Exclusive Interview with Czech Ambassador to Armenia H.E. Mr. Petr Mikyska
– Mr. Ambassador, in September, the 3rd session of Inter-Governmental Commission has taken place on Armenian-Czech economic cooperation in Yerevan to which the representatives of various spheres were participating from Czech side. The prospects and opportunities for cooperation in trade and economic, finance, energetic, agriculture, healthcare, education and science, culture, standardization, transport, information technology, tourism and other spheres between Armenia and Czech Republic have been discussed. What are the concrete results?
– The main result – and not only of this session of the Inter-Governmental Commission, is the constant growth of our trade exchange. In the first nine months of 2017, in comparison to 2016 and according to Czech Statistical Office data, we experienced 81% growth, with 93,2% growth in Czech exports to Armenia and 6,2% growth of Armenian exports to Czechia. Business forums, presentations and meetings facilitated by state institutions on both sides finally pay back. I consider it highly important that we could change the composition of our bilateral trade: Czech Republic is exporting more technologies and capital goods instead of consumer goods, which is a key factor for further economic development of Armenia, and Armenia added textiles, wines and brandy to its traditional mining products exports. Nevertheless, we would like to have more Armenian production in the Czech Republic and we hope that the GSP+ scheme will be used by Armenian producers more often and to a greater extent.
– Czech Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Co-Chair of Armenian-Czech Inter-Governmental Commission, Mr. Vladimír Bärtl noted: “There is a good cooperation with Armenia. There are many similarities between Armenia and the Czech Republic. Besides Armenia can be viewed not only as an open country for us but also as a gateway to Iran and Russia”. I would like you to give details: Are there any plans on this issue?
– The Czech Republic is based on market economy and the market is dominated by private companies. The government only has limited possibilities to guide the companies in their international activities. The state institutions are mainly oriented to provide information to exporters, and this is what we do regarding the possibilities for Czech companies in their cooperation with Armenia and third countries. If private companies esteem that the conditions are favorable for them, they will use the opportunity.
– If I am not mistaken, there are 30 Czech companies running in Armenia by Czech investments. How much is the trade turnover between the two countries and what are the future plans?
– In the first nine months of 2017, according to the Czech Statistical Office, Czech exports to Armenia reached 22,9 mil. EUR (11,9 mil. EUR in the same period of 2016). The same statistical office evaluates Armenian exports to Czechia at 2,1 mil. EUR in the first nine months of this year (1,9 mil. EUR in the same period of 2016). The turnover is 25 mil. EUR in 2017 (13,8 mil. EUR in the same period of 2016). We see a clear growth trend and I dare say that this is a true reflection of the efforts of both Governments promoting mutual trade. The plans are simple: to intensify these efforts, find new ways and fields of cooperation and support every new business starting its bilateral activity.
– Is the Czech Republic interested in the energy sphere of Armenia?
– The Czech Republic is not only interested, we are actively cooperating in the energy sphere. Czech companies are involved in the modernization of the Metsamor power plant, several companies successfully supply generators, turbines and other equipment for hydro power plants. This year we organized a seminar aimed at building contacts between companies in solar, wind and hydro energy and several Czech companies found their partners in Armenia. We are very interested in providing technologies in energy generation from waste and even from hazardous waste, application of state-of-the-art technologies would help not only the economic development, but also the environment. We can offer our expertise and technologies in energy efficiency.
– Are there agreements to restart Yerevan-Prague direct flights? We often hear that the resumption of regular direct flights between Yerevan and Prague can promote trade and economic relations and cooperation in tourism. Why the flight isn’t in operation yet? What are the obstacles?
– The renewal of Prague – Yerevan direct flight is under discussion and consideration since its closure in October 2014. Tourist operators, citizens of both countries, business travelers and governments are all interested, but the carriers, Czech Airlines and Air Company Armenia, are private companies with minimum or zero state participation. Operating this flight must first and foremost be a profitable business for them, as they bear all the responsibility for its operation. Thus, this question must be directed to Czech Airlines and Air Company Armenia. The Embassy will only welcome direct flights, as they are a key factor in promoting business, tourism and people to people contacts, and we hope that signs of a future agreement on direct flights will materialize soon.
– In November 24, Armenia plans to sign the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with EU during the Eastern Partnership summit to be held in Brussels. The parties assure that they are ready to sign, however, information has been circulated that this time, some EU member countries create different obstacles. What is the position of the Czech Republic on this issue?
– In fact, it is not a question of position, it is a question of procedures and terms. The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement must be translated into all the official languages of the EU member states and undergo a relevant national approval process. In our case the Government approved the text on its session on November 6, 2017. We are ready. You must consider that the Czech Republic had parliamentary elections three weeks ago and political parties are immersed in the difficult task of coalition and government forming. I consider the Government’s timely approval of CEPA, as well as our contribution to its negotiation, a clear confirmation of our commitment to cooperate with Armenia and assist the country in its democratic development. We are looking forward to having this agreement signed in Brussels.
– In September, information appeared in mass media that Czech military equipment appeared at the disposal of the Azerbaijan army. Particularly, according to the Azerbaijani media, the “Dana” heavy artillery system produced in the Czech Republic has been used during Turkish-Azerbaijani joint military drills in September. The Czech authorities assured that they did not discuss the issue of export of military weapons to Azerbaijan, especially neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Ministry of Defense provided any licenses and it is known that the Czech government agencies and special services were studying the information according to which armament was found in Azerbaijan. Moreover, an information was published according to which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Azerbaijan has applied for such sales license last year but they refused because the Czech Republic is adhered to the EU embargo on arms, according to which Armenia and Azerbaijan should not be supplied by weapons. What did Czech law enforcement officials find out about this?
– The statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this issue is widely known in Armenia, I have nothing to add at this moment. The investigation is ongoing.
Photo credits: Tatev Mnatsakanyan