Interview with Ambassador Roy Reeve, Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan,
What are you taking from Armenia with you?
Besides awards (smiling), a feeling that we have started, but still there is a lot more to do. There have been one or two very good achievements in three and a half years, but it is only the beginning, the framework or foundation of a lot of serious work, which now this office needs to engage in, so does the Armenian Government.
Let me clarify, I mean as a person, who has created a world here, what do you think you leave, and what are you taking as a person, besides politics, besides diplomatic answers?
It is very difficult to separate person and profession. I have been doing this for more than thirty-five years, so I never look at it from a personal point of view. It is a mistake that anyone in my position can make to become emotionally involved in the subject matter, the area, the country in which he is working. You have to stay detached, you have to be apart from the battle, in order to see where you can best be of use here. If one should become a part of what is going on, then I think you no longer become effective, but of course, I love being in Armenia, I love the people, I have had a great time here, but my main focus has to be the job. That is what I am here for.
What did you like in Armenia, the water, the weather, the sun...?
The list is long, but until Armenia has a coastline, some water for me to dive in, in a way something is missing in my life. It goes without saying that I’ve had a very comfortable, enjoyable time in Armenia. I like the scenery, I like the people, but that is not what I am here for.
Are you going to Georgia for diving?
I am thinking about it. I am moving from a small boat to an aircraft carrier.
What did you do during the weekends, holidays?
One, there isn’t much time off. I didn’t have much time to travel, but if I ever had to go anywhere, I would go to Dilijan, because it is the closest thing to Wales in the Caucasus.
What is the greatest achievement of your office during your stay here?
The fact that everyone now knows we are here and what we can do and how we can help. We are not pursuing a national particular agenda, we are here to help all sides to achieve their goals.
Regarding A1+. Your organization has made several statements on different occasions on this, but without any results yet. Does that mean that the organization doesn’t have enough of a reputation in Armenia?
That is an impossible question. The cumulative effect of organizations like the OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union, drawing attention to area of concerns, will lead to changes here, but I mean we are not people with big sticks, or leverage. We work through persuasion, through diplomacy, but the combined effect over the period of time we are talking about will, I hope, lead to changes. But no one from outside has that kind of influence on the actions of a sovereign Government. The effect of all this is that if Armenia wants to join European institutions it would find it increasingly difficult to join institutions, and it may be refused membership of some other ones that it is already in. Armenia’s choice is a range of options. The bottom line for Armenia and Armenians is to determine their structures, the way their economy, their society and anything else works. No one else can do it for them. We can provide assistance, advice, guidance, but at the end of the day it is for Armenia to determine its own future, not for us.
Perhaps if such statements have no impact and the situation does not change, there is no need for such statements, or sometimes the situation deteriorates as a result of them.
Armenia is a member of the OSCE, it has assumed commitments and it has to meet those commitments. That is true for Armenia, Azerbaijan, the United States, for whoever. Our role is to publicize and point to areas of non-fulfillment of obligations and that is the nature of the OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union. We have principles, we have standards, and member countries who fail to meet them, the attention of all the others is drawn to it, then bilaterally they may take whatever action they feel like. The organization is just in there to seek where the concerns are.
During your stay you had a lot of experience with journalists, with media. What do you think is missing? What is good, what is bad?
Unity. You can break down the antagonism between various journalistic organizations here and speak with a united voice on the important professional issues. Then it is going to be an uphill struggle, because it is very easy for the other side to divide and separate. You have to be prepared to talk and engage the opposition in discussions without standing outside and screaming that it is a violation, or whatever else you get engaged in yourselves. There have always been problems related to ownership of media, and that is a familiar environment for journalists globally. But when it comes to basic legislation or administrative laws, which govern the code of conduct, to the way the journalists, media work, then you need to engage in that discussion, you can’t boycott, or step outside. Let’s take just one example. The series of court cases which followed from the failure of A1+ and Noyan Tapan to get their tenders last year, I think effectively played into the hands of the authorities to delay the issues for over a year, when if everyone joined their hands and worked from a joint position, I think all this could have been resolved a lot earlier, or brought to a crunch a lot earlier than it has done.
What is the way out of this situation?
There is already an agreement that we will work to amend and change the basic legislation, which is the root cause of a lot of problems you are facing now. The media has to join as a unified team with us in order to achieve that goal. That means sitting at the same table with people you either dislike, or distrust, or suspect. You have to do it, because otherwise you’ll never advance.
We will not participate because we are against this law. It may bring about new problems.
That is exactly the attitude which I am saying that has led you exactly to the position you are in. There will be a law, because the Government has committed itself to passing a law. Now if you are not part of the process, then it is going to be a bad law. If you boycott and step outside, it is your fault as much as it is the Government’s fault in pushing through something which is something you really cannot work with. I know there have been bad experiences in the past, but I mean if you are united, you have international expertise with you and we have the Government engaged on it. We have to try. It is the only way forward. It is not worth sitting in one side and blaming everyone else for what is going wrong.
There is no law enforcement; we have good laws, legislation, but we know they are not implemented properly. International organizations have worked twice with local organizations on such laws as the law on TV and Radio and mass media. What new elements can international organizations bring in?
The only new element the international organizations can bring in is one, international attention to an issue, and secondly, to act as a facilitator for discussions. But if only one side is going to participate in this, that is the Government, or the National Assembly, then it is pointless. And you will get the laws which you deserve by not taking part in their elaboration. International organizations cannot impose laws or solutions upon national Governments. We can suggest better ways of doing things and try and work with them to achieve that. It only works if all those interested parties are in the discussion as part of the process. This is not a call from me for revolution, but this is a call for participation.
I publish reports on cases of corruption every week, but after publishing them nothing changes, no one responds. What will the law change? The media does not have any reputation, impact, or any power. We should think about the ways to improve its reputation to gain credibility, like when we report that the prime minister takes bribes, somebody should follow up on this, there should be some action.
This is absolutely right, I agree. At the moment you don’t actually have anti-corruption legislation. You certainly don’t have any institution which is responsible for pursuing corruption cases. I was told by the President yesterday that he will personally be leading the campaign to introduce the anti-corruption strategies in September. We’ll see what happens in the autumn of this year. It is right, we can draft and agree on the most perfect laws, but it is the implementation of legislation which is the crunch, and it is the responsibility of the Armenian society to monitor the actions of their Government, but not the responsibility of international organizations. We can provide you with tools, the expertise, the technology, or whatever to do that. If we feel that the Government is not keeping faith, then we can help develop structures, which at least can draw attention to those things, but still you are to ones to elect what is your Government, whether you think elections are fair or not. You have to change it. We will draw attention internationally to what is good, what is bad, and steadily drip on that kind of information, or news. Obviously, it has an effect on the way in which people regard the country, its credibility, their future choice in investments. So I mean that is where I like to assist the process.