The special relationship between Armenia and France, forged by centuries-old connections, shared values and mutual respect and admiration for each other’s culture, has steadily grown closer and stronger over the past quarter century. From the very first days following the declaration of independence of the Republic of Armenia, France has always proven willing to extend a hand in a show of support, becoming the first European nation to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide in 2001, and helping mediate a resolution to the conflict in Artsakh. A cornerstone of the partnership has long been the successful Armenian community in France, the largest in Europe with more than half a million French-Armenian citizens whose ancestors more than a century ago were offered refuge in France. As the two nations continue to actively pursue increased political, economic, and cultural cooperation, Armenia and France are poised to celebrate the ties that bind them together in historic fashion during this year’s Francophonie Summit in Yerevan, October 11-16th.
While Armenia may not be considered a traditional Francophone country, language is not the basis of its membership, says Armenia’s newly-appointed Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, “The language is the medium. The values are the foundation. We embrace those values of solidarity, diversity and democracy. Indeed, the upcoming summit will provide an unprecedented opportunity to bring Armenia closer to the whole Francophone family, including France.”
It has become an annual tradition for the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of France and Armenia to visit each other, maintaining a high-level political dialogue, well-established cultural and educational ties and supporting each other on issues of mutual concern. It was no surprise then that this past May, the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was the first foreign minister to visit Armenia after the formation of the new government. Together the foreign ministers visited the Memorial of Musa Ler, commemorating the famed resistance of Armenians during the Genocide and their salvation by the French, a historic manifestation of the Armenian-French friendship.
Political discourse between the two nations is reinforced through the Parliaments of each country as well as on a municipal level. Within the National Assembly of France, French Parlia-mentarians formed the Armenia-France Friendship Group, facilitating close inter-parliamentary cooperation while enriching and expanding the agenda of bilateral interstate relations. There is also an extensive degree of decentralized cooperation, with approximately twenty French local governments involved in twinning schemes and cooperation projects with Armenia on a wide range of areas including tourism and healthcare.
In terms of regional cooperation, France serves as a key partner for Armenia’s relations with Europe, and welcomed Armenia’s participation in the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the European Union in 2017, which aims to step up the political dialogue between Armenia and the EU in regards to their shared commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The partnership will create new opportunities for trade and investment and also facilitate cooperation on energy, transportation and the environment.