Pallone Sees Tremendous Progress in Armenia after Visit
Washington, DC Returning to the US after a visit to Armenia during the week celebrating Armenia’s independence, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr (NJ-06). said, “The progress of the country economically and politically is immediately evident. I visited Armenia several times in the 1990s and early 2000s. Great strides have been made in terms of economic development and improvements in the political system since then,” said Pallone.
The Congressman was part of an exchange with Armenian Members of Parliament who expect to come to Washington in the next six months. His colleagues on the trip included Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs, Jackie Speier (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA), as well as Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). Pallone is the founder and remains a co-chair of the Armenian Caucus in Congress.
“Yerevan looks increasingly like a modern Western city, but even in the rural areas we saw on the way to Dilijan and Lake Sevan, there were clearly major improvements to the infrastructure and the agricultural economy.
“When I first visited Armenia 20 plus years ago, I worried that subjects where Armenians excelled, for example in education and the arts, would be lost due to the Artsakh War, the earthquake, and the Turkish boycott. There’s still a long way to go, but things are coming back more rapidly than expected; in part because of help coming from diaspora Armenians. The high tech programs we witnessed at the Armenian University at Yerevan and the classical performances at a public school with music students were signs of renewed excellence by younger Armenians. The IT sector has grown over 30% over the last year alone,” Pallone continued.
The New Jersey Congressman also believes there is recent progress towards democracy and the rule of law.
“Armenia is embarked on political reform with a new Constitution. The parliamentary elections last spring were mostly transparent and seen as largely free by international observers. The MPs are embarked on judicial reform legislation, and efforts to make judges more independent of government influence. Again, there is a way to go, but I felt the MPs and their leadership were determined to make progress towards democracy,” Pallone said.
Pallone and his Congressional colleagues met with the Armenian President, Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Speaker, and Vice Speaker of the Parliament, as well as opposition leaders. They also visited with the Catholicos in Etchmiadzin.
“We met with the Defense Minister just prior to the independence celebration and fireworks. He mentioned that despite Armenia’s dependence on Russian troops for defense purposes and entry into the Russian Customs Union, the country was determined to improve ties with the West. He stressed the importance of Armenia’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace and the contribution to US efforts fighting terrorism in the Mideast.
“President Sargsyan made it clear that Armenia intends to sign an agreement with the European Union this fall that would put the country back on track towards integration with Western Europe. He also asked for more progress on trade and taxation issues that affect American investment in Armenia,” Pallone continued. “Overall, this trip was a great opportunity for Armenia Caucus members to learn what we need to follow-up on when we’re back in Congress to improve US-Armenian relations with regards to trade, military cooperation, and many other areas, “ the Congressman concluded.