Recently, Member of the Belgian Federal Parliament, Chairman of the Reformist Movement Party (chaired by the Prime Minister of Belgium) for International Relations Jean Jacques Flahaux and Deputy Chair of the Party for International Relations Julie Szmai have visited Artsakh. They were accompanied by Chairman of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy Kaspar Karampetian and Executive Director of the Federation Heghineh Evinyan. On October 31, the guests from Belgium gave a press conference for media representatives of the Artsakh Republic.
Mr. Flahaux noted that he was glad to come to Artsakh and to familiarize with the country: “Today, I have learned that I am also a terrorist. I have received a letter from the Azerbaijani Embassy in Belgium. However, I am very glad that we are here”. The letter is also the first of the kind: some people try to put pressure on him, persuade him, force him to do something. It will not change anything, and he will remain a friend of Artsakh. Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe and it should be a democratic country. Such a response from the Azerbaijani Embassy seemed to be strange and worrying. Since, in Belgium, the awareness of the South Caucasus region and, in particular, the Republic of Artsakh is not at a high level, they will tell politicians and the public at large about their trip upon their return. According to the Belgian parliamentarian, the situation of neither war nor peace should be resolved.
For Julie Szmai, the visit is interesting in view of meeting and communicating with the Artsakh people. She commended the resilience of the people living here, who are fighting for their rights and stable development. They are impressed by the conversations at The HALO Trust. She noted with pain that to this day, there are casualties in Artsakh families, which means that the people need support.
As to the Azerbaijani pressure, Ms Szmai noted that if there is pressure and a desire to influence a process, then this inevitably leads to the opposite effect. “Azerbaijan’s efforts will have the opposite effect, and I will love your Republic even more”, she said.
They also spoke about their meetings with the NKR leadership and expressed satisfaction with the democratic processes in our country. They stated their readiness to support Artsakh on its way to building democracy.
Answering the question on the visit and impressions, Ms. Szmai noted the meeting at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies. She believes that the Armenian experience should be instructive for Belgium.
According to the Belgian parliamentarian, there are opportunities for bilateral cooperation. First of all, she noted the sphere of tourism, since today the idea of ecological tourism is developing in Belgium. For the Belgian side, Armenian cultural and religious values are of interest. Mr. Flahaux loved Armenian wines and cuisine very much. According to him, it is necessary to carry out appropriate works among Europeans in order to intensify the flow of tourists to Artsakh.
Such trips are extremely important for having a real idea of the Artsakh reality. From January 1, 2019, the Kingdom of Belgium will become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of the country, who also represent the Reformist Movement Party, will take the initiative in this important international structure to hold discussions regarding the settlement of the Arab-Israeli and Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflicts. They will try to reduce tensions in the conflict zones. The importance of membership of the three South Caucasian Republics in the Council of Europe was noted. The Belgian parliamentarian recalled Azerbaijan, noting that membership in the Council of Europe means respect for democracy and the rights of other peoples. Those who seek to join the European family must respect European values. The European Union will try to influence the three states of the region in order to correct the mistakes of the past, to change the situation, guided by the concept of the future. “Finally, the people of Artsakh will decide whether to be independent or to reunite with Armenia. This is your right, and we should support you in realizing this goal”, said the parliamentarian.
Azat Artsakh newspaper asked Jean Jacques Flahaux a question. How does he consider the issue of Artsakh’s security from the viewpoint of the Reformist Movement Party? Does he consider this part of European security or not?
Answering the question, the parliamentarian noted that to date, the issue of migrants, most of whom are Muslims, is discussed in Europe. In this context, the rights of national minorities living in Europe become important. Applications for membership in the Council of Europe were filed by the Western Balkan countries, as well as Ukraine. “The desire of the Council of Europe to move closer to the South Caucasus and, in particular, to Armenia is quite important for the security and stability in the region. Europe can play a certain role”, said Mr. Flahaux and added, “In complex international relations, it is difficult to immediately answer all the questions, but in any case, human rights are in the center of the European policy”.