December 7, 2018

by Lilit Demuryan

Brief information on Germany-Armenia Bilateral Relations

Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Federal Republic of Germany were established in January 1992. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations a number of visits of different levels took place between Germany and Armenia. The first high-level official to visit Armenia in 1995 was Klaus Kinkel, Vice-Chancellor, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs. And the year 2003 was marked by the first visit of the Head of the Republic of Armenia (then-President Robert Kocharyan) to Germany.

On the 19th of May 2015 Ashot Smbatyan was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to Germany. On the 21st of July 2015 Matthias Kiesler, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany, presented his credentials to the President of the Republic of Armenia.

In September 2006 Günter Pilarsky was appointed Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Baden-Wurttemberg (residence in Karlsruhe). In September 2012 Brian Fera was appointed Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Hesse (residence in Frankfurt/M).

In May 2017 Michael Schmidt was appointed Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Saxony-Anhalt (residence in Magdeburg). In January 2018 Alexan Ter-Minasyan was appointed Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Armenia (residence in Gyumri).

Bridge between Armenia and Germany

Within the framework of “Armenian-German Journalists Exchange Forum” Program held on October 14-19, 2018 in Berlin, Dr. Raffi Kantian, Chairman of German-Armenian Society association, first spoke on the history and activities of their organization, passing afterwards to the historical past of the two countries, prospects of relations between Germany and Armenia, etc.

German-Armenian Society was founded in 1914, just before the start of World War I. The Society was created by Johannes Lepsius, Paul Rohrbach and Avetik Isahakyan in Berlin. Lepsius was the first chairman of the association – the oldest existing NGO in Germany. “We are not an Armenian society: we are German-Armenian society. We have both Armenian and German members, that’s why we are a bridge society. Above all, the association is active in the promotion of mutual understanding between Germans and Armenians and in keeping the interests of Armenians living in Germany. The society also supports the rights and interests of Armenian minorities in Turkey and other countries of the Near East,” Kantian said.

He then added that German-Armenian Society tried to help Armenians yet during the Treaty of Lausanne, which settled the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the allied French Republic, British Empire, Kingdom of Italy, Empire of Japan, Kingdom of Greece, and the Kingdom of Romania  in 1923. “Our Society sent a memorandum to the western parties, asking them to give special preferences to the Armenians. At that time the Armenian Society was quite well known for its activities: since 1973 the association has been publishing Armenisch-Deutsche Korrespondenz (the Armenian-German Correspondence) quarterly magazine, as well as a number of books,” he said.

Kantian also noted that they have different departments, one of which focuses on Armenia and the Caucasus and where they talk not only about Armenia, but also Georgia and Azerbaijan, mainly touching upon human rights issues. “We have a large department of Germans in Armenia and we have many connections. Historian Ashot Hayruni from Yerevan State University regularly publishes his articles mostly on Lepsius, being one of the best experts. Now we have a very solid work on William Saroyan by a German specialist in literature, who is researching the heritage of the famous American-Armenian writer. It will take some time to publish it wholly: we will publish it in several parts,” the Chairman of German-Armenian Society continued.

“Our Facebook page is frequently visited from Armenia and other countries. Mostly we write analytical reports on a daily basis, covering sports, historical and current events. For example, we wrote about the Velvet Revolution in Armenia right from the start of the process till the very end, covering the actual developments as well,” Kantian said and added that they report lots of current news from Armenia in German and English languages for their readers living in Germany and abroad.

Historical past of Armenia and Germany

Raffi Kantian also referred to the quite complicated historical past of Armenian-German relations. “It was a difficult process in Germany to get the Genocide accepted as a resolution by the German Parliament. The Foreign Office was not delighted with the resolution. A number of Turkish organizations located in Germany made pressure on the members of the German Bundestag,” Raffi Kantian said, adding that this had been also the case in 2005 with an earlier draft resolution at Bundestag, which however did not lead to the recognition of Genocide.

Prospects of development of German-Armenian relations

“There are other developments in the relations between Armenia and Germany as well. We know that the EU helped Armenia with hundreds of millions of euros, where Germany had its contribution. We also know that Germany was supportive during the negotiations on the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). We have normal relations with the Armenian Parliament, there are many connections on different levels. There are a great deal of activities in the bilateral relations between Armenia and Germany,” the Chairman of German-Armenian Society said. As he believes, the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was obviously a positive sign, since she was the first Chancellor to ever visit Armenia, while previously several German foreign ministers had visited Armenia.  “I think it was very symbolic that she mentioned that the first place she should visit in Armenia will be the Genocide Memorial. In my opinion, it was a very clear and strong message, as she was criticized a lot back in September 2016 for not attending the session of the Parliament, when the Genocide issue was being discussed,” he said.

Kantian also noted that the moderating role of Germany is quite important, even though the current political situation in Germany is not that stable. Still, Germany is the biggest and the most important country in the European Union, hence it is important for Armenia to have a partner like this country.

Armenians in Germany

“We have had different Armenian immigration waves to Germany. The biggest one was at the beginning of the 1970s, when Armenians came here from Turkey as guest workers. They worked here in companies, integrated their children, so now we already see their second or third generations living and working here. Then we have a short migration period from Lebanon because of the 1975-1990 Civil War. Afterwards, there was a migration wave from Armenia after the independence, which is quite interesting for us. These migrants were applying for asylum,” Kantian said. He concluded that it is not easy to settle in Germany, because if someone wants to get an asylum there, he/she must prove the fact of being persecuted for political, religious reasons and/or violation of his/her fundamental rights in home country.

Relations between Armenia and Germany have always been stable and solid, with both countries having the desire to work together and continue efficient cooperation. On some occasions following the discussions both countries’ leaders have declared considerable improvement over the last few years.

Lilit Demuryan has been working as journalist at “Armenpress” news agency for already two years. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in tourism she realized that journalism is anyway closer to her and started her Master in journalism at V. Brusov University. She has attended military journalism courses visiting borders and spending some days with Armenian soldiers on the borderline. Among a variety of topics she is particularly interested in conducting interviews with life-sentenced prisoners in the future.