10, 2008

Address by President Serzh Sargsyan to the People of Armenia and the National Assembly

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Distinguished members of the National Assembly,
Dear Compatriots,
Esteemed Guests,

Guided by paragraph 1 of the Article 55 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, I am addressing today our people and the National Assembly.

In my election platform you will find a passage which states: “We will be open for constructive proposals and cooperation, attaching also importance to the constitutional institute of addressing the people and the National Assembly.” Today, starting that new tradition, I declare that this kind of address will be delivered with precise regularity. We will be summarizing on the events going on in our country together, recognizing the issues which need our combined efforts. In general, I consider this constitutional institute as an important mechanism for a public dialogue and from now on I will be paying utmost attention to the full realization of this opportunity.

Dear Friends,

Our Republic enters a new stage of its history which demands readiness of our country and our society to face new global challenges, address problems our country will face, and, if need arises, combat them. On this new stage we are witnessing serious changes which are taking place around us on the regional and geopolitical levels, in the interstate relations as well as within the country. War in our environs, closed borders, issues of external communication, complicated regional relations, clashing interests of the superpowers – this is the reality Armenia lives in today. It is in these conditions that we should solve the issue not of survival but of advancement. Due to these changes, the situation around us and within our state is not the same. It is not the same but it doesn’t mean that everything has been turned upside down, doesn’t mean that we must undertake drastic changes in every area. On the contrary, today we are able to confirm that through the years our young state has learned to strongly hold to its foundation even in the most unfavorable external conditions.

In this new situation positive changes are becoming a norm of life. Through it every member of the society should adopt a new approach that the state serves that very purpose, that every one feels dignified and protected in the Republic of Armenia, that no other state will protect their rights to the same degree as the motherland. It is not going to be easy because our citizens didn’t hear much about it, because our compatriots didn’t often seek it and didn’t often receive.

Yes, the time has proved that we have been able to conduct internal and foreign policies which are often described as “stable”, “realistic”, or “balanced”. But who said that stability, realism and balance are the goals and not the means or who said that the sum of stability, realism and balance cannot bring to, let’s say, stagnation. Personally, I cannot make such a statement. What is the bottom-line? Yes, our policy will continue to be stable, realistic and balanced but we must reject from the outset any possibility of stagnation in any area. I do not exclude that some mistakes may occur, since only the authorities which do not do anything make no mistakes. I do not exclude that some of our decisions may be, let’s say, lacking in realism. But no individual or authority can achieve success if they do not have dreams, if they are not able to step aside from the reality, and expand the boundaries of that reality with their own steps. We will be resourceful, we will be aggressive toward all errant trends, our policy will be a “creative policy”, and our country will be a dynamic and flexible state. We will be that way because we have to be, we are compelled to be.

So, what is the formula of our actions? We can say that it is a devoted work, and I will undoubtedly agree. I am ready to become the frontrunner for establishing the atmosphere of dedicated work in our country, with my own example. Today we cannot afford a state employee, a social worker or even a businessman who is sneaking out of the job place even one minute before the end of the working day or who plays computer games - our society cannot afford it. Ask my staff how many days during the last year they have been able to spend at home or how many hours of sleep they get?

You can also say that the formula of our success could be the clear-cut rules of the game, establishment of vibrant institutions. No argument there. Eventually we should be able to systemize the whole complex of economic, social, and political relations in our country; we should be able to build strong institutions called upon to support free and competitive development of our economy. Moreover, we should be able to instill in the social conscience all the fixed rules of the game, to make them customary which is a very important institutional power for the countries like ours. Our drivers must realize that violations are not allowed and not because they can be fined but because violations are not permissible. This goes for all the areas of our life.

You can argue that the formula of our success is in the increase of our competitiveness. I agree with that. It is true, that in a short period of time we must dramatically increase the global competitiveness of Armenia which will be supported by the existence of market relations appropriate for the developed countries. We must be able to raise the competitiveness of all the sectors and subsectors of our economy, our companies, our entire economy, and our human resources. We must be competitive and it has been stated on many occasions.

I totally agree with this and other similar formulas that can be brought forward. Regarding some of them, the concrete steps have already been taken. We have been able to register some serious progress during last years. Then what is it that leaves me discontented? In one word – segmentation.

And I think that the time has come for all the segments to become one whole and complement each other, rather than oppose or even deflect each other. And I believe that in our policies the time has come when the segments must serve the whole.

What I mean is that our education policy should be an organic part of the national policy or of the reforms underway in the job market. Macroeconomic policy shouldn’t be in disaccord with the policy directed at the increase of competitiveness in all sectors of our economy, or even worse – send opposite signals. I am speaking about the fact that our efforts directed at the establishment of mutual respect and tolerance should be supported by the increasing freedom of speech, a more mature civil society and established political system. I mean that any achievement is an achievement when it’s viewed from the viewpoint of the entirety, that any initiative is valuable if it serves the whole, and anything - from the every day work of a citizen of Armenia to a complex policy - acquires sense only when it has one ultimate goal – a prosperous Armenia.

Do you know what the key to the China’s success in the recent Olympic Games was? I am sure many of you know. One common goal, one common dedication to victory – that was the very simple key to success. They achieved miraculous results in just several years. Do you remember that Chinese heavyweight who repeated the world record lifting the record weight of that time which the judges didn’t score? What did he do? On his next attempt he once again lifted the heaviest weight of his life. Do you think he did it because he was physically in a good shape? No. The secret is here, in the human mind. And that’s the point I want to make.

I am certain that the secret to Armenia’s success is the same. I said it before, I am saying it now, and I will say it again: when every morning the representatives of the authorities and the opposition, state officials and businessmen, students and grannies taking care of their grandchildren, expectant mothers and military servicemen, all together wake up in the morning with one goal in front of them – the rise of our country – then there will be no limits to our success.

The rise of Armenia – this must be our ultimate goal.

Dear Compatriots,

I will build my consecutive addresses around the summary of the developments in different areas of our life in a taken period and with the logic of adapting new approaches. Today, however, I will do it differently and will speak about a number of issues. Regarding these issues the society will be permanently and periodically receive signals from the Presidential office. These issues are:

1. We and the world

Recently, during the meeting with the diplomats, I have had an opportunity to speak thoroughly about our positions in the context of the new regional and geopolitical realities. I will not repeat them now. I would like to stress something else. I think the events in South Ossetia and subsequent developments brought many people to their senses. Today it is very obvious that we are not only required to make precise, pragmatic, unemotional, and adequate assessment of the situation but also make perceptive and persistent step aimed into future. Also required are internal stability, alliance of forces and possibilities, new approaches and new solutions.

“When did the Karabakh war end?” try to go around our villages and towns with this question. Among other responses you will hear that the war is not over yet. It is true, the war is not over yet since the arms race is not over, it’s not over since we haven’t congratulated yet the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh for their willful decision and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Look around, external threats have not diminished yet. But have we totally come to senses even after the recent events? I hope we are coming to senses. Sometimes there is an impression that our entire nation turned into spectators and critics.

Days ago I appealed to our Ambassadors to be vigilant and fervent in representing Armenia abroad and in the international structures. But it is not enough. There are over ten million Armenians in the world. It means Armenia should have ten million ambassadors. In the ongoing information war this is our only counterbalance to the petrodollars. We will counterbalance, if we come to full senses.

2. We and our economy

I want to sound this again: the time has come in Armenia for great and daring national projects, the time for superprojects, so to speak. This kind of projects not only serves strategic tasks but also has a vast effect on the economy and society. They create thousand of new jobs, for their implementation different enterprises are being set up, new markets and entire areas open up for them, and in addition they become a stimulus for the development of sciences. The Iran-Armenia pipeline is the best proof of this notion and today the boldest goals in our country can become a reality due to persistency, confidence in our abilities, and work.

Today I will not speak about our general economic policy or our approaches. I will single out only three initiatives, three projects which in the coming years will be in the center of our attention and our work.

And so, I want all those who have business interests in Armenia, all foreign and Armenian businessmen who have present and future projects, our citizens and our compatriots all over the world, to be informed that

a) in the coming months Armenia will commence the construction of a new nuclear power plant,

b) in the coming year the construction of the Iran-Armenia railroad will be launched,

c) in the coming months the All-Armenian Bank and Investment Fund will be established which will be financing large-scale projects.

3. We and our work ethics

I have already mentioned that a substantial improvement of the activities of the entire state machine and all the state structures is required. Today each of the state bodies must not only efficiently discharge its constitutionally and legally stipulated functions but all of them must work as a one synchronized entity. Unfortunately, it happens very often that the most important issues are solved in passing. We should inject serious substance into our dialogue and collective work and significantly increase the role of advisory and consultative bodies of different formats.

I would like to particularly stress the role of the National Assembly. The Parliament cannot be viewed just as a law-adopting body. The Parliament is the most important institute for shaping political dialogue and culture of parliamentarism. The corner-stone of the law-creating policy of the National Assembly should be a systematization of the social relations in our country in a way that can make it a strong base for the accomplished statehood. It sounds odd to me when the lawmakers complain about the inefficiency of the law or its inactivity. It is like the architect complaining of the shakiness of his construction. I think that through the joint efforts we will be able to steadily increase the role of the National Assembly in our country. As I mentioned in my congratulatory address to Hovik Abrahamian on his election as Speaker of the National Assembly, I am confident that the newly elected Speaker through his experience and abilities will be able to increase the efficiency of the National Assembly’s work.

I envisage a much higher level of cooperation, complementarity, and feed-back between the National Assembly and other state institutions. And as a concrete step in that direction, I am prepared to come up with the initiative of setting up a position of the Special Representative of the President to the National Assembly.

We will be increasing substantially the role of the National Security Council. There can be no vital issue which does not become the subject for a thorough discussion, analysis, and differentiate options. The activities of the National Security Council will become also much more transparent and comprehensible for the public.

We should also increase the role of political parties and political establishments in the development of our country. After 17 years of independence we still have a long road ahead of us for creating a contemporary and accomplished political field. As my first input in that process I am ready to periodically organize thematic debates on the vital and strategic issues and invite the leaders of the political parties to participate.

I also attach great importance to the public’s participation in decision making. Soon we will establish the Public Council. The assigned commission has already concluded the preliminary works. We will try to do it in a way that every interested person or organization has an opportunity to influence the process of decision making through that Council. I want to believe that our public figures and all interested parties will participate in the works of the Council as actively as they have been making proposals and suggestions in the preparatory period.

I can assure you that there will no lack of initiatives on my part on this and other directions. These are the most important institutes for achieving our goals, these are the parts which must serve the whole.

4. We and our problems

Very soon the National Assembly will start the budget discussions. Needless to mention the importance of that document or remind you that we are not talking just numbers. I appeal to all of you, to the Government and the National Assembly to turn the budget debates into the interested, program discussions on the development of every sphere of our life.

If we have declared that consequences of the earthquake will be eliminated by 2013, then let us answer the question: which outstanding issues will be solved by the next year’s budget, which will remain undone, in what fashion the remaining work will be distributed in the coming years? We have precise program indices for different areas for the next five years – health care, education, security, social issues, as well as the other areas. Let us understand what part of the job will be covered by the next year’s budget and how we are supposed to do the rest. Let’s make it clear for us and then present it to the public.

I am asking you to remember one simple truth: nobody will solve our problems but us.

5. We and our society

It is impossible to build a strong state and developed a society without changing the quality of public relations. It means that first and foremost, drastic measures should be taken to change the quality of public relations and to eradicate the evil of corruption otherwise any initiative is doomed.

We must persistently change the culture in which making money and prospering is achieved through dirty, unacceptable means and crooked ways, through the avoidance of fair competition. Culture, in which the greatest “talent” is the sneakiness to avoid competition: this culture undermines the base of the young Armenian statehood. We will build together a society of modern, intelligent and competitive individuals, where there is no room for corruption, where corruption is simply infeasible and illogical.

It is true that different people have different opportunities, different are their abilities and resources. People have started from different initial positions which later brought up serious issues in our society regarding perception of justice. Today there is no alternative to the reestablishment of social justice.

The culture of making way through sneakiness in our country must be rejected. The Republic of Armenia should become a place of good life for the citizens who possess knowledge and skills, the citizens who are able to prove their competitiveness by the innovative spirit and ingenuity and who are proud of their competitiveness – these citizens will become the rock-solid support for our statehood.

With this regard, there is lot to be done in both public and private sectors.

In the public sector we will continue to enforce a trustworthy state service. Ravenousness has no place on the state officials minds; we will be firing all corrupt state officials from their positions. State positions must be filled by the honest personnel, dedicated to the public good.

The protection of the legitimate rights of individuals and rule of law aimed at their protection from now on become the most important political issues.

The “telephone justice” formed in the Soviet times and painfully present in our lives must be eliminated unreservedly, giving way to our strong political will. We must be able to enforce independent justice based on the primacy of the law. The right of property and legal interrelations must be protected sacredly. Their protectors must be the independent courts of independent Armenia.

The fight against corruption will change appearances; much more relentless and tough measures will be reinforced. In the step with the international practices, any display of corruption will be treated as a criminal offence. We will introduce in the society the culture of utter intolerance toward corruption. The intensity of revealing and punishing the abuse of power will increase, and the first steps of that policy can be already seen.

However I would like to remind once again that we would achieve success only and only if the state and the society join their efforts.

6. We and our future

Dear Compatriots,

It is true that we have a huge amount of work to do: develop our economy, strengthen our statehood, ensure our security, however along with all these tasks we have another supreme task to fulfill – in order to accomplish all the mentioned above and to maintain it, we need to uphold our traditional values.

Many things have changed or have become distorted in our times. All our present and future work will be senseless if the coming generations are brought up on the false dreams, if instead of the winner in the scholarly Olympiad, the Armenian children see the “hero” in a person who possesses an expensive car. If today we all together, our entire society, do not turn toward the education, our past and future works are pointless.
Yes, we need scientists, who will reveal new secrets of the space, but even more we need scientists who will share willingly their knowledge with their peers, because that generosity tomorrow may bring to an unprecedented discovery. We need builders, who will construct roads and buildings, but even more we need builders who construct roads circumventing a forest, because his son and his daughter tomorrow will be playing in that forest. We also need skilled doctors, but even more we need doctors who are compassionate because the tablet heals today, while compassion heals tomorrow as well.

Education should be based on our values. Along with any skill and any knowledge, the schoolchild and the student should learn to love, to believe, and to hope. This is the most difficult educational criterion because if other objectives can be reached through numerous teaching methods in the presence of the corresponding educational environment, in this case the only way to teach it is to show personal example. Thus, the person who teaches should carry the values which he or she advocates. Therefore, the cornerstone of our education policy will be the communication of our values and us serving the example.

This policy, accordingly, cannot be exclusively the Government’s or the Ministry of Education’s task. It is the task for all of us, and for this reason I am inviting your attention to this issue.

Dear Compatriots,

This is what I wanted to tell today to the members of the National Assembly and our entire society.

I would like to conclude by stating my clear-cut attitude toward two abhorring and unacceptable happenings:

1. We are well aware that sometimes there are incidents when some people make a decision to come up from the position of force, when some people make a decision to solve some issues on the streets with fists. Let me put it bluntly: it is incomprehensible and it is unacceptable for me. No one in the Republic of Armenia can deem himself an untouchable person, no one in the Republic of Armenia can assume the functions of the state. I call upon everybody to refrain from the use of that evil practices because the consequences will be really very observable.
2. And the second point, I appeal to the representatives of the authorities and the opposition, journalists, public figures, all of you. I appeal to all of you to stop the practice of publicly insulting each other. This phenomenon is crossing over every acceptable limit. It looks like making personal insults has become an accepted norm in our society. Let us all stop, that road leads nowhere.

Thank you for your attention.

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