YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will pay greater attention to and rely more heavily on its worldwide Diaspora, its recently appointed minister for Diaspora affairs, Hran’sh Hakobian, said on Wednesday.
Armenia’s relations with various Diaspora structures used to be coordinated by a special department at the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan. President Serzh Sarkisian decided to turn it into a separate and larger agency shortly after taking office in April.
The new ministry occupies several rooms in a newly renovated Yerevan hotel. Its budget for this year is also modest: 100 million drams ($330,000). The government has pledged to quadruple the sum in 2009.
Hakobian, who has no previous experience working with the Diaspora, outlined an ambitious agenda at her first news conference in the new capacity. She said the main mission of her ministry will be to help millions of Armenia’s scattered around the world retain and strengthen their ethnic identity.
In her words, knowledge of the Armenian language is the bedrock of that identity and the government intends to provide textbooks and other technical assistance to Armenian-language schools abroad. The government will also encourage more Diaspora Armenia’s to visit their historical homeland and get exposed to its cultural heritage, said Hakobian.
Repatriation to the homeland will also be one of the Ministry’s top aims, she said.
The minister added that the Sarkisian administration also wants to better utilize the intellectual potential of Diasporans for Armenia’s needs. “We must create a network of professionals, put Diaspora specialists in touch with Armenia-based specialists, and contribute to Armenia’s strengthening and development with the help of those specialists,” she said.