huge challenge. But there doesn’t seem to be any concern about that. Armenians are simply not worried about the bottom dropping out. But is that a bad thing?

Photo credit: Leonardini

Are Foreign Language Schools a Threat to Armenia?

I was recently invited to join a Facebook group called (translated from Armenian) “We Are Opposed to the Reopening of Foreign-language Schools.” Apparently this is a reactionary movement to a planned boarding school that will be opened in Dilijan sometime in 2013. It will be called the Digital International School of Armenia and is supported by the Armenian government.

From what I understand, the group is essentially against education being taught to students in languages other than Armenian. This mindset is a bit ironic seeing that Russian-languages schools existed in Armenia during Soviet times and were in some ways considered superior to Armenian schools. Also Armenian was certainly taught in those schools, although the overall education, like mathematics and science, was given primarily in Russian. Apparently the Ministry of Education is proposing an amendment to the law on language so that the Dilijan school can operate legally.

Behind this school are several intellectuals and influential businessmen–both Armenian and non-Armenian. One of them is the former president of Brown University and current president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Vartan Gregorian. Another trustees member is fellow Bostonian Noubar Afeyan, a highly successful entrepreneur who had a lot to do with strengthening the good reputation of the St. Stephen’s Elementary School in Watertown, Massachusetts, where students learn Armenian as part of their daily curriculum.

One of the goals of the Dilijan School, according to the web site, is to provide students with the “ability to interact with people of different cultures and backgrounds, building and supporting ties is essential for individuals in the dynamic global community.” So why are some Armenians opposed to that? What is so wrong with getting a primary education taught in the English language if it will prepare students for global learning, awareness and presumably national leadership? Opponents seem to believe that the national law declaring Armenian as the state language will be violated with the functioning of this school. I haven’t seen anything on the school’s web site mentioning that Armenian will not be taught or else be banned from being spoken, so I don’t see the problem.

Now if opponents think that opening new foreign language schools should not be a solution to the broken educational system of Armenia, they are right. The corrupted educational system is in dire need of overhaul, there’s no doubt about that. All you have to do is listen to teenagers speak Armenian to realize something is quite wrong. However, society has really nothing to fear from foreign language schools being opened, especially if the education offered at such schools will be superior to that offered in public school systems. I am assuming that the Dilijan school will be private–if that’s the case, it’s not a good thing necessarily since any child who can demonstrate prowess should be allowed to attend for free, regardless of financial background. However, apparently that is not the case. I think more information is needed about what this school intends to instill before people jump to conclusions believing that education in Armenia as we know it is under threat. If opponents to the school really want to be constructive, they should campaign for the Minister of Education to crack down on corruption rather than oppose this school and others like it from opening because they will violate the law on language or whatever else.

I really think this movement is flawed, the focus should be redirected at overhauling Armenia’s educational system on a global scale. Let’s focus on schools in the regions first by making sure they all have decent sanitary conditions, heating systems, and roofs. In the meantime, let students be taught in English if they want to be, I cannot find anything wrong in that, especially when they aspire to become successful movers and shakers in their communities.