Kocharian Says Ban On Dual Citizenship Must End

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–During a TV Yerevan-Moscow-Los Angeles bridge organized on the threshold of the Second Armenia-Diaspora Forum on May 20–Armenian President Robert Kocharian said it is necessary to withdraw the point concerning the prohibition to apply for dual citizenship in Armenia from the Armenian Constitution. "People such as the Armenia’s who have a large Diaspora have no right to adopt such a prohibition as a constitutional norm," the president stated.

Answering questions related to adopting a law on dual citizenship–Kocharian said that since the prohibition still exists–any dispute around the issue of dual citizenship is senseless. He said it is possible to find a right decision as to establishing balance between responsibility and rights through discussions as soon as the prohibition is withdrawn from the Constitution.

The president stated that currently–the possible terms of holding a referendum on Constitutional reforms are being discussed. At first–it was planned to be held in June or in the autumn of 2002–parallel to local elections. However–the president pointed out–"we will physically fail to hold a referendum within these terms," since the discussion of the alternative version of the Constitution–worked out by a number of parties took 5 months and the referendum is most likely to be organized simultaneously with next year’s legislative elections.

President Kocharian–during his speech on the TV bridge–also talked about Armenia’s investment climate. "I don’t know of a single failed attempt of investing in the economy of Armenia–in any case–not a registered one," he said. "According to a number of investigations led by international institutes–Armenia is a proper country for investmen’s," said Kocharian.

In response to the question of a representative of the Armenian Assembly of America–in Los Angeles–about the existing corruption in Armenia–which is a big obstacle to potential investors–the president just admitted the fact that things have somewhat changed since the American businessman received information last. Kocharian–nevertheless–pointed out that such negative phenomena does really exist and the authorities strenuously struggle against them–as both the World Bank and a number of other independent structures can ascertain. "Serious researches show that corruption and other shortcomings have significantly decreased," said the president.

According to Kocharian–the volume of reforms currently being carried out in Armenia are sufficient for "receiving investmen’s." An anti-corruption program prepared by the OSCE and WB experts is being realized. One of the basic tasks of the program is reducing red tape’s participation in economic processes. In this regard–in the president’s opinion–an important step is the creation of the Armenian Development Agency.

The presence of bureaucracy in the tax and customs services is one of the shortcomings in forming an investment field. In Kocharian’s words–active efforts are being made for eliminating these shortcomings: particularly–the activities of these spheres must meet the European standards. At the same time–the president pointed out that the legislation in the sphere of the investment policy is favorable. "There is a task concerning the return of added value–some work is being done in that direction–corresponding mechanisms are being worked out," said Kocharian.

In the context of the active investment policy–the president answered a number of questions related to the recently-signed contract on the handover of the Yerevan Zvartnots Airport to the trust management of a large Argentinean firm for 30 years. According to Kocharian–the airport is one of the weakest points and this explains the approaches applied in its case. "We must have the best airport in the region in all aspects–both in terms of logistics and work organization," said the president. He also expressed confidence that the realization of the contract will itself remove the current shortcomings–and taking into account the blockade of the transport communications–the best airport of the region will partly manage to compensate for the current gaps. This airport will be of great significance for the economy of Armenia–especially for tourism.

The president also said that domestic stability is one of the primary points in evaluating the investment risks. Experience shows that it is political instability that hinders the investment policy. "If we want to have large investmen’s–and it is important for economic progress–then we must take into account the fact that any irresponsible statement about early parliamentary or presidential elections damages the financial state of every citizen of Armenia." He evaluated the current situation as stable. In Kocharian’s words–the elections will be conducted according to schedule.

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