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It’s wonderful to be here with you this evening to celebrate Armenia’s National Day as well as the 28th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia regaining its independence. On behalf of the German Government, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere congratulations to all Armenians.
According to an Armenian proverb, mountains don’t provide mutual support, but people do. And just as individuals lean and rely on each other, entire societies do the exact same thing. I believe this proverb is a very fitting reflection of relations between our countries. We are grateful for the cooperation which has developed between Armenia and Germany over the last 27 years, which is based not only on the commitment of our governments and politicians but, above all, on the efforts of our civil societies, academia, cultural sectors and business communities. Representatives of German development cooperation, too, have been involved for more than 25 years now.
We in Germany followed the Velvet Revolution in your country around a year and a half ago with great interest and admiration for the peaceful campaign conducted by a vibrant and diverse civil society. We subsequently experienced a welcome intensification of our political dialogue: Chancellor Merkel visited Yerevan in August 2018, while the Armenian President came to Berlin in November followed by the Armenian Prime Minister in early February 2019 and the President of Armenia’s National Assembly in March. We remain committed to the dialogue at all levels and are looking forward to future exchanges of views.
However, political dialogue alone is not enough. Culture, education and academia are key pillars of our bilateral relations.
The Goethe-Zentrum in Yerevan is a very popular showcase for our country, the German language and culture. Within the scope of the Cultural Preservation Programme, the documentation of prehistoric petroglyphs has been funded, as has an examination of the restoration and digitisation of the Matenadran manuscripts.
Learning the German language plays an important role in many schools and universities in Armenia. Together with French, German is the third‑most important foreign language in Armenia. In many cases, young people’s interest in Germany continues during their studies. The German Academic Exchange Service enables several hundred Armenians to study at German institutions each semester.
Furthermore, since its foundation in 1953, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has awarded one of its renowned research scholarships or prizes on 36 occasions to Armenian academics. Our intensive academic cooperation is reflected in the 42 cooperation arrangements between German and Armenian universities and research institutions.
What is more, Armenia’s relations with the European Union have become ever closer. The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement signed by the European Union and Armenia in 2107 was certainly an important step. Germany recently ratified the Agreement.
This year, we are also celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Eastern Partnership, which brought Armenia and five other Eastern European neighbours closer to the EU as well as to each other. Within the framework of the Eastern Partnership, Armenia benefits from the Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia programme funded by the German Bundestag. This year, for example, funding will be provided for the exchange between German and Armenian youth organisations; new networks of young people are emerging which are getting together to debate and develop ideas on the future of Europe and future challenges.
Within the OSCE, Germany as a member of the Minsk Group is supporting the mediation efforts of the Co-Chairs in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. A peaceful solution to the conflict within the framework of the Minsk Group is possible!
We call on everyone involved to be open and ready to compromise. We hope for the sake of everyone affected by the conflict, the citizens of Armenia and Azerbaijan, that credible and committed diplomatic efforts will lead to a lasting rapprochement and that the way will finally be paved for serious negotiations.
Music rather than speeches are centre stage this evening. How delightful! Culture is not just the cherry on the cake but the yeast in the dough.
The concert by the Little Singers of Armenia is a wonderful advertisement for Armenia as a nation of culture, which is being shaped and further developed by young people.
Congratulations, Armenia! Long live the German-Armenian friendship! Long live a Europe of peace, democracy and freedom!